Let’s Talk About Strategies for Institutions
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Though there are many ways for individual students to overcome stereotype threat, it’s also crucial for higher education to establish and provide an educational environment that supports and guides students to improve and optimize their full potential.
The term ‘wise’ schooling introduced to describe the promotion of practices and policies that reduce stereotype threat and improve the performance of stigmatized students. He suggests that focusing on situational factors that provoke stereotype threat is less challenging than to trying to improve the internal state, within the school system.
There are strategies that can help promote more effective schooling for students who are prone to stereotype threat. Some of these strategies include weakening negative stereotypes within the school, establishing student support programs for minorities, and establishing a program that promotes racial integration within the school.
In order for an educational institution to reduce stereotype threat, it’s important to find ways to weaken negative stereotypes within the school. Strategies for decreasing stereotypes include building an optimistic relationship between teachers and students, higher expectations, and promoting a growth mindset. Building a trusting teacher-student relationship is crucial for all students, but especially for students who are affected by stereotype threat. Students who are stereotyped in certain domains tend to doubt their abilities in stereotyped domains. They also worry that people from their learning environment, like instructors, may doubt their abilities. Therefore, it’s important for the learning environment to discredit these notions and provide stigmatized students with critical feedback. When this is coupled with optimistic encouragement, students have greater motivation and are more likely to improve their performance.
Another strategy for weakening negative stereotypes is to provide a learning environment that focuses more on challenging students rather than on remediation. This conveys the message to stigmatized students that their potential is recognized and the school does not agree with the ability-demeaning stereotype. For example, it’s more effective for students to be offered a challenging task with appropriate support from the school, rather than being given remedial work, which risks the possibility of stigmatized students being viewed as consistent with the negative stereotype, increasing the chance of undermining their learning and performance.
It’s also important to stress the concept of a growth mindset, not only for individuals to succeed, but also for institutions to be effective. Stereotypes are based on the notion that certain characteristics and/or abilities are fixed traits and cannot be overcome. However, many studies suggest that our minds are capable of growth and change, and thus, our intelligence can also expand as well. When the idea of intelligence expandability was repeatedly reinforced to African American students, their grades improved over time. Thus, implementation of growth mindset ideas as a foundation at all levels of education could potentially improve stigmatized students’ level of performance.
Additionally, it’s important for institutions to provide support programs for students, such as African American and Hispanic students, who are commonly stereotyped. These support services should include programs that include both academic and social aspects of affected students. For instance, mentoring programs that build awareness of stereotype and stereotype threats, discuss and implement strategies to help to weaken stereotypes, and provide resources such as study skills, can help stigmatized students overcome stereotype threat. Such support can also provide an affirmation to the students that they have the ability to succeed in the domains that they are negatively stereotyped. Stigmatized students who feel threatened often doubt their ability, as well as social and intellectual acceptance from others around them. Providing a safe place where they feel accepted yet challenged, and are provided with relevant tools, could help students become more confident and motivated to face their insecurities and doubts, and improve their capacity to overcome stereotype threat.
Lastly, it’s important for institutions to also provide programs that build awareness of stereotype threats and promote racial integration within the school. Stereotype threat exists in every corner of our lives, yet its existence is not widely known or understood. Therefore, it’s important for schools to help build a community and learning environment that encourages students based on their individual values and abilities, regardless of differences in race, ethnicity, or culture. One such strategy is to create a program or course such as the one titled “Making Peace in Ourselves and in the World” developed by psychologist Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu at Stanford University. Based on rigorous, research-based content, the course was created to help cultivate a more inclusive community, and provide a space for students to share their varied experiences and identities, so as to find commonalities amongst each other. Through the right kind of contact with each other, prejudice between students of different backgrounds can be reduced as long as four conditions are present: “support of relevant authorities, sharing common goals, a sense of cooperation, and equal status.”