Author Archives: Deb Hoskins

Stereotype Threat Presentations

Keynote Address
Stereotype Threat and the Psychology of Achievement Gaps: Causes and Solutions to Student Underperformance
Valerie Purdie-Vaughns, Columbia University

vpv presentation2

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This address uses the psychologist’s toolbox to understand why certain schools and workplaces cause students to underperform relative to their potential and what interventions combat underperformance. Environments like work or school can trigger stereotype threat for students from under-represented groups – an added stress from the possibility of being seen through the lens of negative stereotypes, rather than being accepted equally as individuals. The cumulative toll of contending with such a threat, repeatedly and over long periods of time, can threaten students’ sense that they can meet the demands of the environment. Performance and health can suffer as a consequence. This framework helps to explain intergroup disparities across a wide range of outcomes, including education (e.g., gender and racial achievement gaps) and health (e.g., racial health disparities) that have tended to be studied in isolation. This framework also provides concrete strategies for psychological interventions that target stress associated with stereotypes and bias. When well-timed and supported by environmental structures, these strategies help buffer students against the cumulative costs of stereotype threat.

Biographical Information:
Valerie Purdie-Vaughns is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Columbia University. Previously she served on the faculty at Yale University. She graduated from Columbia University in 1993 and completed her doctorate at Stanford University in 2004 as a student of Dr. Claude Steele. Dr. Purdie-Vaughns is an expert on racial and gender achievement gaps in academic and workplace settings and how stigma undermines intellectual performance. She also conducts research on other forms of stigma including: stigma and LGBTQ groups, stigma of mental illness, and stigma based on multiple identities (intersectionality). Valerie has authored numerous publications that have appeared in journals such as Science, Psychological Science, and the Journal of Personality & Social Psychology. She has been awarded grants from the National Science Foundation, W.T. Grant Foundation and the Department of Education. She is also a regular guest on National Public Radio (NPR) as a psychology consultant on The Takeaway. As a true believer in the power of psychology to effect social change she regularly consults with universities, corporations and federal agencies about how diversity works “on the ground.”

Stereotype Threat Resources

What’s Wise About “Wise Feedback”?
Deb Hoskins | UW-L Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning
Steven Stroessner, Catherine Good, Lauren Webster |

What’s Behind Stereotype Threat?
Daniel Willingham |

It’s About Me, Not My Group: Closing the Achievement Gap
Timothy Wilson | chapter from the book Redirect: The Surprising Science of Psychological Change

Who Gets to Graduate?
Paul Tough | article, The New York Times

Stereotype Threat Resources image used with Creative Commons permissions: Lumina Foundation

Whistling Vivaldi: Reading Groups

“Disproving a stereotype is a Sisyphean task; something you have to do over and over again as long as you are in the domain where the stereotype applies. . . . People experiencing stereotype threat are already trying hard. They’re identified with their performance. They have motivation. It’s the extra ghost slaying that is in their way. “

Claude Steele, Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do (NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 2010), pp. 111-112.

Addressing equity gaps (aka achievement gaps) is a central goal for most colleges and universities, but solutions have seemed distant and difficult. Research in social psychology has identified an important cause of achievement gaps — stereotype threat — and some easy-to-implement solutions that can make a substantial difference for students.

As a follow-up to the Fall 2013 Conference on Teaching and Learning that featured Dr. Valerie Purdie-Vaughns, an expert on stereotype threat and successful interventions, CATL is hosting a reading/discussion program of Claude Steele’s book Whistling Vivaldi. Purdie-Vaughns was one of Claude Steele’s graduate students. Claude Steele initially identified the phenomenon he called “stereotype threat,” and he and his graduate students have developed many of the interventions that help to fix the problems that performing under stereotype threat involves.

CATL is providing copies of the book to any instructor who wishes to read it. If you did not get a copy at the conference, please email Josh Kraft to request one.