Jennifer J. Krebs
Given the rapidly changing demographics of today’s classrooms combined with the high-stakes testing environment created by the passage of No Child Left Behind, it is important to understand potential explanations for the persistence of achievement gaps. Explanations for the achievement gap have included high populations of English Language Learners (ELLs), socioeconomic issues, lack of resources at the school, teacher, and student levels, and even inherent differences in the intellectual abilities of stereotyped and non-stereotyped groups. A theory developed by Steele and Aronson, called stereotype threat, provided a radical view into how knowledge of stereotypes affects performance (McKown & Strambler, 2009). Stereotype threat is the experience of anxiety or concern in a situation where a person has the potential to confirm a negative stereotype about their social group. The purpose of this research was to determine how and when children begin to develop knowledge of stereotypes and how stereotype threat affects academic performance.
The diversity of student demographics increases every day. Therefore, teachers must be increasingly more aware of the cultural differences and challenges that students from diverse backgrounds bring to school. Not only are these students likely to learn differently based on their cultural expectations, but these students are also likely to possess knowledge of commonly held social stereotypes which can negatively impact their performance (McKown & Strambler, 2009). The current emphasis on high-stakes testing makes the achievement of all students extremely important.
Experimental research into performance gaps was limited prior to a groundbreaking study that focused on the possibility of stereotype threat. First described by social psychologist Claude Steele and his colleagues, stereotype threat... [continues]
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