Panel on Identity, Motivation, and Stereotype Threat: How do they matter for learning?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 - 5:00pm to 7:30pm
5-6:00pm reception, 6:00pm panel

CERAS Learning Hall, Stanford

Claude Steele
Claude Steele
Carol Dweck
Carol Dweck
Geoff Cohen
Geoff Cohen
Deborah Stipek
Deborah Stipek

Panel includes:

Geoff Cohen is Professor of Organizational Studies in Education and Business at Stanford University. He received his Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford. Cohen studies processes related to identity maintenance and their implications for social problems. Specifically, he studies how people protect and maintain their identity; how they form and change their beliefs; underperformance, social conflict, and inequality; and stigma, discrimination, and health. His work aims to develop intervention strategies that both illuminate and alleviate the processes underpinning social problems. He is particularly interested in how and when seemingly brief interventions can produce large and long-lasting psychological and behavioral change.

Carol Dweck is Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of ­­­­­­Psychology at Stanford University. She
received her Ph.D. in Psychology from Yale. Her research highlights the critical role of mindsets in students’ achievement, and shows how praise for intelligence or talent can undermine motivation and learning. The work also shows how a "growth mindset" can reduce stereotype threat and how teaching a growth mindset can enhance student achievement. She has won many awards for her research and its applications, and has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.

Claude Steele is the Dean of Stanford’s Graduate School of Education. Previously, he served as Provost for Columbia University, Lucie Stern Professor in the Social Sciences at Stanford University, Director of the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford, and Director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Education, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He is a member of the Board of the Social Science Research Council and the MacArthur Foundation Board of Directors. He received his Ph.D. in Psychology at Ohio State University. Steele studies stereotype threat and its application to minority student academic performance. His work focuses on the psychological experience of the individual and the experience of threats to the self and the consequences of those threats. His early work considered the self-image threat, self-affirmation and its role in self-regulation, the academic under-achievement of minority students, and the role of alcohol and drug use in self-regulation processes and social behavior. While at Stanford University, he further developed the theory of stereotype threat, designating a common process through which people from different groups, being threatened by different stereotypes, can have quite different experiences in the same situation. In 2010 he published a book titled Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do.

Moderated by Deborah Stipek, Professor of Education at Stanford University. She received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Yale. Stipek served for five years on the Board on Children, Youth and Families at the National Research Council; she was the Chair of National Research Council Committee for Increasing High School Students' Engagement and Motivation to Learn, and she directed the MacArthur Foundation Network on Teaching and Learning. While a professor at UCLA, Dr. Stipek served as Director of the Corinne Seeds University Elementary School and the Urban Education Studies Center. Stipek studies instructional effects on children's achievement motivation, early childhood education, elementary education, charter schools, grading policy, and school reform. She is also particularly interested in policies affecting children and education.


A Threat in the Air - How Stereotypes Shape Intellectual Identity and Performance

Claude M. Steele, 1997

A general theory of domain identification is used to describe achievement barriers still faced by women in advanced quantitative areas and by African Americans in school. The theory assumes that sustained school success requires identification with school and its subdomains; that societal pressures on these groups (e.g., economic disadvantage, gender roles) can frustrate this identification; and that in school domains where these groups are negatively stereotyped, those who have become domain identified face the further barrier of stereotype threat, the threat that others' judgments or their own actions will negatively stereotype them in the domain. Research shows that this threat dramatically depresses the standardized test performance of women and African Americans who are in the academic vanguard of their groups (offering a new interpretation of group differences in standardized test performance), that it causes disidentification with school, and that practices that reduce this threat can reduce these negative effects.

The Psychology of Change: Self-Affirmation and Social Psychological Intervention

Geoffrey L. Cohen and David K. Sherman, 2013

People have a basic need to maintain the integrity of the self, a global sense of personal adequacy. Events that threaten self-integrity arouse stress and self-protective defenses that can hamper performance and growth. However, an intervention known as self-affirmation can curb these negative outcomes. Self-affirmation interventions typically have people write about core personal values. The interventions bring about a more expansive view of the self and its resources, weakening the implications of a threat for personal integrity. Timely affirmations have been shown to improve education, health, and relationship outcomes, with benefits that sometimes persist for months and years. Like other interventions and experiences, self-affirmations can have lasting benefits when they touch off a cycle of adaptive potential, a positive feedback loop between the self-system and the social system that propagates adaptive outcomes over time. The present review highlights both connections with other disciplines and lessons for a social psychological understanding of intervention and change.

Students' Mindsets: The Perils of Praise and the Promise of Growing Intelligence

Carol S. Dweck, 2014

The media tell us we’ve produced a generation of young people who can’t get through the day without an award—a generation that expects success because they are special, not because they’ve worked hard. Is this true? Have we held back our students?

I believe American students have been held back by two beliefs that many educators hold:

  1. The belief that praising students’ intelligence builds their confidence and motivation to learn, and
  2. The belief that students’ inherent intelligence is the major cause of their school achievement

Our research has shown that the first belief is false and that the second belief can be harmful—even for very able students.

For over 35 years I have been studying students’ motivation. We (my students and I) have studied thousands of children, asking why some enjoy learning, even when it’s hard, and are resilient in the face of obstacles. We have learned a great deal. In this article, I will describe research that shows how to praise children in ways that, in fact, yield motivation and resilience. I will also describe interventions that reverse students’ slide into failure during the vulnerable period of adolescence, bringing renewed motivation and learning.

Both lines of work highlight the importance of students’ mindsets and, in particular, their belief that their intellectual abilities—rather than being innate and fixed—can be enhanced through their efforts. Let me begin by describing students’ mindsets and their impact.