By Claude Steele, W. W. Norton, April 4, 2011, 0393339726
In Winning the Race, African American Linguist John McWhorter stated, “My response was to do the most concrete thing I could to disabuse the students of any doubt that I was qualified to teach the class–that is, to prove it.” That’s fully conscious stereotype threat, and Claude Steele states “Disproving a stereotype is a Sisyphean task”.
And, more importantly, most stereotype and identity threats are not conscious. You don’t even know you are trying disprove anything. McWhorter was strong enough to face the real stereotype threat head on. Steele shows that’s not always possible. Simply asking someone what their gender is puts them under stereo type threat and hinders their performance unconsciously.
Whisting Vivaldi is also about the story of Steele and his colleagues developing stereotype threat theory. He shows that science is a team sport by listing dozens of his collaborators, many who were his graduate students. He rarely is first author on his papers, at least the ones cited in this book.
I am really impressed with the ideas in this book. It explains the problem with the White Fragility approach (you are a racist) in a way that makes sense and has experimental support. White people’s actions (e.g. Southwest Airlines First Class) are caused by fear (stereotype threat) of being seen as a racist, and not because one is an actual racist.
Steele uses Carol Dweck’s Mindset principles in order to create interventions that help people reduce stereotype threat and perform better in school. That’s the real power of this book: Steele shows us that we can reduce stereotype threat. We just have to work at it, and, of course, that’s the hardest part.
[k144] What makes both of these contingencies identity contingencies is that the people involved had to deal with them because they had a particular social identity in the situation.
[k146] This book examines the role these identity contingencies play in our lives, in the broader society, and in some of society’s most tenacious problems.
Now, of course, ours is an individualistic society. We don’t like to think that conditions tied to our social identities have much say in our lives, especially if we don’t want them to. We have a creed. When barriers arise, we’re supposed to march through the storm, picking ourselves up by our bootstraps. I have to count myself a subscriber to this creed.
[k154] I hope to convince you that ignoring it–allowing our creed of individualism, for example, to push it into the shadows–is costly, to our own personal success and development, to the quality of life in an identity-diverse society and world, and to our ability to fix some of the bad ways that identity still influences the distribution of outcomes in society.
[k160] At the center of this book is a particular kind of identity contingency, that of stereotype threat.
[k163] We could all take out a piece of paper, write down the major stereotypes of these identities, and show a high degree of agreement in what we wrote.
[k165] We know that anything we do that fits the stereotype could be taken as confirming it.
[k169] And this means that it follows members of the stereotyped group into these situations like a balloon over their heads. It can be very hard to shake.
[k173] [Brent Staples] own words:
I became an expert in the language of fear. Couples locked arms or reached for each other’s hand when they saw me.
I’d been walking the streets grinning good evening at people who were frightened to death of me.
[k179] On the street at night I whistled popular tunes from the Beatles and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The tension drained from people’s bodies when they heard me.
[k181] Staples was dealing with a phantom, a bad stereotype about his race that was in the air on the streets of Hyde Park–the stereotype that young African American males in this neighborhood are violence prone.
[k183] When they were in situations where those stereotypes could apply to them, they understood that one false move could cause them to be reduced to that stereotype, to be seen and treated in terms of it. That’s stereotype threat, a contingency of their identity in these situations.
[k188] In a single stroke, he made the stereotype about violence-prone African American males less applicable to him personally.
[k196] Whistling Vivaldi is about the experience of living under such a cloud–an experience we all have–and the role such clouds play in shaping our lives and society.
[k283] One of the first things one learns as a social psychologist is that everyone is capable of bias.
[k290] Arising this way, several general patterns of findings have persistently emerged in this research. Seeing these patterns, more than any ideas or hunches I began this research with, has convinced me of the importance of identity contingencies and identity threat in our lives.
The first pattern is that despite the strong sense we have of ourselves as autonomous individuals, evidence consistently shows that contingencies tied to our social identities do make a difference in shaping our lives, from the way we perform in certain situations to the careers and friends we choose.
[k297] The second dimension of reality, long evident in our research, is that identity threats–and the damage they can do to our functioning–play an important role in some of society’s most important social problems.
[k300] Third, also coming to light in this research is a general process–involving the allocation of mental resources and even a precise pattern of brain activation–by which these threats impair a broad range of human functioning.
[k304] There is truly inspirational news here: evidence that often small, feasible things done to reduce these threats in schools and classrooms can dramatically reduce the racial and gender achievement gaps that so discouragingly characterize our society.
[k443] This tidy, well-off college was no racial ghetto. And the factors that “downwardly constitute” black students there were less commonly understood than factors like distance from jobs or discrimination.
[k447] The instances of possible racism that black students described weren’t nearly as lawful and widespread as their underperformance. Nor did it seem to be caused simply by motivational or cultural deficits that black students brought with them.
[k477] Quite the contrary. It saw itself as committed to their inclusion. The school was bewildered by the problems that followed that inclusion. But after I thought about group underperformance for a number of years, and talked to countless students along the way, two things occurred to me. First, like many institutions of higher education in the United States, this school had inherited a social organization from the larger society and from its own history that might well place black students under downwardly constituting pressures–powerful pressures not well understood within the traditional frameworks of prejudice and racism, on the one hand, or student deficits, on the other. Second, these downwardly constituting pressures might have the power to interfere directly and indirectly with intellectual performance. That is, they might have the power to cause underperformance.
[k494] Despite the image of science as a formal and prescribed affair, scientific inquiries have choice points, places where the investigator has to decide what to do next without much formal guidance. Intuition and best guesses come into play.
[k638] And the results were dramatic. They gave us a clear answer. Among participants who were told the test did show gender differences, where the women could still feel the threat of stigma confirmation, women did worse than equally skilled men, just as in the earlier experiment. But among participants who were told the test did not show gender differences, where the women were free of confirming anything about being a woman, woman performed at the same high level as equally skilled men. Their underperformance was gone.
It is no exaggeration to say that these findings changed the course of our research lives.
[k664] It was also unusual because it suggested this could happen without bad intentions, without the agency of prejudiced people, for example. Our test takers were alone in a room.
[k699] With a coaching change, the Sonics changed. Now the sportswriters had to explain winning, not losing. Their player characterizations changed. They valorized the same players they had derided a month earlier. The players’ weaknesses became their strengths.
[k703] Explanations of underachievement by minority and women students are under the same constraints as explanations of the early 1978 Sonics. Almost invariably, they take an observer’s perspective, and they are trying to explain poor performance, not success.
[k729] It wasn’t that these students had no deficiencies. Education is not equal in this society, in either access or quality.
[k732] Still, the facts in my path consistently pointed away from these deficiencies as the sole cause.
[k789] They performed at the same higher level as white test takers with equal skills and knowledge, and significantly higher that the black test takers for whom the test had been presented as a test of verbal ability. With no risk of confirming the negative stereotype about their group’s intelligence, any underperformance they might have shown on this test was gone, completely gone.
[k882] But in school, when working on difficult material they understood to be ability diagnostic, they encountered the extra pressure of the stereotype. It wasn’t low expectations that made them susceptible to this pressure, then; it was high expectations.
Mikel’s experiment showed something else, too. It showed why this extra pressure is hard to see down on the ground of everyday schooling: the black vanguard students, under stereotype pressure, performed at the same low level as the black rearguard students who lacked the skills to perform better regardless of how much pressure they were under. The test performance of the two groups was indistinguishable.
[k898] Over the years we used several working names for this predicament–“stigmatization,” “stigma pressure,” “stigma vulnerability,” “stereotype vulnerability.” Eventually we settled on “stereotype threat.” This term captured the idea of a situational predicament as a contingency of their group identity, a real threat of judgment or treatment in the person’s environment that went beyond any limitations within.
[k914] For example, when the young talented white sprinter is deciding whether or not to persist in sprinting, he is deciding to persist in a situation that is fundamentally different from the situation that a young talented black sprinter is deciding to persist in.
[k928] But beneath all of this work is a broadened conception of how our social identities shape who we are, what we do, and how well we do it.
[k958] Broyard and his immediate family–his mother, father, and two sisters–were part of the Great Migration of blacks from the South to the urban North during the early and mid-twentieth century.
[k962] During the 1920s, the peak years of the Great Migration, it is estimated that ten to thirty thousand blacks shed their black identities each year in precisely this way, passing into a sea of whiteness as they migrated north.
[k974] He joined the army. It was apparently during his time there–who knows in reaction to what–that Broyard decided to renegotiate his racial identity. The particulars are murky. But when he came out of the army he left his wife and child for Greenwich Village in New York City.
[k980] Broyard could have struggled against the limiting conditions of his life as a black man. But because he had the opportunity, and I am sure for a mix of other reasons, he decided not to.
[k990] We typically think of race as rooted in essences–possibly biological, possibly cultural–that are intrinsic and defining. But Broyard’s story of passing, like thousands of other stories of passing, frustrates this tendency. Nothing of his essence, biological or cultural, changed when he passed into the white world. He was the same person. What differed were the conditions he faced.
[k1000] I borrowed the admittedly jargonistic term “contingencies” from behaviorism, the approach that dominated scientific psychology throughout much of the twentieth century.
[k1004] And identity contingencies are contingencies that are special to you because you have a given social identity, things like the availability of a bank loan to Broyard only when he was white, or the lowered expectations for mental alertness one might experience as an older person, or the social avoidance a southerner might experience as his accent is heard at a New England cocktail party.
[k1017] To explain the lunchroom’s racial segregation, one needn’t postulate even an iota of group prejudice on the part of any student in the room. Its segregation could arise solely to avoid the bad contingencies of these two group identities in that place.
You can see the theme here. As in politics, all identities are local. They stem from local particulars, local contingencies.
[k1119] For the most part, then, it is threat that allows a given identity to “invade [our] whole identity.”
[k1121] One of the most dramatic research traditions in social psychology is dramatic precisely because it consistently shows the opposite: that even the most minimal identity threats are enough to make us think and behave like a group member.
[k1142] They sacrificed profit for group advantage, even though the group they advantaged was made up on an essentially random basis.
[k1145] No type of person or nation of people has shown immunity to this “minimal group effect,” as it is now called.
[k1147] We think well of our group in order to think well of ourselves–even when the group is “minimal,” a passing group, like being an underestimator of dots.
[k1152] The experiments of Tajfel and his colleagues made several profound points that weren’t obvious to the naked eye: that our need for self-regard was powerful enough to make us care about even trivial group identities; that we could discriminate against other people about whom we knew nothing except that they weren’t members of a group we were part of, even when the group was trivial; and that all of this is true for virtually everyone on earth (although there is evidence that it is less true for people from collective societies).
[k1186] She said she is still black in Paris, but it isn’t the most central thing about her when she meets people. Her blackness, she said, especially as an educated black person, doesn’t mean the same thing to people in Paris that it does in the United States.
[k1189] She noted quickly that the French are no less prejudiced than anyone else.
[k1192] She said that no matter how good her French gets, she will never be taken in as fully French.
Nonetheless, she said that sometimes riding on the subway she finds herself, beneath her breath, thanking the French for letting her live in their country.
[k1195] All identities are local, I have been arguing, rooted in local contingencies. When this woman went to Paris, she changed identity contingencies. And with the change, the psychological, everyday importance of her identities changed.
[k1200] She had achieved there much of what Broyard had achieved by passing. In passing you change your race but keep your country. In expatriation you keep your race but change your country. These strategies are different sides of the same coin–the pursuit of less limiting contingencies of identity.
This is not to say that this African American in Paris had no vestiges of her African American identity.
[k1210] Expatriation carries the risk of getting stranded in the new identity. Passing carries this risk too.
[k1225] Two conclusions seemed unavoidable. First, our social identities are adaptations to the particular circumstances of our lives, what I am calling identity contingencies. If we didn’t need them to help us cope with these circumstances, the perspectives, emotional tendencies, values, ambitions, and habits that make up the dispositional side of our social identities would just gradually leak out of our psyches and be gone. The second conclusion foreshadows the more pragmatic direction this book is taking. If you want to change the behaviors and outcomes associated with social identity–say, too few women in computer science–don’t focus on changing the internal manifestations of the identity, such as values, and attitudes. Focus instead on changing the contingencies to which all of that internal stuff is an adaptation.
[k1539] We thus had answers to both of our questions. Academic over-efforting among black students could be evoked in the laboratory–easily so. It’s a real phenomenon. Second, it seems to be caused by the identity pressure of stereotype threat. It didn’t happen without this threat, when the anagrams were presented as just anagrams, as puzzles unrelated to cognitive abilities. Black participants weren’t just supermotivated students. When they weren’t under stereotype threat, they didn’t try any harder than anyone else. But when there was a stereotype to disprove, they tried twice as hard as everyone else–expending precisely the amount of extra effort that my father’s classic piece of advice specifies.
[k1549] So is this extra motivation always a problem for performance and achievement? Could literally millions of parents all be wrong?
[k1550] Ebony magazine has run a page every month for over fifty years featuring people who have broken down one racial barrier or another.
[k1570] But the tables were turned on the easier test. Women under stereotype threat did better than women under no stereotype threat and better than men in either group.
[k1582] Compared with women from the less underrepresented settings, women from the more underrepresented settings reported feeling substantially more pressure to prove themselves through work and reported more behaviors that reflected this pressure, like getting to work earlier, leaving later, and engaging in fewer activities outside of work.
[k1598] 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.
[k1609] Under limited circumstances, the motivation to disprove stereotypes can have constructive effects. But at precisely the point where performance and ease of functioning are most important–at the limits of one’s skills and knowledge as one tries to develop and grow at school and work–this form of motivation very often backfires. There, ironically, it can cause the very group underperformance that so many parents had hoped to coach their children around.
[k1620] They got better grades; the black students in Treisman’s workshop now earned better first-year calculus grades than either the white or Asian students in the regular calculus classes at Berkeley.
[k1760] A big implication of the Croizet team’s finding is that a mind trying to defeat a stereotype leaves little mental capacity free for anything else we’re doing.
[k1772] Stereotype threat’s impairment of working memory directly caused its impairment of math performance.
[k1807] We know that stereotype threat has real effects on people. It causes a racing mind and a full complement of physiological and behavioral effects. We know that people aren’t much aware of all this as it’s happening, or at least they don’t want to acknowledge it. We also know that these threats and their effects are identity threats and effects, which go with particular social identities in particular situations: women in advanced math, white males very likely in the last 10 meters of the 100-meter dash, blacks in the vanguard of their class, and so on.
These effects are important. But they have been studied primarily in single-episode experiments. Thus, I’ve gotten curious about what happens when these threats become chronic, when they are an ongoing experience in some area of one’s life.
[k1815] The facts suggest a worrisome answer: if people are under threats from stereotypes or other identity contingencies for long periods, they may pay a tax.
[k1858] James first developed a scale to measure the values that make up John Henryism. It includes twelve statements such as “I’ve always felt that I could make of my life pretty much what I wanted to make of it” and “When things don’t go the way I want them to, that just makes me work even harder.”
[k1867] James’s guess was right: men who scored high in John Henryism generally had higher blood pressure than men lower in John Henryism, and this effect was stronger among poorer than among better-off men.
[k1873] Whites who lived under these conditions and were high in John Henryism did not show elevated blood pressure.
[k1876] The research in this chapter has a daunting, if perhaps obvious, message: caring about doing well in areas where your group is disadvantaged, discriminated against, and negatively stereotyped can extract a price, sometimes a very heavy price. You may have no choice but to care.
[k2083] The findings also reveal something more general: when people are appraising identity threat, one cue can shape the interpretation of another. A policy that explicitly valued diversity led black respondents to overlook the low number of minorities in the company, a cue that otherwise bothered them considerably.
[k2087] Herein may lie a principle of remedy: if enough cues in a setting can lead members of a group to feel “identity safe,” it might neutralize the impact of other cues in the setting that could otherwise threaten them.
[k2239] It means that even when black, Latino, and Native American students overcome other disadvantages in trying to gain parity with white and Asian classmates, they face the further pressure of stereotype and identity threats. Even privileged students from these groups have an extra, identity-related pressure working against their achievement.
The Massey team, however, did find something that alleviated this effect–black professors. Black and Latino students in these schools experienced virtually no stereotype threat in classrooms where the professor and probably more of the other students were black and Latino.
[k2292] Two ways of giving this feedback didn’t work as well with black students. It didn’t work to try to be neutral. Nor did it consistently work to preface the feedback with a generally assuring positive statement.
[k2295] But one form of feedback did work, for both black and white students. I will call it the Tom Ostrom strategy. The feedback giver explained that he “used high standards” in evaluating the essays for publication in the teaching magazine. Still, he said, having read the student’s essay, he believed the student could meet those standards.
[k2380] Sometimes you can give people facing identity threat information that enables a more accurate and hopeful personal narrative about their setting. When this is possible, these intriguing experiments show, it improves the academic achievement of people in real colleges; it can put their achievement on very different trajectories.
[k2437] Close to the beginning of the school year, they asked teachers to give each student in their classroom an envelope with his or her name on it. Instructions in the envelope asked half of the students, randomly selected, to write down their two or three most important values (for example, family relationships, friendships, being good at music, or their religion) and then write a brief paragraph about why these values were important to them–that is, to put these value statements in the form of a personal narrative.
[k2445] Could the brief self-affirmation affect school performance?
It did–dramatically so. The affirmation exercise improved the grades of all but the strongest black students over their performance in the first three weeks of school, before they did the affirmation. And those with the poorest early performance improved the most. They did better in the class where they made the affirmation and in their other classes too.
[k2479] Reducing identity threat, they suggest, simply increased black students’ access to that instruction. If quality instruction hadn’t been available in these schools, affirmation might have had little effect.
[k2504] But among students who focused on the expandability of intelligence, girls performed at the same level as the boys on this section–completely eliminating the usual sex difference on the test.
[k2507] These studies show that affirmations, incremental mindsets, and the like can steer ability-stereotyped students in K through 12 into self-narratives that–like mine at Ohio State–deflate the threatening meaning of environmental cues.
[k2555] There were many difficult-to-change, background factors that caused me distress in my early days at Ohio State–my different racial and social class background, the absence of a critical mass of other minority students, and so forth. You couldn’t change these things, or change them easily, and so you could think there was nothing to be done for me. It wouldn’t seem that a trusting relationship with a mentor, a white mentor at that, would make a difference. It wouldn’t fix the things causing my troubles. But the point here is that it might reduce the troubles themselves.
[k2560] First, realizing that this threat arises from cues in a setting that signal possibly threatening contingencies of identity, one can try as best as possible to eliminate those real contingencies and the cues that signal them.
[k2567] Second, the intervention studies show that, when the effort to change identity-relevant cues and contingencies in a setting can go no further, helping people understand the safety they do have in a setting is immensely valuable–academically valuable.
[k2609] In these interventions, stereotyped students consistently got better subsequent grades than nonstereotyped students with the same prior test scores or grades. They not only didn’t underperform; they “overperformed.”
[k2644] If they arrive late, they hope for what they call “Southwest Airlines First Class.” They hope that a young, dark-skinned African American male will be toward the front of the line and will take one of the comfortable, exit-advantaging seats toward the front of the plane when he boards. Cashin says, “At least four out of five times, we can depend on the seats next to that black person being empty, even if his row is far up front, begging for the taking. I am always happy to take this convenient seat, feeling grateful for the discomfort of others and marveling at the advantage they are willing to pass up due to their own social limitations. I smile warmly at my black brother as I plop down next to him” (chapter 1).
[k2653] The identity threat explanation doesn’t require attributing prejudice to the white passengers. All one need assume, it says, is that they have a worry like Ted’s: the risk of saying, doing, or even thinking something that would make them feel racist or like they could be seen as racist in interacting with the black passenger.
[k2664] Our goal was to learn whether stereotype threat, in addition to its effects on performance, was also a common cause of tension between people from different groups in society, a tension that, presumably, could drive Americans apart.
[k2695] For example, with the demise of the desegregation plan in Minneapolis, the average black student went to school with 33 percent fewer white students in 2000 than in 1986. Without desegregation plans, schools become as segregated as the neighborhoods that feed them. And those neighborhoods remain dramatically segregated, especially for whites. The 2000 census shows that the average white American lives in a neighborhood that is 80 percent white and 7 percent black, while the average black American lives in a neighborhood that is 33 percent white and 51 percent black.
[k2716] As Loury puts it, “Opportunity travels along the synapses of these social networks” (chapter 6).
[k2719] The sociologist Nancy DiTomaso recently expanded this line of investigation. For all of the jobs they ever had, she asked 246 people, twenty-five to fifty-five years old, in New Jersey, Ohio, and Tennessee, whether they’d been told about the job by someone they knew, whether someone “had put in a good word” for them, and whether they knew the person who hired them. For the average job, she found that 60 to 90 percent of her respondents had benefited from one or another of these forms of “social capital,” and 98 percent of her respondents had benefited from at least one of these advantages for at least one of their jobs.
[k2732] This explains how seemingly ordinary associational preferences can have big effects. They influence who gets access to advantaging networks, and who doesn’t.
This was Glenn Loury’s reasoning. It led him to a surprising claim: the everyday associational preferences that contribute to racially organized networks and locations in American life–that is, racially organized residential patterns, schooling, friendship networks, and so on–may now be more important causes of racial inequality than direct discrimination against blacks.
[k2848] Fighting off these possible perceptions on a long airline flight–or more famously, perhaps, in a school cafeteria–could be more than either party wants to take on. They just want to have lunch or get to Cleveland. Avoidance becomes the simplest solution.
The stress of handling those stereotypes in public is perhaps a prime source of the “great American racial discomfort” or of the “great American discomfort with difference more generally,” the discomfort that David Brooks tells us sends Americans into communities that are more and more organized around finer and finer “human distinctions.” We may try to organize our residences, workplaces, and schools so as to achieve this avoidance.
[k2865] We ran the basic procedure of the experiment again. But this time, just before the participant was left to arrange the chairs for the conversation (as the experimenter ostensibly went down the hall to get a black conversation partner), the experimenter gave the participants an instruction. He said that tension was natural in a discussion of racial profiling, that it was difficult for everyone. He said they should treat the conversation as a learning experience–that is, try to learn what they could about the issue and, more generally, about how to talk about charged issues with people who might have differing perspectives.
[k2871] The word fragments measure showed that, when they adopted a learning goal for their conversation, white participants no longer worried about being seen as racist. They now completed no more word fragments with stereotype-related words (words that meant racism) than participants who were not under stereotype threat.
[k2878] With a learning goal, mistakes become just mistakes, not signs of immutable racism.
Before we discovered Carol’s idea of learning goals, we had some interesting failures. We had tried to find some instruction that would enable the participants expecting the challenging conversation to move their chairs closer.
[k2884] These strategies seemed reasonable to us. We’d gotten them from some of the diversity training programs we’d seen.
[k2886] But they had an unforeseen consequence: the more we assured participants that we wouldn’t hold their words against them, the more they feared we would.
[k2888] It’s difficult to just assure away the stereotype threat that whites can feel in interracial situations, such as having a conversation with black colleagues about racial profiling, or that any group can feel in situations where negative stereotypes about them are relevant.
[k2895] Stereotype threat, then, is a general phenomenon. It happens to all of us, all the time. Negative stereotypes about our identities hover in the air around us.
[k2900] We think of ourselves as autonomous individuals. After all, we make choices. But we often forget that we make choices within contexts, always.
[k2918] Prejudice matters. It can shape contingencies. But identity contingencies can profoundly affect a person–to the point of shaping her life–without her encountering a single prejudiced person along the way.
[k2943] Perhaps the chief discovery of our research is that this protective side of the human character can be aroused by the mere prospect of being negatively stereotyped, and that, once aroused, it steps in and takes over the capacities of the person–to such an extent that little capacity is left over for the work at hand.
[k2947] We could pry into the hearts and minds of people as deeply as science would allow looking for their true prejudices, and all the while miss the fact that on any given day their behavior toward blacks, for example, is determined mainly by a simple stereotype-driven predicament of identity that would affect most people who share their identity. Or we could give women a thousand tests to measure their capacity for mathematics and overlook that, in this society, from the time they first engaged mathematics they did so under the extra pressure of an identity threat that was especially strong at the frontier of their math skills and that made the whole activity seem like the unfriendly territory of another group.
[k2963] A central policy implication of the research discussed here is that unless you make people feel safe from the risk of these identity predicaments in identity-integrated settings, you won’t succeed in reducing group achievement gaps or in enabling people from different backgrounds to work comfortably and well together.
[k2966] Addressing this need for safety won’t completely remedy these problems. But the problems can’t be remedied without attention to this need for safety.
- By changing the way you give critical feedback, you can dramatically improve minority students’ motivation and receptiveness.
- By improving a group’s critical mass in a setting, you can improve its > members’ trust, comfort, and performance in the setting.
- By simply fostering intergroup conversations among students from different backgrounds, you can improve minority students’ comfort and grades in a setting.
- By allowing students, especially minority students, to affirm their most valued sense of self, you can improve their grades, even for a long time.
- By helping students develop a narrative about the setting that explains their frustrations while projecting positive engagement and success in the setting, you can greatly improve their sense of belonging and achievement–which if done at a critical time could redirect the course of their lives.