Three educational stereotypes: Women don’t do well in college mathematics and science courses, African American students don’t do well in college and Mexican American students don’t do well in school. Three stereotypes that good teachers not only recognize but are eradicating because they refuse to accept the stereotypes. Chp 4 of Ken Bain, What the Best College Teachers Do, discusses what good teachers “expect” of their students. In one word, they expect “more.” But read on. It’s not that simple.
This chp has probably led me to more pondering and mental meandering than any so far. In other words, it has led me to think and re-think and wonder about how to be a better teacher.
Here Bain summarizes: Claude Steele, a social psychologist at Stanford, “theorized that when victims of negative stereotypes face a task that popular prejudice says they are not very good at [say, women in sciences] but that they nonetheless want to do and believe they can do, they cannot escape the shadow of beliefs around them. If the task is particularly difficult and stressful, that pressure will trigger at least a subconscious reminder of the sterotype” (69). Which leads to what is called “stereotype vulnerability.” Under strees, such persons fall prey to popular prejudices.
What impressed me here, and I think this can help church education too, is that these people not had demonstrated their mental and intellectual competence, but they were personally vested in doing well. Even then, the stress led to stereotype vulnerability and a lack of success. Studies show this: the more they care, the more vulnerable they become.
My question: which groups in the church today suffer from stereotype vulnerability?
Good teachers know this, recognize this, and work through it, over it, and around it. And the big point is recognizing it and working with that person/student individually to overcome the stereotype and get through it. Studies at Stanford and Northwestern demonstrate that recognition and attentiveness get the students through it. Positive expectations, expressed and clear, get students through this. Education theory is where this is at.
First, good teachers appreciate the value of each student.
Second, good teachers had great faith — an emphasis in this chp — in the student.
Third, good teachers have high standards and trust students to meet them.
Fourth, good teachers reject the power they have and empower students.
Let’s hear what you think can be done.