Method and Limitations
Many studies on stereotype threat and related phenomena contain valuable information about the sorts of things that exacerbate and alleviate stereotype threat in experimental contexts. This website will briefly introduce some of those findings and extrapolate to similar interventions for alleviating stereotype threat in the classroom, with a particular focus on the philosophy classroom. I focus suggestions on philosophy classes both because philosophy is likely to be a context in which some groups face stereotype threat and because it is the context I know best. These suggestions may also work well in other discussion- or lecture-based classes.
The suggestions I give here are mere armchair extrapolations from studies that may have limits of their own. I do not claim that the interventions I propose will work, nor do I claim that the studies cited endorse them. Adopt these interventions at your own risk, but know that failing to adopt any intervention at all is probably not a very good course of action since the status quo is threatening for many underrepresented groups. While I do not claim any sort of scientific legitimacy to my suggestions, I am not suggesting anything that does not seem like a good idea on its own terms, either. It is typical of philosophers to engage in armchair pedagogy, and to the extent that my attempt at this armchair pedagogy is informed by a reading of some empirical work, I think it has some advantages over pedagogy that seems inconsistent with that work. You may draw your own inferences from the studies. You may tinker with my suggestions or abandon them in favor of something that fits better with your current teaching style. I am not holding myself out as an expert on stereotype threat, education, or the problems of philosophy, but I have spent considerable time thinking about those things. I have tried to keep descriptions of study findings short and to the point, but as a result I cannot capture the rich texture they contain. I suggest looking at them in more detail if you are able to do so.
First, see a few basic ideas that seem to underlie the bulk of the specific interventions. Second, I have grouped specific interventions into several categories: Course Design, In the Classroom, Assessment, Departmental Atmospherics, and Extracurriculars. Some studies may bear on several of these categories. On each page you will find a short synopsis of the findings of a study, then an intervention, list of interventions, or brief discussion of possible interventions. Some interventions are positive–they suggest adding an element most philosophy classes lack; some interventions are negative–they suggest altering or abandoning an element most philosophy classes have. I have used the Reducing Stereotype Threat website as a guide in thinking about general interventions and applying them to the specific context of the philosophy class room; I suggest visiting that site as well.
When you have an hour or so to set aside, watch this video.