CTL Newsletter: April 18, 2017

What to do when the teacher gets stereotyped, and the teacher is us? In their article “Contending with Stereotype Threat at Work,” Caryn J. Block et al. review what we often do. We often fend it off. We overcompensate and work harder. We blame ourselves if something goes wrong. We disassociate ourselves from our stereotyped group. We assimilate to the values and habits of a less-stereotyped group.

Alternately, we often live with discouragement. We dissociate ourselves from the stereotyped domain. If something goes wrong, we blame someone or something else. We experience anger and stress. We withdraw, disengaging emotionally and spending as little time as possible on the job.

J. K. Rowling does a great job illustrating (stereotyping?) faculty and staff who engage in these strategies. Hagrid, the half-giant and sometime Care of Magical Creatures professor at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, puts extra care into preparing an exciting lesson and then blames himself when the stereotyping student gets hurt. Madame Maxime, the unusually large headmistress of Beauxbatons, insists she is not half giant. She just has big bones. Hogwarts caretaker Argus Filch, a Squib (non-magical wizard), blames everybody for everything, and Cuthbert Binns, a typical boring professor, is so disengaged that he is dead.

Block et al. don’t recommend any of those strategies. They only increase our stress and decrease our performance. So what else might we do? What spell might we cast?

We might practice resilience. We might call out the stereotypes; communicate favorable attributes of our group identity; take collective action to change the workplace environment; affirm our personal values and goals; succeed on our own terms.

According to Claude M. Steele, we might also cultivate authentic student-teacher relationships; broaden our perspective by interacting with a variety of colleagues; talk to ourselves with a “growth mindset voice.”

We might cast the spell of Manya Whitaker (Colorado College) who presents her authentic self to her students and deftly corrects their misconceptions. And we might cast the spell of Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore (Hogwarts School) who stick to their values and goals, succeed on their own terms, extend their circle of relationships, and try to learn from their mistakes.

— Jocelyn McWhirter, Religions Studies



Designing a Course This Summer? The “go-to” resource is the SERC Cutting Edge Tutorial for Designing Effective and Innovative Courses. It was written by geologists but it works for everyone.

GLCA/GLAA Consortium for Teaching and Learning: In “Changing Campus Culture, One Conversation at a Time,” Lorna Hernandez and Deirdre Johnston (Hope College) write about Intergroup Dialogue, a pedagogy from the University of Michigan “that incorporates: 1) understanding one’s own social identity, intersectionality, and the identities of others, as well as oppression, power and privilege, 2) engaging in hot topics with one identity focus (e.g., age, race or ethnicity, sex, sexual identity, able-ism, religion, nationality, or gender), and 3) building alliances to work for social justice.” Their video demonstrates the process at work.

About Jocelyn McWhirter

Jocelyn McWhirter is the Stanley S. Kresge Professor of Religious Studies at Albion College in Albion, Michigan.
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