My most recent read is Whistling Vivaldi And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us by Claude Steele. I had the pleasure to attend a presentation by Steele years ago where he highlighted the impact of stereotype vulnerability on African American students and females in math classes. It struck me at that time that if we neglected the impact of these stereotype threats we were fighting a losing battle with our single minded focus on academics.
Steele states,” …for ability-stereo-typed students, reducing identity threat is just as important as skills and knowledge instruction.” (pg 181)
Uri Treisman’s work with college math students is included among the many research reports and studies that Steele covers. Treisman spent time with students outside of class, in the dorms, libraries and “hung out” with them.(pg 100-101) He found that:
**Asian students studied in formal and informal groups. This brought more heads to the homework. If someone in the group couldn’t solve a problem, someone else could and would explain it. They spent more time involved in the math and less doing the arithmetic since they split the work and shortened homework time. Misunderstandings were quickly identified and corrected at times with help from the teaching staff. Asian students combined academic and social life so studying Saturday night in their group was a social event.
**White students studied more independently, but sought help from teaching assistants and other students. They talked math outside class and compared notes on difficult problems. Their social lives had less connection with academics than did the Asian students.
Treisman created a mathematics workshop that recruited mostly African-American and Latino students having relatively high SAT Mathematics scores or intending to major in a mathematics-based field or both. The Model ”replaces regular calculus discussion sections with workshop-style discussion sections, in which the students collaborate on non-textbook, non-routine problems. During these work sessions (which meet for larger blocks of time than traditional classes), “[students] begin working the problems individually, then, when things get tough, in collaboration with one another. These experiences lead to a strong sense of community and the forging of lasting friendships. The Berkeley program has been so successful that it has spread to other universities and colleges throughout the country. Modified versions have entered high schools, in forms designed to fit the particular environment and needs.”
In Tapping Student Effort, I’ve shared my personal experiences discovering at college the effort and work of other students which was unknown to me as a high school student. I thought they were smarter than me. Turned out they knew “how to study…how to effort”. Unlocking the secrets…empowering our students… must be part of our teaching!