The Stuff of Stereotypes: Toward Unpacking Identity Threats amid African American Students’ Learning Experiences

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In this article, the authors explore the influence of stereotypes and stereotype threats on African American learners’ experiences in situ, using mathematics-learning contexts as a specific setting. Although there has been growing attentiveness to the social con- texts of students’ math-learning experiences, the influence of stereotypes on learning—beyond testing situations—has been largely unexplored, with only a few notable exceptions. The purpose of this article is to shed light on scenarios in which threaten- ing stereotypes unfold, specifically in an institutional context in which African Americans are overrepresented. Drawing on data and findings from a recent study examining mathematics learning and identity in non-credit-bearing remedial math courses, the article centers on three vignettes that highlight features of identity threat in situ: a) identity contingency detection, b) threat susceptibility, c) stereotype cues (e.g., critical mass), d) transmission of stereotypes, and e) pedagogical implications of identity threats. The article concludes with implications for studying the intersection of stereotypes and learning experiences.

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