Claude M. Steele Lecture

CLAUDE M. STEELE, the I. James Quillen Dean of the School of Education at Stanford University, gave the inaugural lecture of the Center for the Study of Diversity in October 2010. At that time he was serving as Provost at Columbia University. Dean Steele discussed the lessons about diversity detailed in his book, Whistling Vivaldi: and other clues to how stereotypes affect us (Norton). Internationally known for his groundbreaking research on stereotype threat, Dean Steele described how targets of stereotypes must come to recognize the added burden they impose, and become vigilant to cues in their environment that signal they are in play. His research shows that academic performance may decline below the level of actual ability a person has when stereotypes threaten their psychological self-concept. The research further shows that when the cues are changed or rendered irrelevant, performance rises to the level of actual ability. His theory, developed with respect to African Americans in academics and women in math, has been broadened to the more general idea of identity threat. Steele identified ways to reduce identity or stereotype threat that included replacing high level of vigilance-to-threat orientation with cues that signaled compelling hope about belonging and succeeding in a college stetting; (grades increased by 1/3 of a GPA), introducing an incremental mindset(abilities are malleable not fixed), in a situation of threat to oneself concept, providing opportunities for a people to affirm a larger valued sense of self; and for elementary school students, creating identity-safe classrooms, characterized by child-centered teaching, positive relationships with students, a view of diversity as a resource among others, led to significantly improved performance on year-end tests.