Many African-American students perform poorly on standardized tests because they fear incorrect answers will confirm negative stereotypes about their race, a study by the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reported this week.
A study of two groups of students indicated that those who were introduced to “Sterotype threat” prior to an exam, performed worse than those who weren’t.
In an experiment, groups of black and white students were asked to study the meanings of 24 obscure words. One group was placed in a threatening environment by being told that they were participating in an experiment to see “how well people from different backgrounds learn.” Another group was simply told the researchers were examining different learning styles and there was no hint of any racial undertones.
One to two weeks later, the students were quizzed informally about the words they had studied. The results showed that black students who were initially in the group that was told racial differences were being examined, scored 50 percent lower than black students who had studied in the nonthreatening environment. But when an actual test was administered, the stereotype threat kicked in and both groups of black students performed poorly.
A new study at Stanford has shown that this “stereotype threat” can also hinder black students in learning new material.