Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Latino Students Need Help to Overcome “Stereotype Threat”

Teachers can use positive intervention strategies to help overcome the “stereotype threat” that Latino students often feel, a recent Stanford University study found.

The study was published in February in the Journal of Personality and School Psychology.

The researchers found that positive affirmations can help battle the “stereotype threat” of feeling stigmatized as a member of an ethnic group that is perceived as inferior. Past research has found that the stress of this threat can hurt students’ academic performance.

The Latino middle school students participating in the study practiced certain affirmative activities. They were given a list of values such as being good at art, religious, or being humorous. They were then asked to writes about the values they viewed as the most important.

In another assignment, they were asked to reflect on the things in their lives that were most important. In yet another, they wrote a brief essay about how the things they valued would play a role in the coming months.

Students worked on such exercises through the year during important moments that can prove stressful, such as before taking tests and right as they were starting the school year.

According to the researchers, Latino students who went through the affirmative activities had higher grades than those in the control group, and that the positive impact lasted for three year. The activities did not appear to impact white students.

“Self-affirmation exercises provide adolescents from minority groups with a psychological time out,” Stanford professor Geoffrey Cohen said, according to a new release. “Latino Americans are under a more consistent and chronic sense of psychological threat in the educational setting than their white counterparts on average. They constantly face negative stereotypes about their ability to succeed, so they are the ones to benefit the most from affirmations that help them to maintain a positive self-image.”