Stereotype Threat and Solo Status

Based on work by Cheryl Dickter (College of William and Mary) and Christine Mallinson (University of Maryland Baltimore County) presented at the 2013 workshop Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges. Compiled by John McDaris (Science Education Resource Center).

Stereotype Threat and Solo Status are two related issues that underrepresented populations often face in the academia. Knowing what triggers the negative effects and how to minimize their impacts on students' success is an important part of helping all students be successful in our classes.

What is Stereotype Threat?

Stereotype threat is "the threat of being viewed through the lens of a negative stereotype or the fear of doing something that would inadvertently confirm that stereotype". (Steele, 1999) When activated, stereotype threat causes students to perform worse on assignments than they might otherwise.

What is Solo Status?

Solo status is the experience of being the only member of one's particular community present in a group. This experience can lead to stress and poor performance because the student may be perceived to represent his or her entire community.

Mitigating the Impacts

There are a number of things that faculty can do in their classes to minimize the effects of both stereotype threat and solo status. Many of these strategies do not depend on what kind of stereotype is in play and also provide benefits to many students for whom neither effect is relevant.


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