Stereotype threat occurs when we fear our actions will confirm negative stereotypes about our “group.” When activated, stereotype threat harms performance and motivation by reducing feelings of competence, belonging, and trust. Note that stereotype threat can affect the performance of anyone in a situation where a stereotype-based expectation of poor performance is evoked. It can be mitigated by reframing tasks to remove associations with stereotypes, by giving effective encouragement, and with self-affirmations.

Some suggestions

High standards + encouragement works. You can help mitigate stereotype threat by providing effective feedback that also lets the student know that you are expecting high performance from them, e.g., “Most students struggle with this. It’s difficult! But I am certain you can do it.”

Provide role models. Use examples of well-known computer scientists in your class that are diverse--women, minorities--without necessarily commenting on their gender or race.

No stereotypes are good stereotypes. Even positive stereotypes can have negative effects. Be mindful of impact. Comments that point out the positive characteristics of a stereotyped group can, in some situations, trigger stereotype threat. They may also divide between students.

Be careful with humor. Humor can build social connection but it can also divide. When using anecdotes or asides be wary of relying on stereotypes. Not all humor is helpful -- or funny.

Examples from the collection


Scrambled Words

In this project students work alone to create a Scrambled Words program. Using Python and their knowledge of functions, conditionals, and loops, students must design a program which opens a file and scrambles the letters in each word, but maintaining the first and last letter. The student is required to use a function to complete this program. This assignment is particularly useful for students learning strings and lists and those who need practice using functions, conditional statements and loops.

Assignment 1: Computing prime numbers, product of primes

In this assignment students work to solve cumulative math problems in Python. The first problem asks students to generate a list of prime numbers below n. The second problem asks students to prove a math proof that states the product of primes is less than n or equal to e*n. These problems help the students review concepts including variables, computational flow, conditionals, loops, and math library functions.


In this project students work alone to create a program to generate statistics about baseball players. Using Python and their knowledge of lists and tuples, students must design a program to manage information about baseball players and allow a user to execute several commands, including one to display a report on the top 'n' players in a given category (hits, batting, slugging). This assignment is particularly useful for students who need experience with manipulating lists and decomposing a problem into smaller subproblems.

Homework #2: Functions

In this assignments, students complete an initial written warmup to recall the benefits of using functions, and how its control flow manifests in wider programs, before moving onto a programming component that goes through several independent problems. Each of these problems is arithmetic in nature, to give an initial understanding of variables and computation. This assignment is best for students that would benefit from reinforcement of the purpose of variables and functions, before having to use them in wider contexts.

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