3–4: Diversity

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1 Overview

Until recently, this was all one session, but gradually the number of topics grew until it could not fit into one session no matter how much we rushed. We have not yet determined the optimal layout for the session split.

I attempt to go through the entirety of this session without ever mentioning any specific real stereotype or bias, in part to avoid triggering stereotype threat and in part to avoid tripping over some students’ personal biases. See also Teach, don’t Preach.

2 Stereotype threat

2.1 What it is and why we believe it exists

2.2 Interventions

Warning: myth-busting is bad

To the degree possible we will avoid giving stereotypes airtime. There are many stereotypes about who is good and bad at CS; I assume you each know some of them (if not, hooray! let’s leave it that way). We’ll attempt to discuss things that work on all stereotypes without mentioning specifics.

I also assume, a priori, that you agree we should reduce the impact of stereotype threat and give all students an even playing field. If you are one of the people that instead want some group to be impeded, don’t let us see that while you are a TA or we’ll fire you.

Think-pair-share: what can a TA do to reduce stereotype threat or what might a reasonable TA do to increase it that we can avoid?

In the resulting discussion, or after it, cover the following:

3 Growth mindset


      Success in CS is
all                      all
work                    talent

Activity: What dictates success in CS? (point to all work) Is it number of hours of work alone, and someone who has invested 101 hours is better than someone who has invested 100? (point to all talent) Is it innate cognitive ability alone, and only people with big CSy brains can succeed? I know this is overly simplistic view, but I want each of you to come up and make a tick-mark on this scale.

(step out of sight while they do so, then return. My experience is the larger the class, the less variance there is and the more answers cluster around ¾ work; the smaller the class, the more variance and the more the averge slides towards ½ work. It’s not a study, it’s a pedagogical tool.)

(mostly to acknowledge that the activity was not a fair study, I ask) How many of you lied because you knew other people were watching?

4 Hidden prereqs

5 Implicit bias

(Note: there are other, more detailed approaches to this information; I use the following in interest of tying it into what we’ve already covered, even though it leave out some portion of the information)

6 Tips

This is a grab-bag section of various other best-practices that do not fit naturally into the above presentation.

6.1 Humor

This section, unlike most others, is not based on social science studies but rather on own my personal observations; caveat emptor.

— Luther Tychonievich

6.2 Wise feedback

When giving feedback on deficiencies in a student’s performance, always

This topic has been studied for several years6 and has come to be called Wise feedback7

  1. There are many; see http://reducingstereotypethreat.org/bibliography.html for more than you can realistically read

  2. See, e.g.: Good, C., Aronson, J., & Harder, J. (2008). Problems in the pipeline: Stereotype threat and women’s achievement in high-level math courses. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 29(1), 17–28

  3. See, e.g.: Stone, J., Lynch, C. I., Sjomeling, M., & Darley, J. M. (1999). Stereotype threat effects on black and white athletic performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(6), 1213–1227

  4. See, e.g.: Aaronson, J., Lustina, M., Good, C., Keough, K., Steele, C., Brown, J. (1998). When White Men Can’t Do Math: Necessary and Sufficient Factors in Stereotype Threat. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 53(1), 29–46

  5. See, e.g.: Good, C., Aronson, J., Inzlicht, M. (2003) Improving adolescents’ standardized test performance: An intervention to reduce the effects of stereotype threat. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 24, 645–662

  6. See, e.g.: Cohen, G. L.; Steele, C. M.; Ross, L. D. (1999) The mentor’s dilema: Providing critical feedback across the racial divide. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25(10), pp. 1302–1318

  7. See. e.g.: Yeager, D. S.; Purdie-Vaughns, V.; Garica, J.; Apfel, N.; Brzustoski, P. Master, A.; Hessert, W. T.; Williams, M. E. (2013) Breaking the cycle of mistrust: Wise interventions to provide critical feedback across the racial divide. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143, pp. 804–824