Books, China, Exams, Gender, Stereotype Threat, and More – Things On My Mind, Series #5

Before going to bed this evening, I wanted to make a quick blog about a number of different things on my mind.

I have read so many books the past few months that I can’t keep track of all of them! (I’ve started reading books on my iPad through the Kindle App and love it!) A few of the books that really stand out are Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family, Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to FactoryOur America: A Hispanic History of the United States, and The Americas: A Hemispheric History.

(And as a reminder, I put the “best of the best” articles I read on my second website, located here.) 

Becoming Nicole and Country Driving are both by journalists and read like novels. Both are outstanding and very educational. Both are especially relevant in today’s world, and both will shed tons of misconceptions you might have about gender, sex, sexuality and about China, respectively.

I am currently reading at least a dozen books (there are so many that I am interested in!).

One of them is Delusions of Gender. I went into this book thinking it would be about the social construction of gender, and so far at least, it’s much more about the social psychology of gender. And it is excellent! One of the things its author, Cordelia Fine, discusses that has really remained with me relates to stereotype threat. Essentially, notions of gender and corresponding stereotypes are so imbedded in us that any little thing makes people “behave” in more stereotypical ways.

For example, if you are giving a math test and the first question requires students to bubble “male” or “female,” the girls and women taking the test will perform worse. If you are giving a test and say, “men and women are equally capable of doing these math problems,” the women and girls will perform worse! 

This made me think about what role stereotype threat had with all of the IQ tests I had to take as a younger person at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center between seeing various doctors and having different medical tests. How different would the results be, if say, they administered those tests at Chick-fil-A weeks after having any medical appointments?

So much of what we do and how we do it and what we think is unconscious.

On a note related to teaching: After various experiments, I have come to the conclusion (at least for now) that comprehensive, formal exams are an important exercise for today’s students. Students will really learn and prepare for a “midterm exam” and will really show off what they have learned. All forms of assessment have strengths and weaknesses, of course, put when students can demonstrate “big picture” knowledge in writing, they are really learning and thinking.

What do you think? 🙂 

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda