Claude Steele’s Whistling Vivaldi gave me an epiphany when I read about “arranging informal cross-group conversations” in Chapter 9, on reducing identity and stereotype threat.
I have a hunch that some of the interventions described in the chapter may have a broader effect on reversing underperformance than mitigation of stereotype threat.
As a student club advisor, I have encouraged clubs to hold movie nights, which include a post-movie discussion. The most memorable of these was a showing of Spike Lee’s “School Daze.” Several students (and one faculty member) of different racial and cultural backgrounds contributed to a stimulating 30-minute discussion after the movie. My aim with the movie nights is to promote engineering identity formation by giving the group a common emotional experience in which they may identify with protagonists dealing with various challenges. School Daze is not about engineers, but it is about college students, and it provides many poignant situations for movie night participants to identify with the characters and their struggles, which in our case, led to a rich discussion.
The epiphany is that movie nights can precipitate interventions similar to those described by Steele. So the movie does not have to be about “engineers,” just stimulating for cross-group conversations. Perhaps the movie night intervention is one small measure to help level the playing field for many students, regardless of the origin of their underperformance. The student who led the movie night discussion arranged a themed student-faculty forum about a different issue a month later. I think he is onto something.
For more information:
Check out my post before spring break: Savor the Emotions
Steele, C. (2011). Whistling Vivaldi: How stereotypes affect us and what we can do (issues of our time). WW Norton & Company.
Lee, S. (1988). School daze [Motion picture]. United States: Columbia Pictures.