Achievement gaps between underrepresented minority (URM) students and their white peers in college science, technology, engineering, and mathematics classrooms are persistent across many white-majority institutions of higher education. Attempts to reduce this phenomenon of underperformance through increasing classroom structure via active learning have been partially successful. In this study, we address the hypothesis that the achievement gap between white and URM students in an undergraduate biology course has a psychological and emotional component arising from stereotype threat. Specifically, we introduced a values affirmation exercise that counters stereotype threat by reinforcing a student’s feelings of integrity and self-worth in three iterations of an intensive active-learning college biology course. On average, this exercise reduced the achievement gap between URM and white students who entered the course with the same incoming grade point average. This result suggests that achievement gaps resulting from the underperformance of URM students could be mitigated by providing students with a learning environment that removes psychological and emotional impediments of performance through short psychosocial interventions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology