Stereotyping seems to be something that is frowned upon by everyone, yet we all do it. Society teaches us to categorise groups through differentiating and perhaps distancing our own characteristics from certain groups, such as Nazis would have been taught to categorise jews negatively in world war 2 regardless of their own view. This is a very extreme example of how differentiating groups can lead to detrimental effects – not all stereotyping is this severe, but it does still occur with horrible effects.
In schools, it is clear from the first day that you want to make friends and make sure that these friends are “popular” and not seen to be weird or abnormal. If you become part of this group you begin to identify common traits among you that are different from the out-group or un-cool group. This forms the basis of the categorisation – a stereotype is formed when you attribute all characteristics that you have assigned this group regardless of the individual. For example, you may know one of the people in the group from a club say and know they are lovely and actually not weird at all, but in the eyes of your group, you note them as being just as weird as the rest of them. This example highlights how stereotyping actually can be useful (selfishly) for your own communication and connectedness with your own group.
Children who have stereotypes put upon them knowingly could fall into a self-fulfilling prophecy. this is where a stereotype leads us to act in the way that produces behaviours confirming the stereotype. If the stereotype is negative – which is usually the case as it stems from differentiation from the other group – it can have detrimental effects on a person’s life. For example, in a school environment, one researcher noted teachers labelling boys from low socioeconomic groups as less intelligent and more disruptive, aggressive and therefore due to this stereotype they started behaving in these ways confirming the teacher’s stereotype. This process could go on forever and particularly in a school environment would be beneficial to learn ways to stop this.
One method to stop a teachers stereotype forming a self-fulfilling prophecy is to get them to agree with the counterargument. So, for example, tell themselves that actually boys from low socioeconomic groups were highly intelligent and well-behaved children then their stereotype will become deactivated. And if a self-fulfilling prophecy does still occur this time it is for a positive outcome – better grades.
Children forming stereotypes early on is not helpful for classroom work and behaviour let alone later life social skills. Children should base friendship upon what they have similar (shared interests) with someone rather than just because they are just as dissimilar to the out-group.
School desegregation this minimises the stereotype though decreasing the discomfort that arises when put in the same group as someone different from you. This method focuses on the similarities. One tried and tested method that puts school desegregation into action the jigsaw technique. This is where children are given a topic such as World War 2 and from a group of 4, a teacher will select 2 students to be experts in one subtopic of World War 2 such as Hitler and the other 2 experts of another subsection such as hospitals. Then the experts take it in turns to teach their topic. This technique teaches that all children can be experts or better at something than others but these differences are good as it can help them in something that they are not so good at. It helps children to see that differences are not so bad after all.
This is a re-blog post originally posted by Emma Cree and published with kind permission. This article was originally published in 2015, and updated in 2019 by UKEd Editorial in accordance with website and policy changes. The original post can be found here.
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