The Psychology of Success: How Teacher Beliefs About Race and Gender Intelligence Affect Student Achievement
On August 4, 2012, Dr. Beverly Tatum was invited by the American Psychological Association Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS) to give the Lee Gurel Lecture. Tatum is perhaps best known for her 1997 book, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, and for her most recent role as president of Spelman College for 12 years prior to retiring last year. Earlier in her career, Dr. Tatum was a psychology professor and held administrative positions as department chair, dean, and acting president of Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts before arriving at Spelman. She is credited with advancing conversations on race, particularly in education.
It is where psychology and education intersect in schools that our conversation about race is most necessary.
In Dr. Tatum’s address to members of TOPSS and fellow conference attendees, she discussed the intersection of psychology and education in schools. Specifically, she provided a history of intelligence testing and how teacher beliefs about intelligence can shape their expectations of students. In this 45-minute video, Connecting the Dots: How Race in America’s Classrooms Affects Achievement, Dr. Tatum tells us why teacher expectations, honest feedback, and belief in a student’s ability to achieve given effective effort, are key to academic success. She provides illustrative examples of fixed versus malleable intelligence theories and Claude Steele’s concept of stereotype threat. Dr. Tatum concluded with strategies teachers and others can take to reduce stereotype threat and increase cross-racial interactions, student self-efficacy and success.
From the beginning, race determined who had access to education, and it still shapes how we think about who can benefit from it.
I am sharing this video on The Social Scholar because I believe it touches on some important concepts that can be detrimental to the academic achievement of girls and students of color. Dr. Tatum’s strategies are timeless in helping to correct practices that served as the basis of American education. In closing, Dr. Tatum stated:
This dialogue among adults is important, of course, not just for academic performance, but also for the effective preparation of all of our students who live in an increasingly multiracial, multiethnic world. We have to raise our expectations for our students and for our teachers, and we have to be willing to invest in both.