Reading Smart Stuff Together and Whistling Vivaldi

Reading Smart Stuff Together and Whistling Vivaldi

Mary Jo Festle (Elon University, USA)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6006-9.ch008


Elon University sponsored successful reading and discussion groups about psychologist Claude Steele's book, Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do. The book describes the many ways that “stereotype threat” negatively impacts people who are anxious about confirming stereotypes with an identity group to which they belong. It also provides research-based strategies for reducing the impact of stereotype threat. This chapter describes why the reading groups worked, how they were run, and the evidence for their impact on the institution. The discussion group model could be replicated by other organizations.
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Why It Was “The Right Time”

The popularity of our reading groups was partly due to the fact that the timing was right for Whistling Vivaldi at our institution. Elon University is a selective comprehensive liberal arts university of about 6000 students that has always placed a high value on community and civility. For many years its mission has been to foster respect for human differences and help students integrate learning across disciplines so they become global citizens and informed leaders motivated by concern for the common good. Learning about stereotype threat clearly fits those goals, but in addition, Elon had recently adopted a new strategic plan to guide its priorities for the next decade. The new plan, known as “The Elon Commitment,” included as a top priority making “an unprecedented commitment to diversity and global engagement” (Elon University, 2009).

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