Stereotype Tool

How do you engage with talented students? The Stereotype Tool is based on getting insight into your own views towards talent as a teacher, from the way students perceive you in the classroom. It is meant as a classroom assignment and will provide you input to reflect on your own views towards talent in general and talented students in particular.

What is the Stereotype Tool?

You will ask your students how they see you in relation to a number of stereotypical descriptions of teachers, some of which are formulated positively, others negatively. Please note that using this tool and entering into dialogue with your students can be very helpful, but it also requires you to make yourself vulnerable to the students’ opinions. Students should not be forced to fill in the tool, if they do not feel comfortable doing so.

Make sure you have at least 45 minutes available with the students, to allow them to fill in the tool and have a meaningful discussion afterwards. Afterwards, allow some time for self-reflection on the results.

The goal of this tool is to provide input and structure for a discussion in the classroom about teaching to talented students. The input is provided through a set of eleven stereotypes of teachers in relation to talent.

The scores that your students award you in relation to each of the stereotypes gives you clues about what you could focus on to develop yourself as a teacher. A structured dialogue with the students after filling in the tool is necessary to interpret and better understand the students’ opinions. Before using the tool, note the following:

  • Familiarise yourself with the stereotypes by reading them carefully. Also try to score yourself in relation to the stereotypes before you start the classroom exercise. This will come in handy when you compare your own views to the students’ views.
  • If you think that a discussion in your student group on the basis of the stereotypes will be too confronting either for yourself or the students, or if you otherwise think it might not work, you should not use this tool.

The set includes eleven stereotypes of teachers in relation to talent:

  1. Course concentrator
    This teacher is focused on the content of his/her course, and thinks all students should be able to get through the course by working in a focused way.
  2. Dreaming discoverer
    This teacher is focused on letting students explore new things outside their comfort zone, in order to find new talents they might not have thought about before.
  3. Equality emphasizer
    This teacher is focused on equality between students. Everyone should have the same opportunities.
  4. Excellence exceptionalist
    This teacher is focused on students who have performed well in their studies or in other domains such as sports or arts, and is willing to make exceptions for them.
  5. Formality focuser
    This teacher is focused on making sure that governmental and institutional rules are met while delivering the course.
  6. Freedom fighter
    This teacher is focused on letting students experience as much freedom as possible and encourages them to explore new pathways.
  7. Groupwork guru
    This teacher is focused on excellence in group work, with each student finding the role which suits his/her talents best in relation to the task that lies ahead.
  8. Hierarchy hacker
    This teacher is focused on breaking up the traditional student – teacher hierarchy and treats students as fellow researchers or colleagues.
  9. Negative neglecter
    This teacher has a negative and neglecting attitude towards teaching in general and is not really paying attention to the students. In research universities this would be an ‘I-only-care-about-my-research-and-not-about-your-education’ teacher.
  10. Practice connector
    This teacher is focused on preparing students for ‘the real world’, always relating teaching to practice.
  11. Problem provider
    This teacher is focused on stimulating complex thoughts, by providing students with difficult problems to solve.


Step by step guide to employing the tool

How does your teacher deal with talented students? Often teachers are not fully aware of their own views towards talent. This exercise, called Stereotype Tool, is meant to make teachers more aware of this. It was developed by a group of European teachers, students and researchers.

The Tool consists of a set of stereotypes of teachers. These stereotypes are exaggerated descriptions of how teachers act in class. Having a discussion about these stereotypes could help teachers realize how they view talent.

Now we will ask for your help. Please think about your current teacher and note to what extent he/she resembles the following 11 stereotypes. Keep in mind that your teacher can resemble more than one stereotype.

Think carefully about a way to ensure anonymity of students filling in the tool, if you think this is important. You could use an online tool which does not require students to log their ID.

The tool is presented in different formats:

  • A survey which can be printed on paper [pdf] to be distributed in class.
  • A survey using Google Docs. This requires that you have a Google account as a teacher, and you need to be able to provide the students with a clickable link. Try it out:
    • Log into your Google account
    • Click this link:
    • Send the form (click “Send” in the upper right-hand corner), choose “link” and copy the link. This is the link you will use for the students.
    • To try it out yourself, open an incognito window or similar (ctrl+shift+N in windows) and paste the link. Fill out the form. Open another incognito window and fill it out again.
    • In the original (non-incognito) window, click the “Answers”-tab to see the answers. This is where the student answers will appear.
      In addition to these formats, we aim to provide links to the tool in Mentimeter, Kahoot, Socrative, or a questionnaire tool.

The survey is meant as a discussion starter, so now it is time to discuss! If possible, quickly review how the students score you on each of the stereotypes.

  • The easiest starting point is the question about which stereotype fits you most. Is this a negatively or positively formulated stereotype? Ask students why they picked this stereotype. If it is a positive stereotype, then also discuss the negative stereotype that was chosen most (or the other way round).
  • Discuss the stereotype(s) you think suits you best

Possible follow-up questions for discussion about your own role:

  • What type(s) would you rather want me to be?
  • How can I improve my teaching so that I am able to put more variation in my lessons?
  • What do you miss in my teaching and can you find it somewhere in the description of one of the stereotypes?
  • With what kind of teacher / stereotype would you feel most comfortable?

Possible follow-ups for a more general discussion:

  • Start a discussion about other teachers. What stereotypes do they see most in other teachers; and what stereotype would they like to see more often and why?
  • Is there a stereotype missing or one which they do not recognize at all?
  • Broaden the discussion towards handling talent in classroom situations. Ask your students to think of a situation in which teachers have positively recognized their talents. How could this situation be transferred to other situations?
  • Ask your students to think of a classroom situation in which the teacher has to handle a talented student. Ask them to write out different reactions, choosing three or four of the stereotypes (including both positively and negatively formulated ones)
  • Start a general discussion about the use of stereotypes. Many people dislike stereotypes, because they are an exaggeration of reality and many nuances in discussions are lost. What do you think about the use of stereotypes in general, and in this specific situation?

Analyzing the results

Carefully analyse your students’ scores and the results from the following discussion. Is it what you expected?

As a next step, you can link the results to the three pillars of honors pedagogies, which can form the basis of a successful talent development program in higher education. The set of stereotypes developed for this tool are loosely related to corresponding clusters of strategies and behavior. How do you score on each of them? What is your strong point and what could be further developed? You can find an overview of this below.

Wolfensberger (2012) identified three pillars of honors pedagogies. They are:

  1. Creating community, concerning teaching strategies ‘that create rapport and connectedness between teachers and students and among students; and that create a learning community’
  2. Enhancing academic competence, concerning teaching strategies ‘that enhance the depth and scope of students’ academic knowledge, understanding and skills’
  3. Offering freedom, concerning teaching strategies ‘that give students space for experimentation, risk-taking, personal initiatives and pursuit of their interests’

    For each of the pillars, Wolfensberger identified clusters of strategies and behavior

Now look back at the scores that your students gave you and try to relate them to the pillars using the table below.

The model presupposes a basic interest in teaching. If this is not the case, the corresponding stereotype is the negative neglecter.

The remaining ten stereotypes are linked to the pillars and clusters in the table above. For the three remaining ‘negative’ stereotypes a loose connection is made on the level of the pillars only. For the seven ‘positive’ stereotypes, the connection to Wolfensberger’s work is made at the level of clusters of strategies and behavior. Some stereotypes are linked to several clusters.

Relate your results to the three pillars of honors pedagogies. Which of the pillars features most prominently, and what could you develop more?