Whistling Vivaldi Facilitators' Guide 2015

Materials to Support the New Student Orientation Discussions


The Discussion Schedule

Monday, Sept. 7 - 4:00-4:45 PM - Whistling Vivaldi Opening Event - Harbach Theatre

5:00-6:00 PM - Whistling Vivaldi Small Group Discussions - Locations across campus (Click link)

Wednesday, Sept 9 - 10:30-11:30 AM - Whistling Vivaldi Small Group Discussions - Locations across campus (Click link)


Learning Goals for Orientation Discussions

Learning Goals for Whistling Vivaldi Orientation Conversations (in increasing order of complexity and ambition; #1 is foundational, #3 aspirational)

  1. Students will develop an awareness of college learning as a process of conversation and dialogue that extends inside and outside the classroom.
  2. Students will be able to apply to vocabulary and implications from Whistling Vivaldi to analyze their personal, academic, and co-curricular experiences.
  3. Students will cultivate a critical awareness of the role of identity in their college experiences, including
    • a recognition that neutral or universal positions do not exist and that conversations always involving an expression and enactment of our identities,
    • conversations among identities involve relations of institutional power and relational privilege that can enhance the positions of some while resulting in oppression and marginalization for others.

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Suggestions for Facilitators

Group Meeting in Harbach - What to Expect:

  • Introduction to Conversation: Whistling Vivaldi
  • Summary of Key Terms: Stereotype, Prejudice, etc.
  • Assessment of Audience Mood: Online Polling

Conversation #1 - Recommendations

  • Use this first meeting to introduce the concept of dialogue.
  • Introduce rules for dialogue.
  • Highlight the role of frank assessment of the identities we bring to conversationd.
  • Use the Social Identity Wheel Handout (below) to engage all people in the room.
  • Use small group discussions to get everyone talking.
  • By the end of the session, you will want to be moving toward a discussion of the book. If you get there, great. If not, that's OK too.
  • Conclude by "taking the temperature of the room" (e.g. "give one word to describe your mood," "if you were an animal right now, what would you be?"). The aim is to express and convey; justifications or rationalizations of responses should not be required.

Conversation #2 - Recommendations

  • Build on the work of the first conversation to tackle questions from Summer Common Reading page directly: http://www.knox.edu/wv
  • You may start with questions relating to 'early experiences with awareness of one's identity or race' and 'interactions where stereotypes may or may not have played a role'
  • You will want to be sure to addresss questions about 'how should we react knowing that stereotype threat may be influencing our behavior?' and 'what, if anything, can we do about stereotypes?'


Some things to consider / anticipate:

(1) Talking is not the only or even the best way to facilitate. See "Dialogue Facilitation Tips" below.
(2) Monitor emotional comfort (e.g. body language, levels of engagement) around the room. Orientation Leaders will have had training and will know their students better at this point.
(3) Facilitators can use self-presentation of their identities to establish comfort and encourage others.
(4) Prepare to handle visceral responses, such a "white guilt" ("I'm tired of being responsible / picked on, etc.")
(5) Discussing stereotypes can have the adverse effect of creating or reinforcing stereotypes and stereotype threats. See "What 'Stereotype Threat' is and Isn't" below.
(6) Discuss unspoken/unrepresented/underrepresented identities in the book. Anticipate criticisms of the book from this perspective.
(7) Common expressions of dominant ideologies in society--such as the virtues of individualism, the belief in the US as post-racial society or, at least, a society of continual racial / economic progress--can be an expression of privilege. You cannot undo the power of these ingrained beliefs in one session, but you can start the process of questioning them, especially with the aim of drawing out how those ideas may sound to marginalized groups.

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What "Stereotype Threat" Is and Isn't

Andy Hertel produced this summary of the main differences social psychologists draw between "stereotype threat" and other concepts and vocabulary we will encounter. This information may be most useful to facilitators as a way to clarify our thinking about this terminology. You are not expected to become expert in it or employ this fine-grained discussion with students. Indeed, it may take your discussion into unintended directions. Precision of language, while always a good thing, is not the principle aim of these orientation discussions. Use this list to gain greater confidence in your understanding of the terminology.

Stereotype threat is:
1) simply, worry over confirming a negative stereotype and contributing to devaluation of the social group.
2) a result of being stigmatized.
3) a result of stereotypes.
4) contingent on awareness of devaluation of the social group, awareness of stereotypes, awareness of being stereotyped, and desire to perform well (e.g., a person has to care about demonstrating intelligence in order to worry about confirming the notion of not being intelligent).
5) a psychological state experienced by the stigmatized.
6) an aversive experience.
7) an experience that potentially (not necessarily) results in worse performance; it can be mitigated by such things as attributing worry to something else, adopting a growth mindset.
8) situational, not chronic, not an environmental feature (e.g., one wouldn’t say that a classroom has stereotype threat, but one would say that a classroom may have features that could produce stereotype threat).
9) experienced on an individual basis – not all people who are members of a group may simultaneously experience stereotype threat in a given situation.

Stereotype threat is not:
1) stereotypes (which are inaccurate, over-generalized beliefs about what defines all members of a group and distinguishes members of that group from other groups).
2) stereotyping, or the application of stereotypes; it is not a direct action of the stigmatizer.
3) believing stereotypes (just knowing them).
4) prejudice (negative, harmful feelings about a group).
5) discrimination (acting harmfully towards members of a group).
6) a self-fulfilling prophecy; in a sense, it is the reverse of the self-fulfilling prophecy (sfp = acting towards someone based on stereotypes of that person’s group, which results in that person behaving in ways consistent with the stereotypes, which reinforces the stereotypes).
7) something that entirely explains all group differences – there are many other strong and important factors that contribute to group differences [e.g., historical maltreatment, institutionalized isms (racism, sexism, ageism), differences in resources and access to resources, to name only a very select few).
8) not the fault of the person who is at the mercy of the stereotype.
9) is not a passive response…in fact, those who experience stereotype threat often attempt to counteract the threat through expending more effort (which can, unfortunately, backfire).

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Dialogue Facilitation Tips (multiple useful documents here, including "Ground Rules for Dialogue") - Thanks to Tianna Cervantes for bringing these documents together.

Social Identity Wheel - Copies will be provided on the day of the first discussion.

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Video Resources

Gabe Raley recommends that facilitators consider some of social context for discussing stereotype threat. (Thanks, Gabe, for providing these.) Below are some resources to supplement Whistling Vivaldi. They focus more on the "group-level contingencies" Steele discusses--what the social sciences call "inequality."

A This American Life episode (July 2015) on the persistence of racism and racial segregation in education and the corresponding academic advantages and disadvantages students face.

This Oprah episode "Trading Schools" about divergence of resources across Chicagoland schools. It's short. And it's Oprah.

A hands-on data exercise: Examine the per pupil spending rates, student demographics, college readiness scores, and other data at Illinois Report Card. Look up these data for New Trier, Harper, Niles West, Chicago Academy, Kaneland, Galesburg, and your own high school. What patterns do you notice?

The American Dream (or not) as seen in Legos - Thanks to Carissa Schoffner

Fernando Gomez recommends that facilitators also consider the MTV documentary released this summer, White People, which was written by José Antonio Vargas. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zjj1PmJcRM. There are scenes that compliment the reading nicely. Students may be more familiar with this video than facilitators of a certain age or older, and may even refer to it.

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Acknowledgements: The Summer Common Reading project--including this page, the Summer Common Reading page, and the organization of orientation events--would have been impossible without the diverse and voluntary contributions of the ad hoc Whistling Vivaldi Group: Gabe Raley, Andy Hertel, Teresa Gonzales, Laura Schnack, Tianna Cervantes, Rebecca Eckert, and Deb Southern. Special thanks to Deb Southern who had the foresight to fund the project and the resolve to keep it moving forward throughout the summer.

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September 2015