Thanks to my membership in the Oklahoma Educators Association, I attended a training on implicit bias. This has been a topic of conversation in various communities for the past few years, at least, and I wanted to see what I could learn about it, and how it affected students. We were to take a quiz beforehand (which is free for you to take too) that purports to measure your own implicit bias against/for certain groups of people ̶ different ethnicities, body types, ability levels, etc.
I encourage everyone to take it in whichever category makes sense for you. You might not agree with what it shows, but it could inform your thinking in a new way. https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/
Because I’ve been alive for a while and have studied humans through studying history, I know that we all have biases. Humans are tribal, and that’s buried deep in the most primitive parts of our brains. Some of us work to fight those biases and not judge people based on something externally apparent, but on the “content of their character,” as Dr. King mentioned.
Nevertheless, I was a little disturbed to see that I have more implicit bias than expected. Instead of beating myself up about it, I determined to think how I would react to this information in a classroom setting.
If you recognize that you have an automatic positive preference for girls, you might be more inclined to call on girls in your class. You might be inclined to offer extra help or an extension on assignments to girls more than boys. These are things a teacher should not do, but if you don’t know you’re doing it, how can you correct it?
The training suggested conducting an implicit bias audit, wherein you have a neutral party observe you in the classroom to see how often you call on one gender versus the other, for example. This obviously could be done with other subgroups as well. It could possibly be frustrating, even embarrassing data to have, but if we truly care about offering all students the best quality of education, it starts with allowing our teachers the space to learn how their biases come into the classroom, and how to correct them.
The process of breaking the link between the biases and behavior is called decoupling. It would be great if we could wave a magic wand and make that happen, but instead there is real inner and external work to be done by each of us to ensure all children receive an appropriate education.
We cannot undo the past, but we can work within our classrooms and schools on ensuring we do not act on our biases. Yes it’s one more thing to do in addition to recognizing trauma, and dealing with food insecurity and on and on, but I think dealing with the effects of our unseen proclivities can have a profound effect on a child.
If you take the training, let me know what you think of it. If you’re a teacher, share with us how the new information will inform your practice.