Teacher bias is often subtle
- University of Michigan professor and math education expert Deborah Loewenberg Ball has shown teachers how to examine their implicit bias by documenting her own 20 “micro moment” judgments that occur in just a minute and a half in her classroom.
- The Hechinger Report describes a presentation by Loewenberg Ball where, using a video tape of a class she teaches, she points out the “discretionary spaces” where she had to make choices about how she responded to students and where racism, sexism and other implicit bias can creep in.
- In one situation, a “muscular, tall, lean and confident” African-American girl appears to be ridiculing a classmate who is showing her work to the class, but Lowenberg Ball discovers the girl, despite her demeanor, is actually legitimately correcting the student and asking an important question. Loewenberg points out how easy it would have been to criticize or dismiss the student making the comment for her approach when, by engaging her, the two students and the class all benefited.
A recent study showed that black girls are often the subject of implicit or unconscious bias and are perceived as less innocent and needing less care, which leads to harsher punishment and less opportunities for leadership roles, mentoring and other support.
Research also has shown that bias affects how administrators discipline students and perhaps how they make hiring decisions.
New York University neuroscientist David Amodio, a bias expert, says our brains quickly want to categorize others and spot any threats, and they often do it based on race because of years of socialization about stereotypes we acquire at a young age. His research shows we can overcome bias with practice and bolstering our responses to it — but that those quick judgments are very difficult to change.
Other experts have come up with strategies for combating implicit bias, including simply introducing examples that run contrary to our preconceived ideas and developing a mindset that a workplace has a good reputation for being open-minded.
Sara Fiarman, a former teacher, principal and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Education, has suggested five steps to help eliminate bias in schools: increased awareness, "naming it," creating a system to combat it, building empathy, and establishing accountability. She also notes that various implicit bias tests are available.
Through its Teaching Tolerance magazine, The Southern Poverty Law Center recommends staff development in schools that builds awareness about bias in instruction, staff relationships, the classroom and the community, and it provides guidance for a one-hour session on the topic.
- The Hechinger Report 20 judgments a teacher makes in 1 minute and 28 seconds