How to Eliminate Implicit Bias in Your Teaching Instruction

Dr. Lyne Ssebikindu
Dr. Lyne Ssebikindu
Elementary school principal; Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction
‘BIAS’ spelled out on wooden cylinders in a table.

There is a national focus on bias, profiling, and de-escalation. We must understand bias in order to manage it. In most cases, when we think of bias, we imagine an intentional thought or action. Bias happens when a person makes decisions based upon his or her personal stereotypes rather than looking at facts. Implicit biases are unconscious attitudes that can manifest in the workplace and school setting. There are many different examples of implicit biases, ranging from categories of race, gender, and sexuality.

What is Implicit Bias?

Implicit biases are those attitudes or behaviors that affect our actions in an unconscious way. It is also known as a social cognition. A lot of times individuals do not know they exist.

In the United States we see biases in health, education and careers. How are these biases seen in our country? Public education is faced with challenges of increased implicit biases and equity. It is very crucial that educators understand what implicit biases are in order to meet the needs of our students. These issues have to be dealt with in order for our students to succeed. In many cases, we don’t know we have implicit biases. It takes deep reflection or someone pointing out those implicit biases.

Districts are creating new positions to address implicit biases in our classrooms. Eliminating implicit biases in our teaching instruction is a necessary component in order for us to meet the needs of all students. High quality schools can eliminate implicit bias by putting some strategies in place to address and respond effectively to the needs of all students, with the intention of ensuring that all students and teachers are able to thrive.

Getting to Know Biases in Our Schools

As educators we should work hard to understand and eliminate implicit biases in our teaching instruction. Researchers and practitioners should strive to understand and counter the biases and other problems related to making valid differential diagnoses. Removing these biases is a challenge, especially because we often don’t even know they exist, but research reveals potential interventions that will give insight and awareness of the bias. Schools need to provide supports for all students (e.g. English learners, homeless students and special education students). Educational institutions need to be responsible for individual differences. This will prevent learning behavior and emotional problems.

Several educators may not know that they possess implicit biases. Educational institutions must manage unconscious biases in the work environment. Our schools must create fair and respectful environments.

There are several tools we can use to measure implicit bias. Implicit Association Test is one of the instruments researchers used to measure implicit bias. IAT was created in 1998. It measures the strength of associations between groups.

Ways to Eliminate Implicit Bias in Your Teaching Instruction

Chugh states “Foster diversity and inclusion and build a better world by putting your beliefs into practice,” (Chugh, 2001).

Below are some of the ways you can use to eliminate implicit biases in your teaching instruction:

  1. Allow time for students to get to know one another. Teachers should create time in their schedule for students to make friendships and collaborate with one another. Students who have friends adjust to school better and feel protected.
  2. Exercise the 36 Questions. When you use this activity, pair up your students together and have them take turns in answering questions. This activity allows students to become personal with each other. Research shows that this activity reduces prejudice and anxiety when people from different cultures are paired up.
  3. Avoid Fixed Mindset. Carol Dweck did research on fixed mindset vs. the growth mindset. With a fixed mindset, you believe there’s nothing to learn and no way to grow. With a growth mindset, you see yourself as a work in progress. It is he job of educators to foster a growth mindset of all their students regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity. With a growth mindset, there is more brain activity and all students can grow.
  4. Evaluation of all media: We take in a lot of information from the media. As educators, please filter that information to make sure it does not affect your classroom instruction. A lot of what we see and hear is biased. We need to evaluate all materials we present to our students to make sure it is not biased.
  5. Become aware of unconscious bias that you may have and address the bias accordingly. Seek training from leaders and district personnel.
  6. As an educator, take the time and acknowledge holidays of all cultures of those students who you are teaching. Provide an environment where students feel comfortable, valued, and appreciated.
  7. Provide equitable practices for all students regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, special education students etc.

To this end, if implicit bias continues to exist in classrooms it could actually widen the achievement gap for students. As educators, we should look at students as individuals and provide equitable quality instruction daily that will increase student achievement.

When we create a culture of inclusion, it creates an environment that is conducive for teaching and learning. Students feel valued, respected, and appreciated which leads to increased motivation, confidence, and achievement.

References
Chugh, D (2021, August 21). Seven Ways to Fight Bias in Your Everyday Life. Workplace Articles and More
Dweck, Carol S. (September 2010) “Even Geniuses Work Hard”. Educational Leadership. 68 (1) 16-20
Ratliff, K (October 2017) Measuring the Implicit biases we may not even be aware we have
Ruhl, C. (2020, July 01). Implicit or unconscious bias. Simply Psychology.
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