The title is a bit of a misnomer as bias is a habit of the mind. Your brain is designed to take cognitive shortcuts. When I was a child, my parents made me go to cubs and then scouts. Yes, I hope you’re imagining a beautiful small chocolate coloured version of me with a cute neckerchief. In case you were wondering, yes, butter wouldn’t melt.Bias is a habit of the mind. How are you breaking that habit? Click To Tweet
You must visualise the above, because either this confirms your biases about me or poses something new into the mix, importantly both associations are damaging. We should be aiming to make judgements and assertions after getting to know people in the present and exclude actions that happened years ago, but this isn’t easy. Yes, the above and below are true stories.
While in the cubs (younger version of scouts) I remember reading a book about snake before my first camping trip at the time, I learned a rhyme about as snake red before black… is safe and black before … or something like that is not. This rhyme was supposed to differentiate from safe and dangerous snakes.
Now, thankfully I never encountered a snake at the jamboree (scout festival). I am not sure how my friends would have thought of me trying to show off my new knowledge proudly, and this is the most likely scenario since, and before, me running a mile. Our brains are not designed to reason and access the knowledge needed to assess the danger they are primarily designed for survival. These associations are natural, and sometimes these associations become distorted; these habits do not make you a morally evil person, but we must endeavour to try and stop them in the classroom.Recognise and accept you have an array of biases, as societal privilege is geared toward white, cis, male, middle class, native english speaking you probably have a propensity towards these groups. Click To Tweet
- Recognise and accept you have an array of biases, as societal privilege is geared toward white, cis, male, middle class, native english speaking you probably have a propensity towards these groups.
- Anonymous marking, by this I mean swopping a set of assessments with a colleague and labelling the front only with a number. This process is not a perfect solution, although it will help remove some of the bias.
- Try and learn some of your smaller preferences, by that I mean I worked with exam boards for years, and I can tell you that handwriting bias seriously exists.
- Negative behaviours are linked to teachers making worse assessments of academic progress, be aware of this in all of your assessments.
- Avoid setting, apart from the data that states this is fraught with bias, as soon as you assert that ability based on an arbitrary number/ranking top set, second set, etc. you are leaving yourself prone to bias.
- Check your positive biases; these can be as damaging as the negative ones.
- Words not tone, when working with pupils of colour this often arises in the behaviour statistics. Check your behaviour logs are Black pupils receiving disproportionate numbers of defiance, talking back, etc. Why is this? When you enter your behaviour logs, try and hold yourself to account by only including the words that were used, not the tone. You’ll be surprised at the difference of what and how you remember.
- Start again, we should start lessons with a clean slate and leave discretions that happened in the past in the past. The drawing of a line under experiences is tough, we are prone to leaning back on memories even if this is not conscious. I would advocate a process of accepting and ameliorating. That means understanding that if a pupil has a legacy of annoying you and then asking yourself in each and every interaction, how much of the past annoyance is impacting on your perception today?
There are lots and lots more. Bias, racism and misogyny are part and parcel of our minds. We have the choice to be better to counter the ingrained schema; we have that choice. Over to you.Bias, racism and misogyny are part and parcel of our minds. We have the choice to be better to counter the ingrained schema; we have that choice. Over to you. Click To Tweet
Photo: Patrick K. Campbell/Shutterstock)