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How do I overcome my own biases?

nov 17, 2020

As educators seek to build more equitable classrooms, an important first step is to acknowledge that even the most well-intentioned educators possess inherent biases.

These baked-in perceptions of the world are shaped by a variety of factors, and gone un-checked, they can have a negative impact on students.

With this in mind, the goal isn’t to hide or diminish the fact that unconscious biases exist. Instead, the focus should be on how to acknowledge and overcome these biases on behalf of students.

Setting high expectations for all students is an important part of cultivating an inclusive classroom. If we don’t acknowledge and combat our own biases, we may be inadvertently lowering the expectations we have for some students.

To set a high bar for every child, start by taking time to reflect on your own attitudes.

IDENTIFY OUR BIASES

Culture, gender, and race are just a few of the areas where implicit bias can impact our perceptions of others. Such attitudes can show up in the classroom in various ways. Do we treat girls and boys differently? Do we assume language barriers are cognitive barriers? Do we have different expectations based on students’ race or culture?

Coming to grips with our own inherent biases makes it possible to be intentional about overcoming those biases. If you are interested in exploring your own biases, Harvard’s free Implicit Association Test is a great place to start.

CHALLENGE OUR ASSUMPTIONS

We have to question our assumptions regarding individual students. When setting goals for each student, ask, “Is this goal reflective of what he or she is really capable of, or am I just making an assumption based on what I know about this student’s background or previous experiences in school?”

Assumptions are forms of generalizations and stereotypes. Be careful not to lump students into specific categories based on people like them. Ask yourself, “Would I come to the same conclusions if the gender, race, or cultural background of this student was different?”

It’s so easy to adopt assumptions based on what we observe or what we’ve heard. However, for the sake of each student, it’s important to engage in self-reflection and consider if our own biases may be affecting our expectations both for student behavior and academic performance.

The goal is to set attainable high expectations for all students. A classroom with high expectations builds an inclusive culture that promotes acceptance and equality for all students.

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