Justice and equity affect all aspects of society including education. Unconscious bias, or implicit bias, are beliefs, stereotypes, biases, or assumptions that individuals hold about a person or group that are developed outside their consciousness. It is important to be aware of how unconscious bias may manifest and impact personal and professional interactions.
How does unconscious bias develop?
While the intricacies of how unconscious biases are formed is still being explored in science, all people are likely to have some form of unconscious biases. The human brain works to arrange information into categories to help us make decisions quickly. This categorization process is not deliberate or even within our conscious mindframe but can have automatic, real world impacts on our decisions, perceptions, attitudes, actions, and behavior.
Unconscious biases are not only related to race or ethnicity. One’s ideologies surrounding sexual orientation, gender, weight, age, physical abilities, mental capacity, religion, and many other characteristics can be influenced by unconscious bias.
Unconscious biases may interfere or contradict one’s conscious behavior or biases. We may view ourselves as ethical, unbiased, and effective decision makers but our unconscious biases still impact our everyday interactions. Educators may not be aware of all the ways that bias can manifest in the classroom.
What can I do?
All teachers need to be aware of how their perceptions about groups impact the computer science field and education experience.
The first step to overcoming unconscious bias is being aware of how these factors may impact real world situations. By understanding how the mind works and being aware of how unconscious bias may impact our lives, we can be on alert for situations where unconscious bias may be present.
In communications and interactions, strive to think of people as individuals instead of a sum of their characteristics. Focus on the individual characteristics and attributes that make people unique instead of their group identity. Work to be empathetic and focus on taking others’ perspectives.
Become comfortable recognizing and addressing unconscious bias. To do this, there are several models and practice scenarios that you can engage in (see the video and Resources below)
Be an Advocate and Continue the Conversation
Be open to discussing unconscious bias and its effects often. Be honest about the progress you’re making and encourage others to join in on the conversation. If possible, attend training sessions and workshops about unconscious bias.
Unconscious bias in the classroom: Evidence and opportunities -- Google Report
Unconscious Bias in Teaching -- A report from MIT Teaching Systems Lab
Project Implicit -- Research study that allows users to test their own biases to become more aware of the ideologies they hold
Reflection Activity Facilitator Slides
Consider the following questions:
Select and complete a case study from the Equity Practice Spaces. Review the case study individually and, if possible, discuss with other educators.
What does equity mean?
What were the teacher(s) and student(s) experiences like in the case study you reviewed?
What assumptions did you make about the individual(s) in the case study?
Did you see any interactions influenced by the student's race, ethnicity or gender?