How does implicit bias affect education?

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Today’s Bite-Sized PD for Educational Equity was inspired by:

Unconscious Bias in the Classroom: Evidence and Opportunities

By Thomas Dee & Seth Gershenson

Google’s Computer Science Education Research

Key Statement: Implicit bias among educators, also known as unconscious bias, contributes to the underrepresentation of women and people of color in computer science and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields. That is, implicit bias accounts for differences in how educators see, teach, and support (e.g, disciplinary practices) underrepresented students. 


What is implicit bias?

It is the cognitive process by which past experiences unconsciously and automatically influence decision-making.

Top Five Takeaways for Equity


1. The opportunity gaps - Black and Brown students begin public school academically behind their white peers in math and reading. Overtime, this opportunity gap widens for black students and stabilizes for brown students. Male students significantly underperform in reading compared to female students. Female students perform as well as, or better than, male students in math, technology, and engineering assessments; but, obtain significantly fewer degrees/careers in STEM or STEM fields.

2. The theory behind implicit bias - Stereotypes, or the beliefs held about people groups, become the foundation for how we make decisions in relation to members of these people groups. For example, a science teacher may make less rigorous course recommendations for female students based on the stereotype that they are not as strong in science.

3. Research on Implicit Bias - Cognitive priming, Implicit Association Tests, and Grading Biases are three ways that researchers have documented the negative effects of implicit bias on the beliefs about, performance of, and access afforded underrepresented students in STEM fields.

4. Student- Facing Interventions - Successful student interventions are designed to impact of implicit bias on students. These Buffering Interventions focus on helping students to develop a growth mindset.

5. Teacher Facing Interventions - Successful teacher interventions are designed to reduce implicit bias by:

      • helping teachers to identify their own biases;
      • ensuring teachers understand the science behind implicit bias;
      • emphasizing the importance of assessing students by their personal attributes, not their social group;
      • encouraging teachers to engage with people and cultures that are different from their own;
      • urging teachers to maintain a positive predisposition when learning about or interacting with people with different co-existing identities;
      • highlighting the role of empathy in teaching students with different backgrounds and identities;
      • underscoring the importance of creating learning partnerships with students to reduce the social distance created by social group differences.


    Do Now - Identify one way you will get to know your students as individuals next year.


    How does implicit bias affect education?

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