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Self-reflection is the first-step to creating an inclusive learning environment. Faculty members should become aware of how their own ideas, assumptions and identities shape their learning environments. This process creates opportunities to understand the perspectives and ideas of others and how these new ideas can be beneficial to the learning process. This is an ongoing process, but you can begin by asking a few general questions:

  • What identities are most salient for me?
  • What assumptions do I make about students as they enter the classroom?
  • How does my own background inform my courses?
  • How can I ensure my teaching practices and course materials are accessible for all students?

For further reflection, save this pdf to your desktop and respond to these questions on the Self-Development Checklist for Inclusive Teaching.

Implicit Bias

In reflecting upon our identities and experiences and how they shape the choices we make in our classrooms, we can also begin to think about the biases that we can’t always recognize. Implicit bias,

“refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control. Residing deep in the subconscious, these biases are different from known biases that individuals may choose to conceal for the purposes of social and/or political correctness. Rather, implicit biases are not accessible through introspection. The implicit associations we harbor in our subconscious cause us to have feelings and attitudes about other people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, age, and appearance. These associations develop over the course of a lifetime beginning at a very early age through exposure to direct and indirect messages. In addition to early life experiences, the media and news programming are often-cited origins of implicit associations.” From the Kirwan Institute at Ohio State University: Understanding Implicit Bias

We all have biases. Understanding our biases and working to unlearn them are important steps to transforming the way we approach student learning. To understand some of your own biases, take one of the tests developed by Project Implicit at Harvard University. Also, check out this short video series produced by the New York Times which explains implicit bias and the ways it impacts our daily lives. The individual videos appear across the bottom of the screen. You can watch the whole series, or click to go to a specific video.

Examples of Implicit Bias in the Classroom

  • Students with deficiencies in writing may be stereotyped as lacking intellectual ability.
  • Instructors might treat students with physical disabilities as if they may also have mental disabilities, and thus require more attention.
  • Students who are affiliated with a particular identity group may be treated as experts on issues related to that group.
  • Students of certain groups may be expected to have certain participation styles (quiet, argumentative, agenda-oriented)

(From the Yale Center for Teaching and Learning)

 

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