Understanding Implicit Bias
What is implicit bias?
What is implicit bias?
Implicit bias isn’t something that we can see and tap into. Rather, implicit bias is ingrained, unconscious attitudes or stereotypes about people that impact our behavior towards them.
What does this matter?
Because our implicit biases often predict how we’ll behave more accurately than our conscious values.
Implicit biases lead to institutional racism that harms students in the classroom.
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.
Key Characteristics of Implicit Biases
1. Implicit biases are pervasive. Everyone possesses them, even people with avowed commitments to impartiality such as judges.
2. Implicit and explicit biases are related but distinct mental constructs. They are not mutually exclusive and may even reinforce each other.
3. The implicit associations we hold do not necessarily align with our declared beliefs or even reflect stances we would explicitly endorse.
4. We generally tend to hold implicit biases that favor our own ingroup, though research has shown that we can still hold implicit biases against our ingroup.
5. Implicit biases are malleable. Our brains are incredibly complex, and the implicit associations that we have formed can be gradually unlearned through a variety of debiasing techniques. It’s important to remember: Implicit biases can be unlearned! And it’s essential, as educators, to do the work to get there.
Learn more at www. kirwaninstitute.osu.edu.
Implicit bias harms students of color and American Indian students in Minnesota at an alarming rate.
Implicit bias and microaggressions lead to inequitable punishments for students of color and American Indian students. Nationally, black students are suspended three times as often as their white peers. In Minnesota, it’s eight times as often.
A 2012 investigation found that “17 percent, or one out of every six black schoolchildren enrolled in K–12, were suspended at least once,” compared with “one in 20 (5 percent) for whites.”
Black girls ages 5 to 14 have been viewed by adults as “less innocent” than white girls of the same age, which may be a factor in the disparity in suspension rates, according to a 2017 report by Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality.
What’s more, key data from the MnEEP report Excluded: How Race Plays a Role in Exclusionary Practices in Special Education in Minnesota shows how implicit bias and racialized perceptions of ability and disability lead to special education identification, placement into restrictive educational settings, and exclusionary discipline practices that negatively impact educational outcomes for students of color and American Indian students.
- American Indian students in Minnesota are more than 4x more likely than White peers to be identified with a disability.
- Black students are more than 6x more likely than White peers to be placed in restrictive special education.
- Black students represent 12 percent of students with disabilities, but constitute 33 percent of physical restraint use in restrictive settings.
These exclusionary practices are a human rights violation that impact student outcomes today, and in the future. Studies show that students who experience restrictive educational settings or exclusionary discipline practices that remove them from the classroom are more likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school, and become involved in the juvenile justice system.
It’s essential that Minnesotans work to disrupt a system that is leaving POCI students out of opportunities to succeed.
Transforming Implicit Bias
The Harvard implicit bias test
Take the Harvard Implicit Association Test
Take a short test to learn about your implicit associations about race, gender, sexual orientation, and other topics.
Project Implicit is a non-profit organization and international collaboration between researchers who are interested in implicit social cognition —thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control. The goal of the organization is to educate the public about hidden biases and to provide a “virtual laboratory” for collecting data on the Internet.
Listen: Harvard EdCast Unconscious Bias in Schools
Many educators struggle with unconscious bias in their roles at school, and often in ways that can unknowingly perpetuate racism and negatively affect students. In this episode of the Harvard EdCast, Tracey Benson, Ed.L.D.’16, and Sarah Fiarman, Ed.M.’05, Ed.D.’09, offer ways to address these issues directly, and outline how educators can start this work in their schools. Benson, an assistant professor at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and Fiarman, director of leadership development at EL Education, are authors of the new book, Unconscious Bias in Schools.
Tools for interrupting implicit bias
One of the nation’s leading implicit bias scholars, Patricia Devine of the University of Wisconsin, compares implicit bias to habits that, with intention and practice, can be broken. Her research has found that three conditions need to be in place for individuals to successfully “de-bias”:
- Intention: You have to acknowledge that you harbor unconscious biases and are motivated to change.
- Attention: You have pay attention to your triggers and know when stereotypical responses or assumptions are activated.
- Time: You have to make time to practice new strategies designed to “break” your automatic associations that link a negative judgment to behavior that is culturally different from yours.
De-biasing requires a level of metacognition. In this case, you are not thinking about your thinking, but thinking about your unconscious reacting.
Devine and her colleagues developed a “multi-faceted prejudice habit-breaking” intervention that lasted eight weeks. Participants were given a “toolkit” of five strategies, and asked to practice at least three (3) of them consistently on a weekly basis.
Here are four of them:
- Re-Association (Stereotype Replacement): An individual recognizes that he or she is responding to a situation or person in a stereotypical fashion. (S)he considers the reasons and actively replaces this biased response with an unbiased one. Another way to use this strategy is to reframe negative associations such as, “Black students are loud and disruptive. A reframe would be, “African American students are enthusiastic and energetic.”
- Refuting (Counter-stereotypic Imagining): Once a person recognizes she’s stereotyped a student of color, she thinks of examples that prove the stereotype to be inaccurate.
- Perspective-taking involves stepping into the shoes of a stereotyped person. What does it feel like to have your intelligence automatically questioned, or to be trailed by detectives each time you walk into a store? Perspective-taking can be very useful in assessing the emotional impact on individuals who are constantly being stereotyped in negative ways. It is also a way to checking one’s self if you begin to judge a person of color for reacting a particular way in a stressful situation.
- Increasing Opportunity for Positive Contact: Another strategy for reducing implicit bias is to actively seek out situations where one is likely to be exposed to positive examples of diverse groups of people, whether at a farmers market, community event, or by seeking out personal contact personal contact through shared group activities with a diverse community.
Learn more at CRTandthebrain.com .
A guide for reducing implicit bias in discipline
Research shows that disproportionality in school discipline is related to implicit bias. This presentation, developed by PBIS.org, provides an insightful overview and an essential training approach for reducing the effects of implicit bias in discipline decision making.
Download the presentation.
Culturally Responsive Teaching
Culturally Responsive Teaching
Culture is central to learning. It plays a role not only in communicating and receiving information, but also in shaping the thinking process of groups and individuals. A pedagogy that acknowledges, responds to, and celebrates fundamental cultures offers full, equitable access to education for students from all cultures.
Culturally Responsive Teaching is a pedagogy that recognizes the importance of including students’ cultural references in all aspects of learning (L).
Some of the characteristics of culturally responsive teaching are:
Learn more at Brown.edu.
Online seminars: Practices for anti-bias education
This critical practices guide offers practical strategies for creating a space where academic and social-emotional goals are accomplished side by side. It also provides valuable advice for implementing culturally responsive pedagogy and describes how teachers can bring anti-bias values to life by:
- building and drawing on intergroup awareness, understanding and skills;
- creating classroom environments that reflect diversity, equity and justice;
- engaging families and communities in ways that are meaningful and culturally competent;
- encouraging students to speak out against bias and injustice;
- including anti-bias curricula as part of larger individual, school and community action;
- supporting students’ identities and making it safe for them to fully be themselves; and
- using instructional strategies that support diverse learning styles and allow for deep exploration of anti-bias themes.
Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education: Instruction
Define critical engagement with material; explore differentiated instruction methods; identify key components of cooperative and collaborative learning; explore methods for making real-world connections to instruction; and evaluate grading procedures to look at more value-based assessments and evaluations.
Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education: Classroom Culture
Identify thoughtful classroom setup and structure that honor student experience; establish norms for shared inquiry and dialogue; establish how to create social-emotional learning safety in the classroom; and analyze behavior management practice to ensure value-based components.
Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education: Family and Community Engagement
Develop strategies to tap into family and community wisdom; develop strategies to tap into local resources; develop strategies to increase connections among families; identify community issues that impact classroom culture; and identify methods of culturally sensitive communication.
Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education: Teacher Leadership
Increase self-awareness and cultural competency; Identify skills to speak up against and respond to prejudice, bias and stereotypes; explore building allies; and define leading beyond the classroom.
What is Culturally Responsive PBIS?
Culturally Responsive Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (CRPBIS)
CRPBIS begins with uncovering and examining the long-lasting cultural assumptions in the US education system that are reproduced, shaping school climate, rituals, and routines.
It facilitates practitioners’ and other stakeholders’ collective development of a critical awareness of cognitive and social innovations that shift how outcomes for behavior and interaction are thought about and assessed within a school.
Additionally, the CRPBIS framework helps educators and other stakeholders consider what types of data drives problem solving and decision-making, as well as how data informs the process.
The shifts move practice from potentially problematic, punitive approaches toward careful attention to diverse designs for learning, student empowerment, and social opportunities.
Drawing on evidence from 23 years of facilitating transformative systemic change in schools in national technical assistance projects, the following shifts in cultural practice are vital components of CRPBIS. (From www.equityallianceatasu.org)
1. From teaching desired behaviors to creating opportunities to learn.
Educators who are working to shift their emphasis from their own teaching to creating opportunities for their own and students’ learning care about and regularly survey students’ strengths, interests, and preferences.
2. From understanding culture as a variable to exploring the cultures in schools.
Educators engaged in this shift come to view culture, and the need for cultural responsiveness, as integral to all PBIS efforts, rather than a student variable that considers issues of race, ethnicity, and other identity markers as strategic points of PBIS implementation. Educators engaged in this shift come to view culture, and the need for cultural responsiveness, as integral to all PBIS efforts, rather than a student variable that considers issues of race, ethnicity, and other identity markers as strategic points of PBIS implementation.
As part of this shift, educational stakeholders, including students and families, come together to examine data that allow for critical discovery and discussion about cultural patterns in schools, and their school, that are related to student discipline and behavior, and concerns about both.
3. From cultural assimilation to student, family, and community empowerment
CRPBIS emphasizes desired outcomes of student, family, and community agency; that is, the power to act in one’s best interest and on one’s own behalf, in determining what types of social interaction are desired in education settings. This represents a shift away from the assumption that the behaviors educators desire students to demonstrate are relevant, or even in the best interest of student learning and interaction.
Learn more about CRPBIS and why it matters.
Does your school have CRPBIS training? Get started here to support CRPBIS implementation in your school and classroom.
Tools and training modules: Professional development seminars and series
Tools for understanding and implementing CRPBIS
Webinar: Enhancing Equity through Cultural Responsiveness
A recorded webinar teaching how to embed principles of cultural responsiveness deeply into Tier 1 PBIS systems. This webinar was originally presented to School Climate Transformation Grant recipients.
Toolkit: Supporting and responding to behavior—Evidence-based classroom strategies for teachers
This document includes an interactive map of classroom PBIS strategies, a self-assessment, examples of critical practices in elementary and secondary settings, non-examples of critical practices, descriptions of supporting evidence, links to resources, scenarios that illustrate implementation, and other guidelines for implementation.
Download toolkit here.
Cultural Competency Training
MnEEP has partnered with the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) to plan, develop, and implement essential Cultural Competency Training for educators across Minnesota.
MnEEP and PELSB, along with other partnering organizations, believe this training is crucial for removing ongoing systemic barriers that often deny Minnesota students, especially students of color and indigenous and American Indian students, their right to a rigorous education and a supportive classroom that embraces their unique identities and cultural heritage.
In late 2018, PELSB adopted specific requirements for Cultural Competency Training (CCT) for all Minnesota teachers, beginning in 2020. This training will help Minnesota teachers better understand the varied life experiences and unique needs of all students, and allow them to implement their knowledge to better serve students, families, and the school community.
Over the past few months, PESLB has begun conducting statewide CCT trainings focused on increasing awareness around how race equity and positive school culture can support high-quality teaching, learning, and achievement for all. The curriculum includes critical pieces for increasing cultural competency, such as:
- Self-reflection and discussion about topics such as race, socioeconomic status, religion, systemic racism, and language diversity, among other topics; and
- Components that deepen teachers’ understanding of their own frames of reference, the potential bias in these frames, and the impact these frames have on expectations for and relationships with students, students’ families, and school communities.
At MnEEP, we recognize the significance of creating safe and welcoming learning environments, where all can achieve greatness. We do this by using a race equity lens, and the Big Bold Goals outlined in our strategic plan, to break down systemic barriers and create new, healthier schools and school systems that better support educators and the beautiful diversity of learners in Minnesota.
MnEEP is looking forward to ongoing partnership and deepening collaboration with PELSB in planning, developing, and implementing the Cultural Competency Trainings statewide.
The MnEEP-PELSB collaboration and partnership serves to increase cultural competency and utilize a race equity lens to transform our schools and systems into more just institutions where all people, teachers, and students can thrive.
Please contact us at MnEEP if you, your school, and/or district would like to learn more about accessing the PELSB-approved training in Cultural Competency.
In partnership with several individuals and groups, PELSB designed the training sessions to meet the new requirements specific to cultural competency needed to renew a Minnesota tiered teaching license. The trainings, which will consist of two four-hour sessions, will be led by trained facilitators at 10 locations throughout the Twin Cities metro area and greater Minnesota.
The benefits of completing a PELSB-approved cultural competency training include:
- Opportunities to engage in self-reflection on your own cultural frames of reference and the impact they have on the relationships with your students, their families, and the school community.
- The ability to connect with colleagues to discuss the creation of a supportive classroom and school environment for the diverse population of students, teachers, administrators, and staff who you work with on a daily basis.
- Completion of training sessions, totaling eight clock hours, that include all necessary elements of the cultural competency training requirement needed to renew a Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3, or Tier 4 license.
PELSB and its host partners are offering these sessions for Minnesota teachers. However, preference will be given to teachers who need to renew a Tier 1 license because the training is necessary for Tier 1 license renewals in 2019. Cultural competency training will be required for all teachers renewing a license in 2020 or after.
Relationships in restorative practices
All humans are hardwired to connect. Just as we need food, shelter and clothing, human beings also need strong and meaningful relationships to thrive.
Restorative practices is an emerging social science that studies how to strengthen relationships between individuals as well as social connections within communities.
The most critical function of restorative practices is restoring and building relationships. Because informal and formal restorative processes foster the expression of affect or emotion, they also foster emotional bonds. (from iirp.edu.)
Connection, communication, and trust between teachers and students are emphasized and restorative practices is viewed as releasing adults in school to do what they came into the profession for—love kids, get to know them and help them grow as humans as well as academically.
The importance of facilitating community and skill building circles is emphasized.
“The Restorative Approach is a philosophy or guiding principle (not a program or specific activity) that sees relationships as central to learning, growth and a healthy school climate for students and adults. Restorative Practices enable us to integrate and normalize this approach within a school culture.
Restorative practices focus on building, maintaining and, when necessary, repairing relationships among all members of a school community.
Restorative [practice] is an effective alternative to punitive responses to wrongdoing.” (From the University of Maine)
The difference between restorative practice and restorative justice
The International Institute of Restorative Practices (IIRP) distinguishes between the terms restorative practices and restorative justice: “We view restorative justice as a subset of restorative practices. Restorative justice is reactive, consisting of formal or informal responses to crime and other wrongdoing after it occurs. The IIRP’s definition of restorative practices also includes the use of informal and formal processes that precede wrongdoing, those that proactively build relationships and a sense of community to prevent conflict and wrongdoing.”
Where social capital—a network of relationships—is already well established, it is easier to respond effectively to wrongdoing and restore social order—as well as to create a healthy and positive organizational environment. Social capital is defined as the connections among individuals (Putnam, 2001), and the trust, mutual understanding, shared values and behaviors that bind us together and make cooperative action possible (Cohen & Prusak, 2001).
Examples of restorative practices
Building more equitable schools through restorative practices
Studies have shown that punitive measures do not make schools more safe. Instead, because they’re often disproportionately used with students of color and those from low-income families, they have serious negative consequences for those students, families, and communities.
Designing stronger and more equitable schools means shifting away from traditional disciplinary practices and “command and control” school cultures to support intentional community, co-created values, and accountability for upholding shared ideals.
Examples of restorative practices
1. Restorative Justice
Restorative justice is an evidence-based practice effectively used to reduce suspensions, expulsions, and disciplinary referrals. Restorative justice focuses on righting a wrong committed and repairing harm done. The goal is to place value on relationships and focus on repairing relationships that have been injured. The victim and the wrongdoer have the opportunity to share with one another how they were harmed, as victims, or how they will work to resolve the harm caused, as wrongdoers.
2. Community conferencing
Community conferencing is a practice that provides students and educators with effective ways to prevent and respond to school conflict. Community conferencing involves the participation of each person affected by the behavior and allows all stakeholders to contribute to the conflict resolution process.
3. Community service
Community service allows for individuals to restore a harm they may have committed to the school community by providing a meaningful service that contributes to their individual improvement. Peer juries Peer juries allow students, who have broken a school rule, and trained student jurors to collectively discuss why the rule was broken, who was affected, and how the referred student can repair the harm caused.
4. Circle process
A circle is a versatile restorative practice that can be used proactively, to develop relationships and build community, or reactively, to respond to wrongdoing, conflicts, and problems. Circles can be used as a tool to teach social skills such as listening, respect, and problem solving. Circles provide people an opportunity to speak and listen to one another in a safe atmosphere and allow educators and students to be heard and offer their own perspectives.
Circles can also be used to celebrate students, begin and end the day, and discuss difficult issues.
5. Preventative and post-conflict resolution programs
Conflict resolution programs provide students with problem-solving and self-control skills.11 These programs teach young people how to manage potential conflict, defuse situations, assuage hurt feelings, and reduce any inclination to retaliate after a conflict.
Conflict resolution programs walk students through their emotions in the presence of one another and guide them through a team process of addressing the issues that gave rise to the conflict in the first instance. Because conflict resolution addresses and works to resolve the root causes of conflict, it helps prevent future incidents from occurring.
6. Peer mediation
One method of resolving conflict with student voice is through peer mediation. “Peer mediation is a demonstrably effective youth leadership model” that trains students to help other students resolve differences.
“Peer mediation recognizes that students can utilize conflict resolution practices and social skills to play a leadership role in increasing peace and reducing violence in their school.” Peer mediation has been shown to reduce discipline referrals, violence rates, and suspension rates.
7. Peer juries
Peer juries allow students, who have broken a school rule, and trained student jurors to collectively discuss why the rule was broken, who was affected, and how the referred student can repair the harm caused
8. Informal restorative practices
Informal restorative practices are small ways educators and other school personnel can influence a positive environment. Examples include the use of affective statements, which communicate people’s feelings, and affective questions, which cause people to reflect on how instead of learning from our behavior, schools just force us out without real conversations and interventions.
Suspensions don’t work, summonses don’t work, arrests don’t work. Keep us in the classroom, keep us accountable, and build relationships. That works. — Savannah, age 15
9. Social-emotional learning (SEL)
Social-emotional learning teaches skills such as “recognizing and managing emotions, developing caring and concern for others, establishing positive relationships, making responsible decisions, and handling challenging situations constructively and ethically. These are the skills that allow children and adults to calm themselves when angry, make friends, resolve conflicts respectfully, and make ethical and safe choices.”
(Learn more at SchottFoundation.org)
Bringing restorative practices to your classroom
1. Next Gen Learning has developed a series of tools and resources, used by schools in Oakland, Calif., that use an equity lens to promote healthy, supportive classroom.
Essential videos show how restorative practices are being used in Oakland schools to foster an equitable, respectful, and positive school community for all.
2. From Edutopia: Six lessons learned from replacing punitive discipline with a community-oriented, restorative approach.
Additional Resources & Support
Story: MN and discipline disparities
Join us in working to support education justice in Minnesota schools.
Demand Culturally Responsive Teaching and Culturally Responsive Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (CRPBIS).
CRPBIS school teams establish clearly defined outcomes that relate to students’ academic and social behavior, systems that support staff efforts, practices that support student success, and data to guide decision-making.
Learn more about Minnesota’s plans and if your school and district supports CRBIS.
Demand alternatives to suspensions.
Developing alternatives to suspension and implementing evidence-based interventions can help reduce out-of-school suspensions as a response to disciplinary incidents and keep students in school where they can learn.
Ask how your school or district supports suspension alternatives.
Email your school superintendent.
Contact members of your school district to demand they support essential practices for ending discipline disparities in Minnesota schools.
View form letter.
Email your legislator.
Contact your legislator to tell them to ACT NOW to support PESLB training and policies to end discipline disparities in Minnesota schools.
View form letter.
Sign up for our School Climate Network.
We are coordinating a team of educators and advocates to develop solutions and evidence-based practice for ending disparities in Minnesota schools, including implicit bias training in Critical Race Theory for educators; focusing on emotional learning and counselors instead police presence; positive behavioral interventions and supports; and advocating for and demanding systems change to end ongoing racist practices and exclusionary policies that harm students.