California Educator

June/July 2021

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implicit biases and the benefits of track- ing them honestly. is models the idea that we all have implicit biases, and it's OK to get help in identifying them as the first step in reducing them. W hile students can h elp track cer - t a i n b e h av i o r s , o t h e r a re a s a re l e s s appropri at e for stu d ent s to m onitor directly. These are areas in which biases can lead to significant dif ferences in students' opportunities: • Who do you speak to informally? • Who gets to help you when you need assistance in the classroom? • Who do you suggest for opportunities (such as clubs, service, extracurriculars)? • Who do you encourage when they don't volunteer? If t e a ch ers di s c o v er bi a s , it 's b e st to confront it right away. As cognitive scientist Daniel Kahneman has shown throughout his career, we all have biases of varying kinds. It's often difficult — and ultimately pointless — to find out how we acquired them. What matters is to identify them and then work to eliminate those we feel will be harmful to our stu- dents' success. Participation is the key When biases operate, students often give up, lose hope, disconnect and learn less. This response to what they feel as dis- like, ignoring or outright rejection (even though this is the furthest thing from most teachers' minds) makes sense — when people don't feel their participation matters or is appreciated, it's natural to be less motivated to try, leading to less motivation to learn. We see this, for example, with partic- ipation of girls in STEM classes. Years of bias — girls being called on less, not being given opportunities, expected to not be the best — create internalized oppression. ey stop trying. So someone walking into a classroom and seeing all the male hands up and the female hands down would say, "Of course more boys are called on. They volunteer more." That's why it is so necessar y to uncover and reduce biases and encourage enthusiastic classroom participation. Class participation involves a number of social and emotional competencies, as well as character attributes such as courage, persistence and confidence. ere are ways to make it easier for more students to feel that their participation is welcome without requiring norm-break- ing initiative: • Before a class discussion, have stu- dents meet in pairs to share ideas about the topic to be discussed, or have them meet in small groups to discuss the topic and rotate having students report out a summary of the group's thoughts. Provide the questions that will be covered in the discussion and give students a few minutes to gather their thoughts and write them down. is way, their later participation will be more like reading their ideas than having to think on the spot. • When you put students in pairs or groups, create intentionally diverse mixes, and have a goal of students being with as many different class- mates as possible. • Articulate core values for the class- room that apply to all. is creates a set of uniform expectations that all students are believed to be capable of living up to. Explicitly holding everyone to common standards sends an important equity message, and so does ensuring that classroom and school discipline systems are firm, fair, restorative and consistent. B y p a y i n g a t t e n t i o n t o o u r o w n patterns of encouraging classroom par- ticipation — and letting students know w e are doin g s o an d w hy — w e t ake essential st eps toward increasing all students' sense of value and potential. As we improve the diversity of student participation, we create the additional b en ef it of redu cin g th e op eration of implicit biases in students about their classmates… because biases have a way of being contagious. is article originally appeared in "As we work to improve students' social and emotional skills and help them understand how to form relationships using both words and nonverbal behaviors, they will be more aware of how they are treated by their teachers, school staff, administrators and other adults." 43 J U N E / J U L Y 2 0 21

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