Increase Awareness of Biases

TIPP 3: Increase Awareness of Biases and Stereotypes

Research suggests that teachers and other school professionals are increasingly faced with pressures and expectations for student performance that can lead to deficit-based beliefs about certain groups of students, most notably racial and ethnic minorities and those with other marginalized identities. Conscious and unconscious beliefs held by teachers about students’ abilities influence their expectations about what students can achieve, and those expectations, in turn, shape how teachers interact with students. For example, teachers were found to direct less positive speech and encouragement to Black and Latino students relative to their white counterparts. Another study showed that teachers generally have more favorable attitudes and higher expectations for the academic performance of white students compared to Black and Latino students.

Implicit bias is a term used to explain how stereotypes and unconscious associations about others influence an individual’s interactions and behaviors. Implicit bias and discriminatory practices in school settings are concerning because of the many ways in which they can affect student achievement and outcomes, such as through teacher expectations. Biases can also contribute to students of color feeling marginalized and mistreated. Ultimately, biases held by teachers can influence how safe and secure students feel and whether they develop the skills and self-confidence they need to succeed in school and beyond.

Mitigating the effects of trauma requires that school professionals learn about and work to counteract implicit biases about student performance and conduct. In addition, fostering a culturally responsive environment that focuses on empowering students and recognizes cultural differences is critical to advancing an equitable, trauma-informed framework that strengthens students’ academic performance.

It is critical that school professionals engage in this work with an understanding of broader societal contexts. Systemic racism describes “the policies and practices entrenched in established institutions, which result in the exclusion or promotion of vulnerable groups” (Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre, 2020). In schools, outdated and insensitive policies can sustain racist practices and serve to reinforce implicit biases and stereotypes held by educators. Thus, actively counteracting implicit biases and stereotypes requires not only addressing individually-held beliefs and practices directly, but also weeding out and dismantling policies that reinforce those ideas and practices. Relatedly, it is critical that educators understand how disparities in exposure to adversity are linked to race and how structural racism is itself a source of trauma.

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