Reducing The Role Of Implicit Bias In Early Childhood Education Settings
Implicit bias is defined as the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. While bias is inescapable, that does not mean that it shouldn’t try to be minimized or addressed. When it comes to children, as with nearly every part of their early life, their experiences affect their trajectory far beyond their early education environment.
Their early education can play a pivotal role in addressing, as well as reinforcing, their implicit biases. Early childhood educators and leaders are critical in this process and can drastically reduce the negative effects of implicit biases.
Implicit Bias From Students
The longer implicit biases are held, especially without being challenged or addressed, the more likely they are to become internalized, especially when it comes to gender and race. Some of the ways to combat this can be found in increasing the exposure to different cultures from around the world.
For example, when discussing different instruments teachers can showcase instruments from Asia, Africa, South America, and Australia. Even showcasing different races when talking about various occupations, especially professionals such as doctors and lawyers, can help counter racial stereotypes in young children
The Double-Edged Sword
Implicit bias needs to be addressed in more than just the students but also the staff of the school. Research about implicit bias in early childhood educators from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) shed some light on the issue with their findings of:
- Regardless of race, educators closely observed behaviors of black students and specifically black boys
- White teachers held black children to “lower standards of behavioral expectations” and typically minimized their extreme misbehavior
- Black teachers held black students to a “higher standard of behavior” compared to white teachers and would scrutinize their behavior more than white students
- Black teachers were more likely to recommend expulsion/suspension
- Increased empathy between the teacher and student when information about the student’s home life was revealed if they shared the same race. If they were of different races, the teacher viewed the given behaviors as more extreme and “insolvable”
These surprising facts should challenge all educators to look at their own actions and thought processes and see if there are any implicit biases at play and work on how to solve them.
Implicit bias reels its head every day either recognizably or subconsciously. It is difficult when we may not even realize how our biases affect our thoughts and actions. Thankfully, Harvard University founded an organization called Project Implicit that created the Implicit Association Test (IAT) which is one of the most common tools to test one’s bias. You can take the test here.