To achieve success in the classroom, it is important to not only know students but to also affirm them. Addressing bias in the classroom can help an educator implement effective teaching strategies that foster a positive learning environment. Determining the types of bias in the classroom is critical to the success of the teaching and learning process.
Gender bias in the classroom can be defined as how boys and girls are treated differently. In the classroom, boys and girls read the same books and have the same teacher, but may receive different educations because of gender bias. Bias based on a student's gender may involve being called on more often, being given different guidelines for behavior and being given different opportunities. Gender bias may be evidenced in what kinds of questions boys and girls are asked, what students are encouraged to study and whether students receive a sense of validation.
Ethnic or racial bias in the classroom involves bias based on a student's culture or even his language. Ethnic bias is normally a result of the belief that racial differences produce superiority over another race. Ethnic bias is often evidenced by different methods of discipline and how teachers address behavioral problems. Ethnic bias can be avoided by discussing ethnic differences and helping students understand who they are and relating to how they are different.
Economic bias often involves showing bias toward a student's socioeconomic situation, despite this being an issue completely out of the student's control. When relating a student's success with her socioeconomic background, the teacher may use stereotypes that the student is disadvantaged, deprived and that he comes from a dysfunctional family.
Identifying and Avoiding Bias
Teachers should spend time identifying areas of bias in the classroom, whether it is within the curriculum, within themselves or in the way they interact with students. Teachers should make an effort to gain an understanding of all students, their backgrounds and how they learn. It is important to focus on what language you use in the classroom and to identify instructional practices that can reach diverse students. If a teacher has difficulty identifying her own bias in the classroom, it may be helpful to have other faculty or staff observe the classroom dynamic, as well as gather evaluations from students and parents.
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