Dive Brief:

  • Being an educator doesn’t mean an individual is naturally less biased toward students of color, but interventions can reduce prejudices, according to a study released Wednesday. In a test of implicit bias — in which respondents match white faces with “good” words and black faces with “bad” words — 77% of teachers demonstrated implicit bias, compared to 77.1% of non-teachers.
  • And to measure explicit bias, the researchers, led by Jordan Starck, a psychology researcher at Princeton University, subtracted how “warm” respondents say they feel toward white people — on a scale of 0-10 — compared to their level of warmth toward black people. About 30% of both teachers and non-teachers showed explicit bias. 
  • “Overall, our findings suggest that schools are best understood as microcosms of society rather than as antidotes to inequality,” co-author Natasha Warikoo, a sociology professor at Tufts University, said in a press release. “Teachers are people too. Like all of us, they need support in combating their biases. We shouldn’t assume that good intentions and care for all students make a teacher bias free.”

Dive Insight:

Anti-bias training for educators has been spreading in schools as part of efforts to reduce racial disparities in achievement, discipline and other student outcomes. But the authors write that few of those training programs have been evaluated. 

They note a few “promising” models, such as a 45-minute intervention that includes an emphasis on perspective-taking and breaking down stereotypes. The training has been shown to reduce bias levels over a two-month period. 

In another example, they highlight a program in which teachers are trained in classroom and behavior management strategies at the same time they practice methods of self-regulation and self-awareness. The model was “effective at reducing the odds of black male students’ disciplinary referrals and increasing these students’ sense of connection to the school,” the authors write.