The term implicit bias is used to describe when we have attitudes towards people or associate stereotypes with them without our conscious knowledge (Perception Institute; Kirwan Institute). Scientific research points to the ubiquitous nature of implicit biases and how they influence our interactions with and understanding of other people. Growing out of normal brain processes, which allow us to categorize and make sense of the world, there are a few key characteristics that highlight the nature of implicit biases, as highlighted by the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity:
  • Implicit biases are pervasive. Everyone possesses them, even people with avowed commitments to impartiality such as judges.
  • Implicit and explicit biases are related but distinct mental constructs. They are not mutually exclusive and may even reinforce each other.
  • The implicit associations we hold do not necessarily align with our declared beliefs or even reflect stances we would explicitly endorse.
  • We generally tend to hold implicit biases that favor our own in-group, though research has shown that we can still hold implicit biases against our in-group.
  • Implicit biases are malleable. Our brains are incredibly complex, and the implicit associations that we have formed can be gradually unlearned through a variety of debiasing techniques.
At Norwood, we are committed to learning how to combat the negative effects that implicit biases can have on learning communities. We work hard to engage in practices and curricular considerations that minimize the development of implicit bias, i.e. engaging in anti-bias teaching. Recent trainings and workshops include:
  • Lower School Division Implicit Bias Training (September 2017)
  • Middle School Division Implicit Bias Training (November 2017)
  • Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Implicit Bias Deeper Dive (December 2017)
  • Anti-bias Team Meetings for Grades PK-8 (January-February 2018)
  • Presentation on Anti-bias Curriculum by The Children's School in Atlanta (February 2018)
  • Leadership Team Meeting with Dr. Ali Michael (April 2018)
  • Ongoing grade-level and department team meetings (Spring 2018)

Key points about implicit bias and education:

  • Students need to be exposed to positive counter-stereotypical examplars and diverse perspectives and cultures during their educational experience.
  • Inducing empathy for groups considered “other” and increasing motivation for egalitarianism is critical.
  • Increased inter-group contact and collaboration minimize biases and highlights another reason why ensuring diversity in schools is important.
  • Slowing down, acting reflectively, and utilizing mindful strategies decreases likelihood of implicitly biased decision-making.
  • Facilitating an atmosphere of open dialogue around identifying and addressing bias is essential.
  • Utilizing data is key.
Located in Bethesda, MD, Norwood School develops students in grades PK-8 into confident lifelong learners who have the academic, character, and leadership skills to succeed in high school and beyond. Recognizing that children are multi-faceted, Norwood provides many opportunities for safe risk-taking, exploration, discovery, and growth in a nurturing, supportive, and inclusive school community.