Since 2017, Norwood has focused dedicated time and resources to understanding the nature of implicit or unconscious bias and its impact on our educational practice. The terms implicit and unconscious bias are used to describe automatic and unconscious associations of stereotypes with groups of people that affect our understanding, decisions, and behaviors (Perception Institute; Kirwan Institute). Scientific research points to the ubiquitous nature of implicit biases and how they influence our everyday lives in ways that are incredibly important for educators to be aware of and counteract. There are a few key characteristics that highlight the nature of implicit biases, as highlighted by the Kirwan Institute of Ohio State University.

  • 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.
With ongoing professional development, discussion groups, and focused attention to research, we are committed to ensuring our practices reflect an intentional approach to working against the negative effects of implicit or unconscious bias on behalf of our students and community.

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.