Thursday, August 4, 2016

How to Make Your Science Classroom More Equitable: Know Your Implicit Bias

Difficult Steps

Image courtesy of NAPE
I have written and re-written this post a number of times, but have hesitated to post anything. Why? Because this topic is messy and difficult. My hesitancy to post this entry uncovers a very important aspect about the topic of race and equity in the classroom: it can be a very uncomfortable topic. However when this topic does not get addressed, inequities can persist so it is crucial to think and talk about equity in the classroom!

Although I have kept a foot in the science teaching world, I have spent the past year as an educational equity consultant for NAPE – theNational Alliance for Partnerships in Equity. In this position, I have learned a lot about my own white privilege and ways in which I may have misjudged students in the past, as well as ways I could create a more equitable classroom. (*Please note the statements in this blog are my own and do not represent NAPE)

A large reason for my hesitancy in posting this is because learning how to break down invisible barriers in your classroom is not a blog-friendly topic. It takes lots of time to process and learn about the ways in which inequities persist as well as lots of self-reflection and discovery – something you won’t find in a “5 tips” kind of blog (of course that didn’t stop me from including some steps here!).  The good news is that the hard work pays off. The recommendations below can help every student in your class!

This is the first of five posts about small steps you can take to help create a more equitable learning environment. However, the most powerful change you can make will require thousands of little steps into reading, reflecting and learning about equity in education. Stay tuned for recommended resources for those harder, less tangible steps at the end of this post.

Step 1: Become Aware of Your Implicit Bias

We are all biased about many things. Our brain naturally judges the world around us and makes assumptions—it’s a survival mechanism! Although biases are natural, implicit biases are hidden judgements which can result in treating some people negatively while other people are treated positively. We may be completely unaware that we have these biases and be sending negative messages to people without even realizing it. As educators who have a lot of power, it is especially important to be aware of our implicit biases so that we can work to treat every student in a positive way. But how do you become aware of something that you don’t even know you have? Luckily, psychologists out of Harvard University devised a test! The IAT test uses response times to identify your implicit biases for a number of groups: race, gender, and more.  To learn more about the IAT test and get the link to take the test, go to:

If you’ve taken the IAT test, you now know some of your implicit biases, and yes—these will play out in the classroom. So how do you change this? Stay tuned for the next step: analyzing your patterns.

To continue the conversation, please follow me on facebook and twitter.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Wise Feedback: A Recommended Resolution for Grading Papers

To Consider During your End-of-Holiday Grading 


As the holiday break dwindles to a final few days, you may finally be thinking about grading all those papers you brought home. With a resolution to be a better teacher, I thought I would share one small way to help students improve their work, and perhaps instill some self-efficacy and a growth mindset
Before you start marking up papers, consider the following: students who receive “wise” feedback, particularly African American students with low trust of their teachers, are more likely to edit drafts and work towards improving their work. (You can read the academic paper to learn more.) 


How to Give Wise Feedback

Giving wise feedback involves two key components:

  1. Stating you have high standards for quality work 
  2. Stating that you believe the student can improve and eventually meet your high standards with effort 

Photo courtesy of Jenny Kaczorowski,
If possible, providing ways for the student to get support to meet the standards is also helpful.

Why is wise feedback important? A lot of it has to do with something called stereotype threat. You can also learn more about wise feedback at this blog.

I hope you consider including this in your practice in the new year!