Implicit Bias and Microaggressions
Implicit bias and microaggression can significantly impact your students' ability to learn and succeed. We have gathered some helpful approaches to building a classroom culture that can minimize their negative effects.
Considerations and Suggestions
Cultivate “cultural humility” and “cultural curiosity” in classes. Foster a spirit of “we will all ‘mess up’ during discussions on diversity.” When it comes to microaggressions, foster a spirit of “let’s understand how someone’s background shapes their experience and why something someone might see as innocuous might have real impacts.”
Build your own comfort tackling difficult topics so feel more capable of facilitating discussions.
Hear from students without making them spokespeople: Set discussional norms early on in class - e.g., language saying “I want to create a space where people feel comfortable sharing their perspectives and where we honor different perspectives”
Think about microinclusions – subtle ways to show people they are welcome:
Interpersonal interactions: provide helpful hints or tips, honoring expertise (recognize contributions of students who may be at risk of marginalization).
Ask inclusive demographic questions (What is your pronoun?).
Be aware of environmental cues: for instance, are their pictures of female as well as male, Black as well as White, scientists/mathematicians etc.
Create an inclusive syllabus that represents different points of view.
Specifically welcome children with something like this: Both your family and your education are important. Sometimes it’s a huge pain and difficulty to find childcare, or something comes up and your plans fall through. Regardless of the reason, if you need to bring your child with you to class, please feel free to do so!
- Project Implicit - Project Implicit is a non-profit organization and international collaboration between researchers who are interested in implicit social cognition - thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control. The goal of the organization is to educate the public about hidden biases and to provide a “virtual laboratory” for collecting data on the Internet.
- Microaggressions: What You Need to Know - UCLA Ed professors Carola Suárez-Orozco and Daniel Solorzano share insights on subtle, often unintentional slights on race, gender, status. (by Kathy Wyer)
Andrei Baltakmens, Ph.D. (he/him)
Communications Project Manager
Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL)