Diversity and Inclusion Newsletter
Winter 2020, Brave Conversations: Taking One Step at a Time
Welcome to Our Second Issue
A message from your Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator, Fawzia Reza
Welcome to the second diversity and inclusion newsletter. Our broad topic this time is Brave Conversations: Taking One Step at a Time. We selected this topic so we can begin to have candid, honest, and yes, sometimes uncomfortable conversations about challenges people face due to arbitrary society-based criteria. Having such conversations has become essential as we continue to progress towards an anti-racist, inclusive, and culturally responsive online institution. Cultivating “safe” spaces is necessary to facilitate such conversations. With this edition, we hope to create a platform to share challenges, facilitate awareness, and develop strategies to address disparities.
Most of us are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which postulates that lower level needs must be completely satisfied and fulfilled before moving onto higher pursuits. Similarly, to implement steps for an equitable society, we must begin by acknowledging that there is a need. And for that to happen, we must be willing to have conversations with each other and be receptive to learning and understanding the challenges of others.
Social justice represents the vision of an equitable society, in which all members are physically and psychologically safe. It requires dismantling systems of power and hierarchy in which some groups are valued and protected above others. Such insular thinking continues to create disparities due to unequal distribution of resources at a micro and macro level. As our world becomes polarized, we must continue to raise awareness of how bias and stereotypes result in systemic injustice. When individuals are receptive to a growth mind-set as opposed to a fixed mind-set, there is a greater chance of creating solutions that work for everyone. So, let’s pledge to take the first step; have respectful conversations and be willing to listen to others with empathy.
As James Baldwin wrote, “not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced”. As the diversity and inclusion coordinator at ACE, I hope you will join me in my attempts to foster brave conversations, develop greater awareness, and advocate for social justice for everyone.
We would like to showcase artwork created by our stakeholders to celebrate ACE's uniqueness. If you created an original work of art that reflects your culture or background, please click the button above to access the submission and release form.
New Diversity and Inclusion Resources and Training
We have new resources available in the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Center in Student Commons! Specifically, you will find the following:
- Diversity and Inclusion Resource Guide for Leaders - This guide provides a plethora of resources that can help individuals in leadership positions navigate various issues related to diversity and inclusion.
- Introduction to Diversity and Inclusion: Student Training - The student training covers an overview of common diversity and inclusion terminology, theory, and policy. It concludes with a brief questionnaire to garner student thoughts on diversity and inclusion at ACE.
Note: ACE staff can review the diversity and inclusion resource guide for leaders and other resources in the Training Portal.
Color Brave Conversations - The Voices of Our Panelists
In August and November of this year, ACE hosted two Diversity and Inclusion Panel Discussions for its faculty and staff covering topics related to race and color brave conversations. In both discussions, the panelists provided insightful and courageous perspectives. For this newsletter, we followed-up with our panel members to share their perceptions regarding the advantages of being more color brave. Below are their thoughts regarding this very important topic.
In order for us to grow as a nation, we must continue to have difficult conversations. As educators, we must be willing to lead by example and "start" these conversations. Hoping that as others watch on, they will be prompted to participate and listen to the views of "all" individuals. - Marty Cummings
First, being color brave demonstrates leadership by listening to perspectives for understanding without judgment. Listening to others can improve dialogue and discussion so that the truth of matters; good or bad are revealed. Finally, color brave conversations help to identify opportunities to connect, correct, learn, and grow with individuals and/or groups to change the dynamic for the greater good! - Shon Smith
The advantages of color brave conversations are many. Not only does it mean we are taking time to truly listen and learn, but through those conversations we have the ability to practice greater empathy. Through color brave conversations we recognize a persons lived experiences, and can use this knowledge to drive change within ourselves, society, and future generations.- Jeannie Taylor
Our voices and actions are the most profound and lingering aspects of our time on this earth, permeating thoughts and beliefs long after we’re gone. Through centuries of systemic and individualistic oppressive words and actions, too many people have been muted, forced into a continuum that lies somewhere between violence, non-existence, and a reduction to a profound life relegated to a fleeting footnote. It has always been time to have color brave conversations, to embrace each other for our unique and vibrant beauty, to realize that what we do not say can cause the most damage, and to understand that we will never know any other epistemologically privileged position than our own. It’s time to be offended not when someone points out implicit or explicit bias, racism, sexism, and any other -ism but instead to be offended when someone does not call attention to the words and actions that cause harm, division, and hatred. -Sean Nank
Color brave allows us to clarify underlying assumptions about race and color and ignite opportunities for understanding and learn about each other
We can focus on the content of everyone rather than the color of their skin
We can co-exist in a society by valuing and respecting each other and cultural traditions. - Petronella Cameron
Advantages of being color brave helps build trust, better communication, and can even help build life-long friendships with anyone that is of color or diverse. This applies to all diverse communities, too. I believe if one is color brave that they are already thinking and caring about those around them. It is just an attitude, a positive one. The first step is believing that we are all equal, have different perspectives and can get along in harmony. The song in 1975 by War- "Why can't we be friends", repeated 47 times, and one passage states, "The color of your skin don't matter to me. As long as we can live in harmony." Broken down, it really is true. - Wendy Kaaki
To be “more color brave” could be restated as the “advantages of being more culturally aware”.
I say this because “color” in this context is a factor of Melanin whereas Culture is the product of our environment, experiences, and history. We as a society “gather” all that up and call it “color”. But, to address your question I will use your terminology.
To be more color brave means to recognize each persona as a valuable Human; to be regarded as such and respected.
To be more color brave means to be brave enough to consider other points of view and acknowledge the merits of each.
To be more color brave means to be mindful of the past and excited for the future; understanding that each of us can have a positive role in making our communities, cities, states, and world a better place for everyone.
To be more color brave means to be strong enough to want to “understand” the lives and “living” of others as opposed to turning a blind eye and mind to cultural differences and treatment.
To be more color brave means to stand in support of others who have been disenfranchised, and denied the opportunities, rights, and privileges all Humans should be afforded. To stand not only in word but in deed. To do what can be done to create equality; which includes and exceeds acceptance, recognition, and respect for others who have a different level of Melanin.
The advantages of these thoughts and actions are innumerable and far-reaching but would be evident in every facet of life from the decreased mortality rate of babies of color, better healthcare for women and men of color, better education, increased employment, more effective and profitable economy, greater Gross National Product. Increased strides in technology… the benefits far outweigh the costs of discrimination and depravity. - Lisa Thomas
Being color brave means having open and transparent conversations about race that increases understanding of diverse perspectives.
Color brave is the heart and soul of our communications essential to developing authentic relationships.
Color brave prevents us from being color blind and acknowledging and respecting each other's differences.
Color brave is recognizing and overcoming our biases and embracing and celebrating our diversity. - Michael Jazzar
The benefit in being more color brave is having the ability to be more color appreciative and inclusive. By having color brave discussions, we are able to learn from one another and grow as individuals, as a team, and as an organization. We are able to make better decisions moving forward. - Crystal Neumann
The advantages of being more color brave are tangible and real. When we are color brave, we are willing and open to examining ourselves to confront our ignorance, and we will work to unlearn and challenge the racist ideologies we, and our society, have normalized. When we are color brave, we honor our humanity and learn to celebrate our differences. - Anissa Anderson
Three Practical Tips for Having Brave Conversations
By Stephanie Hinshaw, Senior Vice President, Academic Affairs
Let's face it; having difficult conversations are, well, difficult. It is not easy to confront someone about something they said that bothered or hurt you. It is not easy to point out actions that could be perceived as insensitive or unjust. However, these difficult or brave conversations are needed to help people understand how their words or actions affect others. This understanding, in turn, could prevent others from being harmed. So, brave conversations are necessary and important. I present three practical approaches to help individuals have these brave conversations.
Clarity is the state of being clear; or, in other words, being direct, specific, and precise when communicating. There is a misconception that direct conversations are mean, unkind, bad, or any other negative adjective (Brown, 2018). As a result, people tend to use indirect communication strategies when having difficult conversations. Indirect communication can be categorized as communication that lacks specifics, does not provide examples, or excludes problem-solving options. Because of this, indirect conversations often leave the recipient confused, conflicted, and potentially unable to avoid the issue in the future (Brown, 2018).
So to avoid confusion, individuals should use clarity when engaging in brave conversations. Individuals can do this by using specific and precise language, being direct with their words, providing real-life examples, and checking in with the other participant to ensure they understand. For example, one should say, "I need to visit with you about something you said last Wednesday in the XYZ meeting. Specifically, in the meeting, you stated XXXX" instead of "I want to talk to you about something you said to me in one of our meetings that was negative." Being precise leads to more clarity, which is more kind than unclear communication (Brown, 2018).
Authenticity means being yourself and, in the case of communication, communicating in a manner true to your personality, spirit, or character. It is important to note that most people are nervous when engaging in brave conversations. So, people should not add another layer onto this and pretend to be someone they are not.
When engaging in brave conversations, authentic individuals let go of perfection, understand they may not be flawless, and accept that a non-perfect conversation is better than no conversation. Additionally, individuals should embrace who they are and how they think and portray this in brave communications. Last, authenticity often allows individuals to find commonalities. This means that when someone perceives someone else as communicating with them authentically, the other person often can relate to them in some manner, which leads to more productive conversations.
Vulnerability means having the capability of being wounded. When communicating, vulnerability means sharing how actions, words, or behaviors hurt you. This means that vulnerability requires us to let go of who we "ought" to be (i.e., someone not bothered by specific actions, behaviors, and words) and accept who we are (i.e., someone bothered by specific actions, behaviors, and words).
When engaging in brave conversations, individuals can portray vulnerability by letting go of the "should" and accepting reality (Brown, 2018). And more importantly, individuals will speak truthfully about the hurt caused and not be ashamed of those feelings. They can and should do this in a way that avoids blaming. For example, instead of saying, "you made me feel….," one could say, "I was hurt when you said…." Being vulnerable can be uncomfortable for many of us; however, being vulnerable allows others to understand the impact of their actions, words, and behaviors. Thus, being vulnerable is necessary for brave conversations.
Please know these are just three approaches that can assist individuals when engaging in brave and difficult conversations. All three of these strategies may help you or maybe just one of them. Please use them in a manner that works for you and remember the most important part about brave conversations is that you have them.
Brown, B. (2018). Dare to lead. Penguin Random House.
By DJ Streat, Curriculum Production Coordinator
“Namaste: I honor the light, love, beauty, truth and kindness within you because it is also within me, in sharing these things there is no distance and no difference between us, we are the same, we are one.”
We all wake up, and one of the first things we look for, after coffee, is the weather report, then the traffic report. What is the climate? How do we navigate through it? We might have similar questions about diversity and inclusion. What is the climate, and how do we navigate through it?
Looking for complexity, in what is simplicity, is synonymous with adding a pound of salt to what should be a pinch. The golden rule says it all, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you…love your neighbor as yourself.” It really is that simple.
In checking the climate of our culture, it’s a matter of choice. How do we choose, infuse, change if necessary, and distribute the culture of our homes, then our neighborhood, then city, then country, then the world? Cognitive dissonance says, I don’t choose a climate change in culture because it’s not what my parents taught, and it takes away my freedom of choice. So, I choose behavior that makes me comfortable and prefer not to take a new route that explicitly celebrates diversity.
The garden of culture is beautiful as is a rose garden. An arboretum is filled with diversity and taking it in through all of our sensory perceptions is euphoric. Embracing diversity is seeing the individual piece in the collective; appreciating its contribution to the garden and how the botany of herbs mixed with other herbs provide medicine; and not fearing, cheating nor discrediting the diversity and circumnavigating around the potential thorny parts.
This video of two little boys, Finnegan and Maxwell, running to each other and hugging is the purest display of diversity and inclusion. It’s humanity with arms and hearts wide open. Acceptance. Taking note from these little boys, how do we learn to be inclusive with diversity and do the work for change? Here are some ideas:
- Don't be silent. Silence is complicit. “Evil triumphs because good men stand by and do nothing” (Edmund Burke).
- Do a heart check. What’s really in your heart about others? Face the facts about what’s there without a mask but a mirror.
- Remember Camelot. The round table places equity on the menu.
- Gently correct injustices. Laughing at a racial joke is complicit. Genuinely and gently correcting it is anti-racism.
- Be genuine about the desire for wanting to right the wrongs. Do the work and undo the messaging of racism.
- Don't be a chameleon by changing your language and behavior to meet the standard of the room, social event, dinner, etc. Speak up against bad behavior.
- Change the language at the dinner table. Make sure your conversation reflects what you want your children to believe. They are listening. They are watching. For more information, watch the movie American History X , which shows what radicalization looks like from the family dinner table.
- Invite diversity to the conversation. If the room is monochromatic, so is the conversation and so are the decisions. The corporate culture policies might be monochromatic but the people, the “human resources,” are not.
- Be culturally multilingual.
- Care for and cross-pollinate your cultural and ethnic experiences. A great example of this is the soccer players who covered their teammate when her hijab came off. The short video clip can be found here.
- Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity and exploration. A diverse bouquet is as beautiful as a dozen identical roses.
- Embrace uniqueness. Just because someone doesn’t look like you, doesn’t mean they are less than you.
The bouquet of ethnicity is beautiful. Inhale it and take in all of its beauty.
Additional Resources: Ted Talks on Racism
Racism has a cost for everyone (14 minutes)
How to deconstruct racism, one headline at a time (16 minutes)
Accent Bias: Increasing Diversity and Inclusion
By Tetiana McLemore, Dissertation Faculty, Leadership and Administration
Like many immigrants, I came to the States with a dream to feel valued and respected for my knowledge, skills, and abilities. For me, the United States was a country which welcomed professionals with diverse background and experience regardless of where the degree was obtained and what accent they had when speaking English. However, the reality turned out very confusing.
Having 20 plus years of experience in higher education in my home country, I was appreciated for speaking and teaching English as a second language very highly. Students were signing up on a waiting list to get the chance of learning English under my guidance. When I was a third-year student studying yet to become a teacher, one of my professors hired me to become a part-time instructor of Practical Phonetics for freshmen and sophomores. It was unprecedented in the entire history of my institute which I graduated later with my MA in Linguistics with Honors.
Striving for a perfect English accent, I spent long hours in the laboratory to speak like an English Queen. English and American professors who came to teach in my Institute used to ask me, “Did you study at Oxford or Cambridge?” I was proud to hear such a question as it was a compliment to a student who had never had a chance to go overseas and even practice English anywhere else but in the non-English speaking environment. I thought if I was praised and valued for my English speaking and teaching skills when just being a student, what an outstanding career and respect from my potential colleagues could I earn when moving to an English speaking country to work?
When an opportunity arose to go to the US, I grabbed it. Suddenly, my dream began turning into illusion. First, my home-country experience and education had to be re-evaluated and re-approved to meet the needs of the American job market. Later, after obtaining my MA and Ph.D from the US, I could start applying for instructor positions. One of the job interviewers told me, “Oh, you have a British accent, we are not interested!” Another claimed I had an Australian accent, which was also an issue for them as they all were looking to hire people speaking with an American accent only even if those did not have teaching experience. I used to ask those hiring managers if they could define what American accent was? Even if you are born in the US, you may have a regional accent. Would it count as an American accent?
So, I started researching the topic of accent and learned that there is such a thing as discrimination in the US based on the accent bias. I could not believe that there was such a thing as discrimination in the first place! But to imagine that there was discrimination because of accent was even more unheard of for me. It appears people are prone to quick judgements and stereotypes when hearing another individual’s accent. Accent-based bias is known as linguicism, or accenticism. Research shows that it takes less than 30 seconds to create a linguistic profile of a speaker, decide on their ethnic origin, socio-economic status, and backgrounds (Hansen, 2020; Nelson et al., 2016; Roessel et al., 2020). We tend to unconsciously cluster people into certain social classes or form prejudice against them based on accents, thinking those who have accents when speaking English are not smart enough or not worthy of promotions or holding any managerial or leadership positions (Cunha de Souza et al., 2016; Roessel et al., 2020).
We form a hierarchical view of accents per cultural and societal acceptability ascribing such values as prestige, likeability, and intellect. The primary reason behind accenticism is self-constructed social identity and high ethnocentric attitude (Chakraborty, 2017; Roessel et al., 2018; 2020). Speaking with a non-native accent may lead to feelings of being excluded and devalued at work, especially, if co-workers comment on the accents regardless if those remarks are positive or negative (Hansen, 2020; Nelson et al., 2016; Roessel et al., 2018; 2020).
At ACE, diversity and inclusion are celebrated and welcomed. As a citizen speaking with an accent, I feel native to ACE family where colleagues are valued and fairly treated. Regardless of regional and international accents, professors and staff contribute equally to the success of our students with a variety of accents. To further promote working and learning experiences at ACE, all stakeholders may benefit from a few simple strategies: (1) learn to acknowledge our unconscious biases of accenticism; (2) provide training on accenticism bias to the staff, especially, to the hiring and recruiting teams; and (3) continue to create an inclusive workplace by offering opportunities for employees with a variety of accents to contribute to decision making.
Chakraborty, R. (2017). A short note on accent-bias, social identity, and ethnocentrism. Advances in Language and Literary Studies, 8(4), 57-64. http://dx.doi.org/10.7575/aiac.alls.v.8n.4p.57
Cuhna de Souza, L. E., Pereira, C. R., Camino, L., Souza de Lima, T. J., & Torres, A. R. R. (2016). The legitimizing role of accent on discrimination against immigrants. European Journal of Social Psychology, 46(5), 609-620. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2216
Hansen. K. (2020). Accent Beliefs Scale (ABS): Scale development and validation. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 39(1), 148-171. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0261927X19883903
Nelson, L. R., Jr., Signorella, M. L., & Botti, K. G. (2016). Accent, gender, and perceived competence. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 38(2), 166-185. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0739986316632319
Roessel, J., Scheol, C., & Stahlberg, D. (2018). What’s in an accent? General spontaneous biases against nonnative accents: An investigation with conceptual and auditory IATs. European Journal of Social Psychology, 48(4), 535-550. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2339
Roessel, J., Scheol, C., & Stahlberg, D. (2020). Modern notions of accentism: Findings, conceptualizations, and implications for interventions and research on nonnative accents. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 39(1), 87-111. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0261927X19884619
Reflections on Stereotype Threat
By Marsha A. Moore, MAT/T2T Program Coordinator
I recently had the opportunity to hear Claude Steele, a social psychologist at Stanford University, discuss his theory of stereotype threat and found myself thinking about ways that teachers can positively impact learners in avoiding the limitations associated with stereotype threat. Steele and Aronson (1995) describe stereotype threat as the risk of conforming to the negative stereotypes associated with a particular group. Often these perceived stereotypes emphasize devaluing the group and are not on the surface, but rather internalized and subconscious. It can impact an individual both psychologically through feelings of doubt and insecurity and physiologically through increased stress and reduced memory function. It is important to note that research supports the idea that this is not an issue of weakness in learners but impacts confident skilled learners the most.
Research on stereotype threat is often focused on African American learners and testing situations, especially high stakes testing, but the need to address this limitation of learning spans across all types of diversity including age, race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and socioeconomic status and may impact the way learners approach leadership and career decisions. Academic performance has long been associated with high expectations, motivating learners, and rigorous standards; however the root of addressing learner failure and low performance related to stereotype threat is trust. Trust in the idea that a stereotype will not be used to limit the success of the learner. Educators must address the issue not as a lack of personal self-confidence and ability as it may appear, but instead a lack of confidence in social justice.
Educators know the value of building relationships and trust. It is the cornerstone of successful teaching. It allows us to set learning goals and hold learners accountable because we know the student as a learner and as a person. In addressing stereotype threat, educators must add explicit practices to support diverse learners that extend beyond knowledge of the individual.
Below are some of the ways the culture and environment of a course or classroom can be organized, facilitated, and proactively addressed by educators to fight stereotype threat:
- Allow learners the opportunity to connect through commonalities and build relationships with one another that defy stereotypes, both personally and academically.
- Set up an environment that highlights diverse representation and expels stereotypes. Show learners successful role models that look, think, and/or act like them.
- Carefully examine teaching and assessment materials for stereotyping and address these with learners and publishers.
- Ensure that learners understand the purpose of assessment to inform instruction based on learner’s current knowledge and skills. This is something that is fluid and changing rather than fixed.
- Frame feedback to learners in high expectations and the knowledge you have in their ability to do well.
- Provide opportunities for diverse groups to interact and discuss similarities and differences.
- Make it clear that diversity matters in all aspects of the learning environment.
- Openly address and discuss stereotype threat and encourage learners to reflect on their fears and concerns.
- Promote divergent thinking (both academically and personally) and encourage learners to do the same.
- Stress the value of learners as individuals and as members of a variety of groups.
(Adapted from "Empirically Validated...," n.d.)
Self-examination and self-reflection are also critical for educators in addressing stereotype threat. Asking ourselves what biases and preconceived ideas that we bring to the classroom and the impact these could have on aspects of teaching and learning is a great place to start. Finally, we must know that personal growth, empathy, and understanding others should be intentional and ongoing.
Empirically validated strategies to reduce stereotype threat. (n.d.). Stanford University. https://ed.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/interventionshandout.pdf
Steele, C. M. & Aronson J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of
African Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(5), 797-811. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.1997
By Jeffery Fields, ACE Student
I work in school administration as the Dean of Students. I was born in the Dominican Republic. My family were migrant workers in the US. I have Dyslexia and Expressive Language Disorder. I spent nine years in special education (LD/ED) self-contained classrooms. It can lead to problems in social settings and at school. As I change my view of people, it changes my attitude. I learn to express myself through my artwork drawings I'm sharing with you (see below).
It’s been very difficult during Covid-19. I feel more exposed because of video conferences on Zoom and Google Meets. Attending undergrad and grad school was difficult. I felt like I was carrying the entire Black race on my back being the only person of color in the class. Attending ACE has been a very good experience for me. I was able to communicate with my classmates through discussion boards. I never felt like I was being judged due to my disability. As a result, my confidence grew more with each assignment. I would like others living with a disability to grow in confidence within their field of study.
Many people get these two terms mixed up:
Prejudice is a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.
Discrimination refers to unfair or unequal treatment of an individual.
Although it is not against the law to have an opinion about a person, I believe it is a contributing causation factor which manifests as mental illness in communities of color. Prejudice thoughts on the inside leads to dehumanization. Dehumanization (making someone feel less than you) leads to discrimination action on the outside which contributes to hopelessness, leading to mental illness.
In 2018, when I was working as an administrator in Detroit, an alarm went off one night. I arrived at the school to turn the alarm off. The police thought I was breaking into the school. They drew weapons and put me against the wall. Students who lived across the street from the school were outside watching. The next day, I held a school wide morning meeting to share how being self-aware using self-management got me through that situation and why social emotional learning (SEL) is important.
In my reality, men of color with disabilities don’t get second chances. There is no collaboration, negotiation, or cooperation. It’s imperative I teach students lessons that will prepare them for the world that awaits them. Specific lessons in social emotional learning, mentoring and restorative practices is what's needed.
The Implications of Unconscious Bias in Education
By Tiffani Bateman, Core Faculty, Department of Teaching and Learning
We all have biases; the key is understanding how unconscious bias can impact our day to day practices and relationships. Unconscious bias can harm underrepresented groups including women and ethnic minorities, particularly in education settings (Dee & Gershenson, 2017). Research in sociology and social psychology has taught us that our experiences are stored both consciously and unconsciously and influence our decision-making. While suppressing these biases can be counterproductive, awareness of bias can have positive effects on influencing our decisions. Unconscious bias is evident across many contexts including education, criminal justice, and health care and intersects across gender, race, class, and religion. This can be of significant consequence as we are shaping the future of society in our everyday practices both as educators and as students.
In their famous experiment “Pygmalion in the Classroom”, Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968) provided teachers false information regarding their students test scores and found significant improvements for students that were falsely identified as expected to gain the largest academic growth throughout the school year. A study conducted by Gershenson et al. (2016) found “on average, teachers are more likely to expect low levels of educational attainment for students of different racial backgrounds than they are for students of the same race” (p. 220). Even the slightest difference in gender ratios have been shown to effect anxiety and academic engagement in the classroom of which students may not even be consciously aware (Dee & Gershenson, 2017).
Unconscious bias is found to play a role not only in how students are evaluated but in how students evaluate their professors (Poppenhaeger, 2017). MacNell et al. (2015) conducted a study in which students were asked to evaluate their professor with no indication of whether their professor was actually male or female. Students indicating they believed they were taught by a woman opposed to a man rated the professor significantly lower in regard to the quality of the teaching. Studies have found similar trends in unconscious bias toward race, showing bias both in the form of student to teacher and teacher to student interactions (Huston, 2005).
Unconscious Bias Training
Businesses such as Google and Microsoft are leading the way in preparing unconscious bias training (UBT) for employees. Google delivered its UBT as a 60-90-minute voluntary workshop providing an overview of unconscious bias and how it effects our daily interactions and decisions. Microsoft also delivered training on unconscious bias utilizing the eLearning platform in which different case scenarios were presented to their employees. The employees were asked to analyze these scenarios so they could develop greater awareness of their own biases Since this conception in 2003, more and more organizations are beginning to offer this type of training as part of diversity and inclusion for employees. In both organizations, it was discovered that once employees become aware of their own personal unconscious bias they are able to make more informed and actionable decisions (Moore, 2008).
Changing How We Teach
As education leaders, it is not enough to just understand your own unconscious bias, but also to teach those educators, nurses, and health care professionals on the front line how to recognize their own. Stereotypes or attitudes toward others are not always part of conscious thought and can unconsciously undermine the best of intentions. Understanding our own unconscious bias is critical to opening up ethnic and gender boundaries that are perpetuating social injustices. We must embrace the conversations around ethnicity and understand our own unconscious bias if we are to ever see the true potential of the students we serve.
Dee, T., & Gershenson, S. (2017). Unconscious bias in the classroom: Evidence and opportunities. Google Inc. http://services.google.com/fh/files/misc/unconscious-bias-in-the-classroom-report.pdf
Gershenson, S., Holt, S. B., & Papageorge, N. W. (2016). Who believes in me? The effect of student-teacher demographic match on teacher expectations. Economics of Education Review, 52, 209–224. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.econedurev.2016.03.002
Huston, T. A. (2005). Race and gender bias in higher education: Could faculty course evaluations impede further progress toward parity? Seattle Journal for Social Justice, 4(2), 591-611. https://digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu/sjsj/vol4/iss2/34
MacNell, L., Driscoll, A., & Hunt, A. (2015), What’s in a name: Exposing gender bias in student ratings of teaching. Innovative Higher Education, 40(4), 291-303. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10755-014-9313-4
Moore, A. (2018, August 1). What bias? Organizations are implementing unconscious bias training to reduce prejudices that employees aren’t aware they have. TD Magazine, 72(8), 23. https://www.questia.com/magazine/1G1-549486265/what-bias-organizations-are-implementing-unconscious
Poppenhaeger, K. (2017). Unconscious gender bias in academia: From PhD students to professors. Cornell University. https://arxiv.org/abs/1711.00344
Rosenthal & Jacobson (1968). Pygmalion in the classroom. The Urban Review, 3(1), 16-20.
Systemic and Personal Bias
By Pam Noble, Doctoral Student
2020 has proven to be challenging for people the world over due to the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic fallout. In the United States, we have faced additional struggles that emerged from police brutality of Black people that swept our nation into heightened divisiveness over race. This climate that we find ourselves in is not new; we have also experienced it during civil rights movements. While these movements have resulted in increased liberty and justice, true equality has yet to be achieved. Historical and current movements have focused on gender rights, religion, racial equality, and economic status. Access to quality education is always a part of the larger picture even when it is not a major talking point, and when inclusivity and access to education are improved, our classrooms become more and more diverse.
Unfortunately, there is often a gap between student diversity and educator’s awareness on how to promote inclusive practices. All of us have biases, and educators are not an exception. They must become aware of how their personal biases might influence student learning. Educators are in a position whereby they can make a significant impact by modelling inclusivity and being at the forefront of advocating for social change. They must learn and grow from mistakes that are made due to personal biases to effectively educate every student, as well as make changes to elements in the system that allow biases to go unchecked.
In my own work teaching adult ESL and GED prep courses in a highly diverse community, I have had to develop strategies not only for myself to learn to understand and respect the views of all students, but also to facilitate conversation among the students themselves so they can learn from each other and to foster an open learning environment. Every new semester begins with ice breaker activities, and I encourage students to talk about their backgrounds. I often project a map of the world on to the board and mark where everyone is from, and then draw lines to our town where we have all met together. This often spurs discussion about how we traveled and why we came to be here. I maintain an attitude of eagerness to learn everyone’s stories and wonder about how amazing it is that we all have chosen to travel to this place. This fosters a safe space where these stories can be told and models a lack of judgement.
I must always keep in mind that this is a process that never ends, for myself or for my students. I cannot assume all of my students will leave my class suddenly enlightened from a few weeks of discourse, and I cannot assume I am any better or worse than they are when it comes to accepting each human I meet as worthy of respect.
For example, when I am confronted with someone who is prejudiced, arrogant or ignorant, I might think of them as “cognitively deficient” and develop judgements about the person. This type of thinking clouds my judgement from making sound decisions about this person and might preclude the opportunity to learn about them. I must always make a conscious effort to understand everyone, and especially each of my students. For instance, if language creates a barrier, we find other ways to communicate. If culture is an issue, we find alternate ways to bond. My goal is to help every student improve academically, grow as an individual, and make progress towards reaching their own goals. Therefore, I must create a safe space where we communicate and understand each other.
In my opinion, we as human beings are all capable of identifying bias in ourselves, learning where it originated from, and developing strategies to face and overcome them. These steps will enrich our lives, which in turn, influence and impact our teaching practices and classroom communities. As indicated earlier, educators are often at the forefront of social change, and can guide future generations towards more inclusive mind-sets. It is a long road, but it must be travelled by everyone if we want the need for civil rights movements to cease to exist, and for inclusivity to be truly equal.
Inclusive practice is a hot topic in today's climate, and we all believe we are inclusive to a certain extent. But how inclusive are we really? This self-assessment is designed to help you reflect on whether your behaviors demonstrate inclusivity.
ACE staff can take the How Inclusive Are You? - Self-Assessment in the Diversity and Inclusion Resources section of the Training Portal.
This newsletter provides multiple perspectives regarding the significance of brave conversations. It is always good practice to critically analyze concepts and measure them against your own worldviews. I would like to leave you with these three questions to consider as you think about why we should engage in brave conversations...
- How can I engage in brave conversations?
- How can I become more mindful of my own blind spots?
- What can I do to become more inclusive of others who are different from me?
June 2021 Newsletter
We are already thinking ahead to our next newsletter. We really hope these newsletters become a wonderful representation of the diversity in our ACE Community. The next one will be published in June 2021, and we want to hear from YOU!
Have a diversity and inclusion related topic near and dear to your heart? Write or produce a presentation about it and send it our way!
Have an idea to make the newsletter more dynamic or have a topic you would really like to see covered in the next edition? We appreciate ideas and feedback!
Those who wish to contribute to the next newsletter should send their contributions to Fawzia Reza at email@example.com no later than May 1, 2021. Article contributions should be concise and no more than 800 words. We would also really LOVE to see creative presentations, lesson plans related to diversity and inclusion, artwork contributions, etc. Have fun and think outside the box!
Ideas and feedback can be sent to the Office of Academic Excellence (OAE) Feedback Form.
(Note: Unfortunately, not all contributions submitted can be included in the newsletter. In all submissions, we will look for a central theme that emerges. Those contributions relating to the emerged theme will be selected. If yours is not selected, we will invite you to submit for a future newsletter.)