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App in development helps teachers fight their own implicit bias in the classroom

Sep 1, 2017

Shah says the EQUIP app could help teachers realize when kids in certain social groups are unintentionally being left out of class discussions.
Credit Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

We don’t often recognize the implicit biases we all carry.

But study after study shows we tend to interact most with people who are like us: people who look like us, talk like us. 

One of places where our implicit bias can be especially problematic is in the classroom.

Niral Shah is a researcher at Michigan State University working on a web application to help teachers recognize their own biases.

The tool is called EQUIP, which stands for Equity Quantified in Participation.

Shah says often in classrooms, there are some students — like, girls, children of color, and kids whose dominant language isn’t English — don’t have the same learning opportunities within classrooms as other kids do. He says his research focuses on the "subtle patterns of inequity that crop up in everyday classroom interaction."

Shah said he works with a group of teachers in Michigan who have been “incredibly brave at opening up their classrooms” by using the app to reflect on what’s going on during class discussions.

And he says it’s not about painting teachers as racists, or sexists, or otherwise discriminatory, toward some of their students. Rather, Shah says, he’s attempting to encourage teachers to recognize their implicit biases,  improve their instructional practices, and minimize the risk of marginalizing students.

“I think for a lot of teachers, that’s a compelling argument,” Shah said. “That’s what we’ve seen so far.”

Listen above for the the full conversation with Niral Shah, assistant professor of teacher education at Michigan State University.

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