Whether we are aware of it or not, who we are and where we come from affects the way we interact with others. There exists an unconscious bias within each of us; a naturally-selected protective mechanism that is central to our survival. It is automatic. Knowing our biases, particularly in educational settings, is critical to ensuring equitable learning opportunities are afforded to all learners. This means bringing our automatic processes into view, and allowing these biases to be critiqued and minimised.
Based on our learning, we have noted some common narratives in higher education as a means of provoking thought among readers and provided some strategies that may be useful for you to implement in your own teaching environments.
When reviewing the table below, we would encourage you to think about this: How your own teaching reflects, speaks back to, and works beyond these common assumptions?
The primary aim of teaching is to facilitate the development and exchange of knowledge and skills among the learners you interact with. Being aware of your learners’ prior knowledge and skill levels is only the beginning to supporting their growth. Being aware of the unconscious norms of the society in which you teach is critical to providing equitable learning opportunities for all.
Understanding learners’ backgrounds, social orientations, and familiarisation with the education practices of the society in which the learning takes place, enables the re-thinking and re-development of educational practices that are supportive of success outcomes for all learners. So, as we move into creating and enhancing learning activities and environments, reflect on:
What unconscious social norms are you less conscious of, and how does your own positioning impact your approach to learning and teaching?