Ep 11: Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors: Preparing teachers for diverse classrooms through professional conversation workshops on implicit bias with newly qualified teachers in the field.
10:04AM Jun 11, 2021
Shelli Ann Garland
Hello, and welcome to a dash of salt. I'm Dr. Shelli Ann and I'm so glad you're here. Whether you stumbled upon this podcast by accident, or you're here because the subject drew you in welcome. Salt is an acronym for society and learning today. This podcast was created as an outlet for inviting fresh discussions on sociology and learning theories that impact your world. Each episode includes a wide range of themes that focus on society in everyday learning, whether formal or informal. So let's get stuck in Shall we?
Welcome to a dash of salt. I'm joined by Dr. Amy Kavanaugh, Dr. Andrea Kitomary and Dr. Lindsay Stoetzel. From Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan, USA. Amy, Andrea and Lindsay have been working on a project that prepares rural teacher candidates to work with diverse student populations. And I'm going to actually let them introduce themselves to you today and tell you what they do at Ferris.
Hi,Shelli. I'm Amy Kavanaugh. I am the Graduate Programme coordinator in the School of ED at Ferris State University and I also teach language arts courses to future early childhood and elementary educators. And I've been at Ferris for 19 years.
Hi, Shelli. My name is Andrea Kitomary. I am an administrator in the School of Education. And I've run a grant funded programme called lead by design. And my title is student retention coordinator. And I've been at Ferris about three years. It's nice to meet you and beyond this podcast.
I'm Lindsay setesdal. And I am an assistant professor of literacy education at Ferris. I just finished up my second year though, obviously, most of it was in this COVID pandemic. But I'm happy to be here today with my colleagues who have really inspired me through the work we've been we've been doing this last two years.
Welcome to each one of you. I'm really delighted, and I'm excited about this conversation today. So what I really would like to do is just start off and have one of you go ahead and tell me about the guts of this project and what you hope that the outcome will be.
I would say that this project began spring of 19 when our accredited accrediting body noted that we needed to strengthen our teacher candidates awareness and ability to work with diverse populations. And that was a tricky topic because we're located in a rural area in the middle of our state, so we don't have access to many diverse populations. So that that was our problem of practice. And then, really, the question became, how do we prepare rural female white teacher candidates to become culturally responsive teachers. And we informally created our what we call our social justice group, when the Andrea and myself to come up with reading materials for our students, and project activities for them to become engaged in as teacher candidates. So they would be more prepared when they go out into the field.
We really wanted to before the students were kind of putting theory into practice, we really wanted to build a foundation for them. And what does it really mean to be a culturally responsive teaching us culturally responsive teacher? And how do you do that? So when you look at the literature, there are not step by step things that you do to become culturally responsive, but it really is taking an internal look at yourself, and then being able to understand yourself and then being able to nurture relationships with students. So I think we really wanted to set this foundation for students that so that when they had the opportunity to be in the classroom and interact with culturally diverse students, they would be prepared to do that being self aware but also aware of other people groups and cultures and dynamics and the intersectionality of Those.
Yeah. And to build on that, part of our kind of our problem with practice as well is not only do our students not have access to mentors in the field who can help them to an act culturally responsive pedagogies some of them are in in completely white White's homogeneous settings where they're not going to see diversity necessarily in their classroom in terms of racial diversity, but they might see socio economic diversity and other factors. And then how do they we really use mirrors, Windows and sliding glass doors as kind of a guiding metaphor in those spaces, how do you bring a broader definition of diversity into the classroom, so children are able to expand under awareness of their own unconscious biases, and how they kind of interact in their worlds even when their worlds might be?
I, in sociology of education, I'm always telling them, you know, when we talk about bias, and equity and equality and inclusion and diversity, I am always telling my students, you know, once you become aware of something, and once you know, something, you can't unknow it. And I think that you guys are doing an, you know, an a very, very important piece there by bringing into initial teacher education, because if not here, where, and I think when they they get out into their classrooms, and they start teaching, they're very much influenced by the, the, you know, their peers and their colleagues that have already been there. And if they haven't had this, and they haven't been exposed to this, where are they going to get it? You know, so I think the initial teacher education is a very important place to have these conversations with the students and to have them apply theory to practice. Even if they're not seeing it in their classrooms, when they go out on practice placement, things like that. If they are thinking about their own biases, again, they have that awareness, and they're, you know, they're not going to unlearn it, you know, it's something that they'll keep with them. So I think this is a brilliant project that you guys are working on. I heard I understand that you invited colleges and universities, educators, from around the US from various states in the US in a series of professional conversations. What were you hoping to gain from these professional conversations? And did you find them to be beneficial?
One of our initial goals in kind of recruiting alumni was first to have practising educators who could who are doing the work in the field right now be able to share with engage with and respond to our students, who I think you know, we have that that whole paradigm, we're in the university, they listen to their professors, but we're so far removed, but to have an actual teacher, who is, you know, currently in a space dealing with the complexities of everything we faced, nationally, coming along with all of the Black Lives Matter protests, dealing with the election, we've had a lot of immigration issues, a lot of hot button issues, that have pushed educators and their choices in what they bring into the classroom and to think about how they engage with their students what kind of books they're using. So having people in the field doing that now, is a much richer place to begin the conversation. And then because we did this, we chose early career educators, we wanted our beginning teachers to see you don't have to have 20 years of expertise to finally say, Okay, now I'm ready. But that it's a, it's a learning journey, you're gonna stumble, you're gonna feel overwhelmed. And these young teachers can offer perspectives on how some of their early steps in their early journey that could be impactful for for them to, to consider.
That's really well stated, because I think it's one thing for us to give them assignments in the college classroom, develop a lesson plan and use literature that will, you know, be a window or mirror into diversity. It's another thing to have the actual example come from a practising teacher who recently graduated. And we often would hear in our classes, Lindsey and I that, well, how do you do this in an early childhood or an elementary classroom? These are conversations about race and equity that we would have with students who are much older. So this doesn't apply to pre kindergarten and elementary age students and these practising teachers demonstrated that yes, indeed, you Han and this is how you do it. And this is the type of literature you use and the activity that you can do to have these conversations with young children, because they, especially during the last year have had so many questions in their mind about what is happening, what I'm seeing on TV are in the streets.
From your perspective, we're here in Ireland. And again, it's, it's these conversations that we have are, you know, just bringing implicit bias and, and just bringing in unconscious bias, and many times, especially in initial teacher education, they're not even aware of these terms. So what is it from your perspective, from the US perspective? And why is it important that teachers have an awareness of it?
That is a really great question. Um, I think in the US context, because of our historical backdrop of discrimination and racism, structural racism, we have a really unique kind of lens on bias. So in terms of defining it, um, I would say that, you know, bias in and of itself is just a preference towards something or a person. But when you start to talk about unconscious bias, or implicit bias within a diversity, equity and inclusion lens, it really does begin to highlight our prejudices, those negative attitudes and beliefs that we have against other people, again, other identities and other people and how those intersect, that then give gives it a negative lens, or, you know, the impact of the unconscious bias is something that is like felt, and heard and experienced by the person on the other end of it. And so I think it's important for teachers to be aware of unconscious bias, because they're in classrooms with students that are from all over, right. You never know who's sitting in your classroom, they may look like you. But that doesn't mean that they have the same cultural context, the same background, the same expectations, the same understanding. And so I think it's important for teachers to understand what their own expectations are the power that they hold the position that they have, in the classroom, how their upbringing and cultural experiences inform the practices that they are engaging with students in the classroom around. So that they're, they don't harm students, they don't inflict harm upon students, unconsciously, right. That's the whole premise of bias is unconscious. And so you may think that you're just doing what you've been taught, you know, in your college classrooms, or what your mentor teacher has told you to do. But everything that you you're bringing everything about yourself into that space, and some of those unconscious things, again, can be harming our students. And so I think that is the main reason that we need to be aware about ourselves. So we don't unconsciously inflict harm on our children.
The beauty of what Andrea did by developing this implicit bias training is, so we're college educators preparing future educators, you she field, tested the training on our faculty, so it was eye opening for us as faculty to consider our own bias, and how we might be applying microaggressions in the classroom ourselves. So the faculty mentor this training last summer, and then Andrea provided the training to our teacher candidates in the fall and the spring. And I actually talked with the teacher candidate yesterday about her takeaways just informally about that. And she said she works in Early Care Centre right now and she said that she's still the pictures that Andrea used in the presentation, where you have to decide if you need directions. Who would you ask directions from that really resonated with her and she said that she's more aware of her bias in the classroom. And in fact, commenting on a child's appearance, a girl looking pretty things like that and said she'll say he looks Smart today something that would be a gender neutral. She's much more aware of it. She also reflected on growing up in rural Michigan, and high school, they had a spirit day that was called Country Day. And kids would come to some kids came to school with Confederate flags on and she said she thought back and it didn't make her feel very comfortable. But she was told Well, this is just our culture. We are, you know, country. And so we think it's okay to wear the Confederate flag. And now she can actually after this, the trainings and things she went through this last academic school year, she said, she would be comfortable saying that's wrong, that should not be permitted in school. And as a, as a future teacher who may end up teaching in the same area she grew up, that's really important.
The way that unconscious biases and implicit bias also feed into them the deficit discourse. And that's something we work so hard to unpack with our candidates, because we know that there's this inherent defensiveness that people have, when you start talking about these topics, anyway, like, I am not a racist, I believe all children can succeed, I do not use deficit discourse. And then they turn around and it's, it's embedded in, in their plans. It's embedded in the examples and their materials and to become aware and to step away from that and, and help them to see that is really challenging. And I feel like this implicit bias training has been really helpful in trying to reframe the conversation, and help them to begin to recognise those distinctions themselves. So just a really simple example of that would be, and I use this this piece all the time from Katherine Compton, Lily's Book on, on literacy and poverty and addressing racism. And she has this example where she's in a classroom with literacy teachers, and they're talking about their students, the students are not there. But all the teachers think these students were just not prepared to be here. They can't do this because they don't know their nursery rhymes. And so they they come from this point of, they don't know nursery rhymes, they weren't repair, or they weren't prepared for school, very deficit lens, they go out on the playground, and they've got these brilliant jump rope brides. And she recognises that that is the cultural asset she can bring into the classroom as the foundation for phonemic awareness. She doesn't need nursery rhymes. So just that kind of reframing what you what you think, in that space, and what your own implicit bias tells you about. What does readiness look like? What does this practice look like? What am I supposed to expect, and to maybe stop expecting so much from your own point of view, and bringing more curiosity and awareness to those spaces instead?
Yeah, and it's that idea of, of sort of smashing cultural conformity, that everybody has to conform, you know, culturally, to whatever the, you know, the cultural perspective of the day is, or the area or that type of thing. And, you know, and setting sort of that aside and saying, No, we all come from, you know, different cultural viewpoints and backgrounds and perspectives, and we need to be able to respect each other, and respect those, and embrace them as well. And, you know, when there are some that, that we all know, that are very derogatory and very detrimental, you know, having those gentle conversations and, and, and the awarenesses, you know, it being aware of your unconscious biases is what will help you to be aware of these types of, you know, cultural differences and where they can be harmful and detrimental, you know, in a space and, and just to be able to have those open conversations. And there's something actually interesting and very resonating that you each of you said on that piece, and I had just read this morning, interestingly enough, about a mother from the traveller community here in Ireland. So I'm not sure if you're all aware of the traveller communities, the Gypsy Roma travellers, so depending on where whether it's in the UK, whether it's in England, or whether it's here in Ireland, they could be Roma's, they could be gipsies. They could be travellers. But anyway, I was reading this morning about a mother from a traveller community here in Ireland who said that her 15 year old daughter, her 15 year old daughter's teacher told her sure you'll be leaving when you're 16 anyway off to be married with you. And because that it culturally is the tradition in the traveller community is that when the girls turned 16 They will leave the school. And they are generally part of their culture is to, you know, start keeping house, they learn all the ways with their their mom and that type of thing. And then they they end up preparing themselves for marriage. But this was after this teacher said this to the student, after she mentioned her desire to study for and to sit, the Leaving Cert exam. And this was in 2021, this was just a couple of months ago that this teacher said this to the student. And what bothers me is that the other ring of the travellers and the migrant children, by teachers in schools, schools will say they're inclusive, you can go on their online, and you can look at their, you know, their mission statements in there, you know, that type of thing. And they their ethos, and they'll say they're inclusive, but they allow their staff to openly marginalised students, you know, the culture often is when you have tried to have these conversations is to sweep those actions under the rug, or diminish them, rather than address them or correct them. And in the American perspective, what are some impacts that teacher bias has on the student teacher relationship, from your perspective,
I want to address kind of what you just spoke about in terms of the cultural aspect. And you know how sometimes you want to sweep something under the rug, I really think that what's happening there is people are operating within what they view as normal, because our biases are in our everyday what seems to be normal to us. And so it's in that normalcy, that we take advantage of our privilege, and don't acknowledge that there are other people. So you talked about, you know, how this teacher was other ring, the travellers group, it could be that she was just reflecting on her own, you know, privilege, and therefore, not even, not really being conscious that these other practices that happen in the travellers group, those are normal for that group. So she's saying, oh, because it's not normal for my group, then there has to be something wrong with, you know, how other people decide that they want to live their lives. Within the US context. We really, when we really look at teacher bias, oftentimes, it's in this black and white dichotomy, dichotomy, just because we're in the US, and we have a history of racism. But in actuality, I think the student teacher relationship is really impacted. One on the teachers and but also on the students. And so from a teacher perspective, it really goes back to what Lindsay was saying, and how the teacher may have this deficit, consciousness are deficit way of thinking about their students and the work that they're producing. And because of that, then their bias is affecting how that student is performing in the classroom, or how they expect that student to perform in the classroom. And all of that kind of has a trickle down effect. On the other side, you know, it affects the student, teacher, student teacher relationship, because the student is being impacted. And for us, in the US, we talk about black indigenous people of colour, so bipoc students, they're more so impacted. B, not only because of the historical disparities in education, but also because that oftentimes has this trickle down effect of now, because of our own biases. We're looking at students and saying, Oh, these students belong in special education, that's a huge impact. Because the student doesn't measure up to the expectation that the teacher has based on their biases. It affects students self esteem, and it affects their self efficacy, their ability to believe that they can perform in the classroom just based on that how the teacher is, you know, perceiving them to be or how they're interacting or not interacting in the classroom. All of that really does psychologically and socially impact students as well as academically impacts students.
The research supports that the biggest indicator for future student success is the classroom teacher. So I think helping our teacher candidate see that yes, you do indeed have the power to make a significant difference in a any student's life and their future. Success is pretty powerful. It's more important than how much money the district has how much money the students have the power of the classroom teacher and their expectation for success of all of their students. And this whole idea, I think our students are definitely aware that we don't want to be colorblind, either. We want to see and appreciate everyone's funds of knowledge and their background experiences. So teachers definitely make a difference.
Your right words, words and actions matter. And, you know, in making sure that, that teachers in teacher training, are very aware of that, from the beginning, I think makes a huge difference as well. Lindsay, did you want to come in with
I was going to add, yeah, that it also impacts I feel, um, we were talking about expectations, and then the type of instructional practices teachers use in that space, and then the educational experience they provide for those students based on those expectations. So this came up in one of my courses, that was also an impetus for our project. My these were different group of students, this was a group of students working in an urban environment in a very socio economic, racially, linguistically diverse space. And they were, they were very aware of their positionality in that space as white female middle class, mostly educators. And they also were very aware of socio social emotional learning needs. And they wanted to prioritise the social emotional learning of their students as their mentors were telling them. So they really latched on to this idea of Maslow's pyramid. And we can't expect them to do higher level cognitive things, if they don't have their basic needs met. So they were actually resisting, like standards based learning goals, they were telling me they could not do interactive read alouds in the classroom, because children were coming to school without having had breakfast. Now, that is, you really, I want to validate the importance of social emotional learning and understanding students needs, but at the same time, that it undermines the need to set high expectations and help all children to reach them. So they think that they were using culturally relevant or responsive approaches to really embrace the children, but they were coddling them in a way where they were not providing them with rigorous and meaningful and interactive learning experiences, because then they had unknowingly latched on to this deficit discourse that the students couldn't do it, they couldn't handle it. Instead of using that as a space to nourish their identities and provide them with other opportunities. They limited their view of what the classroom could be and what these kids could do. And so, that is another way I think all of these things kind of weave together, and can negatively impact what that classroom looks like. And with possibilities for everybody in this space.
The project is what I want to like, give them a framework for that too, because so our students went through the implicit bias trainings, mock two sessions of that. And then they participated in these professional educator activities, two of those, then we also had another activity.
The other activity we developed was, we have a Jim Crow museum on campus. And so we took advantage of that and worked with the staff at the museum to develop a tour of the museum that specifically highlighted how educational disparities kind of fast forward into today's classroom into today's districts and schools. And so that was a really neat experience, I think, for students to be able to see primary source documents and hear about the history of Jim Crow. So Jim Crow in America was a time period right after the reconstruction period. And so this was right after the Civil War, where there was a lot of contention about states who wanted slavery and states that did not want slavery. And so after the Civil War, we have the reconstruction err, where African American individuals were given freedom, they were able to engage in society in ways that they were not able to do prior to that. Jim Crow then comes along, which is a set of laws and policies that prohibit African Americans from engaging in all sectors of life, and really became this idea of separate but equal. So we can have separate everything. And the ideology of it was that separate is okay, if everyone's services or the end result of that is that we're all treated equal. But in fact, Jim Crow was anything but separate but equal. In fact, it was separate, but it was very unequal. And it's from the inequality that existed during the the time where these laws and policies were created, that actually form the foundation for structural racism in our country. Today, across again, across all sectors, the Jim Crow era lasted almost 100 years. And so that had a significant impact on on education and, and other sectors of life. But in particular, because, you know, we're trying to build up our education, students funds of knowledge, we really wanted to help them understand where some of these disparities that they're seeing now actually originated, and how they have become systemic. In our education system.
Yeah, that systemic racism and, and, and again, from that sort of the Irish context, and here in Ireland, we have over the past, I'd say 20 years or so have had quite a, an immigration of Nigerian, so black, Nigerian, Irish, so you know, they would have come in and immigrated in. And then now, it's obviously been well over 20 years. So there are people who identify as black Irish, that would either be of Nigerian descent, or they would consider themselves black, African Irish. And so, you know, and then, of course, there's a, you know, with immigration here, and the migration in the movement, we have Eastern Europeans, a very strong Polish community in Ireland, we have a very strong Asian community and in Ireland, and so, you know, there this these types of things that you're talking about, really, I think Ireland can identify with, because of the the face and the fabric of the demographics of, you know, Irish citizens being black and brown and of other colour. And so it actually makes me think about this implicit bias training, and that you have for the staff and students in the series of workshops. And do you think that this can be adapted more globally? and internationally?
Yes, I actually want to speak to the international context of what we were just talking about, I've done some work in some research, and looking at, you know, other countries, I looked at the education system in Cambodia, with the education system in Tanzania. And, you know, when when we began to look at, you know, the international context, oftentimes in education, what we have in the present day is rooted in policies and laws that were developed, either because of the poverty, the abject poverty of that particular country, or, or a particular country, or because of the colonialism that was happening and countries across the world. So the the situation that we have in the US is not so unique, right? Because across the world, in education systems, there have been laws and things put in place to keep others out. And so when we, when we fast forward and look at you know, our education systems today in whatever country you may be in, you really have to go back to the past and say, how did we get here? So I feel like you know, our US context isn't so unique at the same time in answering your question about, you know, can unconscious or implicit bias kind of be applied internationally? Absolutely. I think the important thing to probably highlight more would be the cultural lens of That particular country, because so much is embedded in your ways of doing and being and what's normal in the context of culture. And so in the US, we have culture as well. And I think we, we highlight that in terms of what's normal for us. But if unconscious bias and implicit bias were to be, you know, studied in other countries, absolutely, the strongest thing to be aware of is the cultural context. that that would be applied.
And I would just have to add to that, to move away from the idea the concept of an achievement gap that these students are not achieving, because of the way they look or their cultural backgrounds, but it's more about an opportunity gap. Plessy versus Ferguson, in the late 1800s, brought about Jim Crow. So since that time, separate, has been unequal. And as a result, we have kids that don't achieve and it's not because of the way they look or their background is because they have not had an opportunity to
I think to along with that, again, and looking at the international context, you would have to look at the intersectionality of different identities, because in different countries, you know, maybe it's social economic status, that's really what makes people separate, versus, you know, the racial thing that we have going on in the US. And so looking at how identities represent themselves in that intersectionality. And it could be that it's class and gender, or whatever. So again, you know, when when you look at this construct, and take it into an international perspective, you really have to focus in on what are some of the historical, historical and structural things that have happened in that country that kind of define normalcy and privilege in that particular cultural context?
Yeah, definitely. It's very interesting that you said that, because class would be the societal issue that has been in constant tension for for many hundreds of years here in Ireland. So they haven't actually, there hasn't been, you know, a way of sort of getting beyond the socio cultural and socio economic issues in society here. And now, like I said, with the immigration of peoples from other countries, now, they have that to deal with as well. And it's, it's, it's very hard, I think, for them to, you know, for the for government for the Department of Education and Skills for, you know, the powers that be to decide, Okay, wait a second, you know, what, what do we tackle first, and then, of course, Ireland was the first country that embraced gay marriage. But yet, there's still a lot of issues with LGBTQ Plus, you know, and so there's just so much of an influx on this small island of things that are happening, and they're happening very rapidly. And I think that Ireland is doing a really good job at trying to tackle all of these different things, but, but it's hard, you know, because it's not just one, you know, just like in the US, you know, there's, from state to state to state, from region and section of the of the country to another, it's something completely different. And so I think, you know, even though we're such a small island, and, you know, the US is so, so big, I think, you know, regionally you know, the issues that would be very much the same and how do you tackle them? How do you deal with them? How do you advocate and promote, you know, the positives and, and begin to eliminate those, those norms that have been norms for so long?
Absolutely. And I was just going to add, another facet of implicit bias that we deal with increasingly even in these rural communities is multilingual learners, and how in America, knowing a second language is not seen as an asset. It that is like Oh, that's a native Spanish speaker, I'm going to have to work harder to teach them English there. They don't it's there's not this norm around the the richness of multilingual speakers and using them as um, you know, a platform to learn and grow in in new languages. So that is something we hear a lot from our pre service teachers is this concern like, first of all again, reorienting the Opposite discourse around the students and what they're capable of and how to use the assets they bring into the classroom. But then what do they do? Because, again, their mentor teachers have not necessarily been prepared to support. You know, what if you're using dual language learners or multilingual learners? And how can we do a better job of supporting them from the university when we might not be in those spaces either. So
yeah, and again, same very similar, very similar issues here with that as well, again, very much so with the, the Eastern European children that are in the schools and coming in and, you know, they're very rapidly, they're actually doing quite well, and very rapidly learning, you know, the English language. But in primary school, they're also required to learn the Irish language, as well as speaking their own language in their home. And so, and you know, that that definitely is is something to be concerned with here as well. So there's that similarity, and there's so much to learn. And, you know, internationally and globally, from, you know, what you guys are doing as well. What are some of the things that you teach through these workshops, and some ways to reduce bias in the classroom?
Sure. So, um, we talked about reducing bias, and one of the main things is helping teachers have perspective. So perspective taking, and a literature is one thing that students really can do to kind of reduce bias and perspective taking is just, it's imagining yourself in someone else's situation, but it's also placing yourself in someone's situation. And the research says that, you know, when teachers are able to basically walk a mile in their students shoes, when they're engaged in their communities, when they're engaged with their families, and building those really close relationships with students and their families and the communities. That's when that teacher has been stepped beyond the classroom experience, and really began to have some perspective on who is this child that I'm trying to teach. And so, again, the research really supports teachers getting to know their students, their families and their communities, which helps them have perspective. So then the other ring becomes less that the circles of this is my student, and this is me, begin to merge and overlap. And so then the teacher doesn't see this student as someone different from them. But they begin to see themselves in that student and and vice versa. Not only does that, you know, nurture the relationship and make the relationship stronger, because out of strong relationships, students are able to learn better, but it also is helping that teacher to reduce their by biases.
Through your social justice framework in teacher education at Ferris, you guys embrace the ethos of teaching for tolerance? And so what does this mean and how is it enacted in your programme?
What one thing that's crucial that I try to instil in students is that classrooms need to have real world audiences for their work. Our students need to empower their students, and they can best do this through I guess it would be problem based learning or project based learning what they can do for their own community, and makes learning more real. And I think that this makes a huge difference. Instead of it being textbook worksheet driven. It's more like this is a community we live in, what can we do as a fifth grade class, to better our community? And who could we present it to? And then you're teaching them, you know, reading, writing, presenting social studies, through that project.
So I noticed in your research that you guys do a lot with your participants, with writing and reflecting as part of their aspects on bias training. Did your teacher candidates find this helpful in deepening their understanding of bias and reducing bias in the classroom?
I think as a result of these discussions, and that the training, they increase their awareness of bias so they know about it. They increase their awareness and understanding of how they have multiple identities that they bring to any situation. And sometimes we hide an identity, depending on the situation we're in, and much more aware also of microaggressions, maybe that they have experienced and that they have done to others. And that awareness, significantly increase based on the reflections that we saw. So, Lindsay?
Yeah, I was going to say our other challenge or goal has been while we're offering these professional learning opportunities in workshops, how do we integrate it back into our different courses, and then to do that over time, so that we're continuing to build and deepen their reflection and then move towards application because many of them when they're doing these trainings, they're in like their second year of the programme. And so they're still a year removed away from the classroom. So we have to continue that trajectory. So that they're, they're continuing their, their role in this journey. So I know, for example, we have been revising some of our assignments to provide more of this bridge. So for example, one group of students who took the implicit bias training this past fall, we then had them afterwards, they designed an anti bias, read aloud. Lesson Plan. And so this was slightly different than our traditional read aloud, because it actually asked them to reflect on their own positionality. In relation to the book, what are what are, what are some of the biases you bring to this conversation? before you launch into it with students? What are some positionality that students might bring to this conversation, and kind of doing some more metacognitive reflection than we usually do? Where we just pick the book, and we ask the questions, to allow them to kind of see how does, how does this? How does this training? How does this knowledge, how does this awareness, then translate into the actual practices you're going to do in the field on a daily basis?
Me You brought up a concept that I'm really intrigued about hearing more about, and it's that idea of hidden personalities and hiding and hiding parts of you. So it can you can you tease that out a little bit more for us?
Yeah, and so in any situation, we will maybe emphasise one identity over the other. And sometimes we hide an identity and in a given situation, whatever makes us more comfortable. I was actually a student in Andrea's implicit bias training, where it addressed that where we had to actually do a workshop activity where how many different ways you identify. And we have to consider that for our students.
We had students we did have students look at their identities, and then ask them the question, you know, you can put yourself in whatever context you want. But when are there instances when you hide your identity, and it's called covering, so when do you cover an identity so that you can fit into the dominant culture or the dominant, whoever is there. And so students were able to realise that, in fact, they did have identities that they hid from others. And so I was able to share, you know, one of my identities that I don't often feel comfortable sharing with with others, because I believe that other people will see me in a negative light. And so whether that's true or not, my perception of how others are perceived, perceiving me makes me want to hide that particular part of my identity. And the whole context of that is, when you are unable to bring your authentic self, your full self into each and every space, you really are then operating at a deficit for yourself. Because you're not truly bringing everything and all that you are all those identities into the space to engage fully, creatively innovatively in that space. And so when we think about our students, that you know, you will teach, if you have students in the classroom that are trying to hide hide parts of their identity or cover parts of their identities. We really could be missing out on a very rich education, educational experience with that student if we were allowed to know that particular identity so when you think of inclusiveness and In the classroom, our classrooms really inclusive, if we have students in the classroom that are not bringing their authentic selves into the spaces, because their perception is that they're going to be perceived, you know, in a negative light.
Well, to add on to that, that's also a space where you become hyper aware of your identities. And you might be thinking about them in ways that you haven't done so in the past, because you haven't encountered a situation that pushed you to reflect on that. And so for a lot of our candidates, even this identity taught in the implicit bias training, if they are that this was like one of the first times when they really had to sit back and think about their identity, because they may have not yet encountered a situation that naturally pushed them to do that they haven't moved outside of whatever comfort zone, geographic area, where they feel like that moment of like, oh, like, I'm an American in this space. And I don't know how I feel about that, or I am a female in this space. And I don't know how I feel about that, where you just suddenly, that is pushed to the forefront, and then you're filtering through a different lens than you ever have before.
I would agree, Lindsay, in the data that we collected, so we did a pre and post survey, definitely in the survey data, there was an increase in students saying, Oh, I do cover certain identities, once they had an understanding of what that meant. And the opportunity to reflect on their own identities and put themselves in the context of a situation, I gave them time to not only reflect, but to write about that. So to hopefully deepen, you know, this understanding or this realisation that they had about their, their own identities, but also, you know, when you put those identities in certain contexts, it could be school, or work or whatever, you may not be as comfortable as he was saying, in those spaces. And maybe that was the first time that some of our students were having that experience, because there was a significant jump in the in the data in terms of students saying, you know, at the beginning, oh, I covers parts of my identity, too, after the presentation. There are a lot more students that said, yeah, definitely, I do cover parts of my identity.
So what's next for you, ladies? You know, where do you go from here? Well,
we do have an article that we've submitted, and we're working on another one. And I know there is talks about resubmitting for a grant as well. And I think I just know that my social justice colleagues and myself, we will just continue to look for opportunities for putting theory into practice for teacher candidates, not waiting until they get to the field experiences, but doing it early. We've all been classroom teachers. And so we definitely value hearing from those people that are in the field. early and often.
I mean, our pipe dream, we were trying to get a grant to match our candidates with some of these early career educators for some sustained mentorship to actually see them in action in the classroom. And to be able to, to be even if virtually involved in experiencing mentorship from a culturally responsive educator, our biggest opportunity is our programme is being basically dissolved and recreated our state in Michigan just changed all the licencing requirements for teachers. So we've had to redesign our entire programme. And we have five new literacy courses that we now get to sequence and build some of these components into the courses in a really integrated and hopefully authentic way. So that is, the brainstorming and the opportunities to create are pretty large right now.
The part of that pipe dream was to actually have the the our teacher candidates do read aloud in the classrooms with the diverse with the teacher mentors in these classrooms across across the United States, which would then give them experience in front of diverse all kinds of diversity we are going for give them that experience of engaging with different types of students, and being able to reflect on that and get feedback from their professors to continue to grow. So that was a part of our dream. So hopefully we'll continue to pursue the dream.
Yeah, definitely. I think you've got a good thing going For sure.
And I don't mean to be that Debbie Downer, but our current national context is actually trying to minimise and pass laws to get rid of this type of programming. So there's a national effort going on, and from part of our legislators that are blocking programming at the university, and you know, the K 12 level, to even talk about the fact that there is systemic racism in the country. And this is causing people to be less likely to want to embrace these types of opportunities. And then the rural environments where we're working, the pushback can be even stronger. So I know we're kind of We are excited to keep pushing this work and pushing this agenda because it is critical to the field and critical to our work and critical to the future of our children. But I also think we'll see an increasing degree of pushback from entities around us possibly even from our own beginning teachers who might be coming from spaces where they're hearing a very different discourse about implicit bias or cultural responsiveness.
That's so that is so frustrating on so many levels. Because, you know, this, these are such uncertain times that we're all living in.
Yeah, it's, it's concerning that these things can be misinterpreted. That's really concerning to me.
So I want to end this on a positive note on and one of the things I always like to ask my guests is to share with us if you have any resources or links or book recommendations, share with me some that you'd like to provide for our listeners. Go ahead, Amy.
The one that I am using in a course the literacy course that is being piloted this fall is culturally responsive teaching in the brain, by irata hammann. It is a wonderful handbook on how to engage students that are culturally and linguistically diverse. That is one that I have really gotten a lot out of.
And as far as a website, if this was not a new website, by any means, though, it did just change its name teaching. Tolerance is now called Learning for justice. That website has is just chock full of resources, from articles to planning documents, we I use a lot of their materials in my courses.
Well, thank you so much for having this conversation together, for bringing you know these really important issues, to light talking about your important research your important project, your unconscious bias and these themes that were discussed today. You know, they're really important conversations to continue to have in the educational field, as well as in broader society and larger society. So thank you, Andrea. Thank you, Lindsay. And thank you, Amy, for spending some time with me today. I really appreciate it.
Thank you. You're welcome. Thank you, you.
I hope that you've enjoyed this discussion on a dash of salt, a space where you'll always find fresh and current discussions on society and learning today. Season with just the right touch of experts in education, and a dash of sociological imagination. Please be sure to like and share this episode. And don't forget to subscribe to a dash of salt on pod bean so that you don't miss the next episode. Thanks so much and we'll chat again soon.