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Prejudiced against your own students? Teachers’ unconscious bias

lATEFL 2016
Birmingham Conference Selections
50th International Conference
13-16 April 2016
Edited by Tania Pattison
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• Part o f teaching students to become truly global citizens involves instilling the val^
ues o f tolerance and acceptance, along with a recognition o f linguistic and cultural
• W e should all be aware of our tendencies to make assumptions a bout others based
on their accents, names, backgrounds, and so onand through being conscious o f
this, attempt to resist it.
• ELT materials have come a long way in the last 2 0 years, but the m ove for greater
representation and acceptance o f diversity is a journey rather than a destination,
and it*s a journey we are all still on.
Giles, H. and P. Smith. 1979. Accommodation theory: optimal levels of convergence’ in H.
Giles and R. N. St. Clair (eds.). Language and Social Psychology. Baltimore: Basil Blackwell.
Osier, A. and H. Starkey. 2010. Teachers and Human Rights Education. Lon don: Trentham
Pennycook, A. 1992. Linguistic Imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Prodromou, L. 2010. English as a Lingua Franca: A Corpus-Based Anaylsis. London:
Chapter 4: Working towards indu sivity in EL T
4.4 Prejudiced against your own students? Teachers' unconscious
A ll H. A l-H oo rie N ottingham University, UK and T he English L an gu age In stitute ,
Jubail Industrial C ity S audi Arabia
Is it possible that you are prejudiced? For many people this is an unnerving question.
Especially teachers. In this modern world, almost everybody would like to thin k
of themselves as holding egalitarian views. However, unconscious biases can exist
alongside conscious impartiality.
In this paper, I will first briefly describe the idea behind implicit attitud es and then
summarise three empirical studies on the effect o f implicit attitudes on perception
and behaviour. Finally, I will consider the relevance o f these findings to the language
Im plicit attitu de s
The term ‘implicit attitudes’ refers to unconscious biases. These biases could be
related to different domains, such as gender, race, social class and religious affiliation.
As an illustration, if you ask somebody whether women should be entitled to have
professional careers, that person might stare blankly at you, wondering w hether yo u
are in the right cenmry. However, psychological research has shown that beneath
this egalitarian surface, it is still possible to have a more gloomy view. This idea has
support from neuroscience research, which shows that explicit and implic it attitudes
are related to different regions in the brain.
Three em pirical studies
In one study, Hugenberg and Bodenhausen (2003) showed their participants feces of
White or Black persons on a computer screen. The feces changed slowly from angry
to happy or vice versa. The participants were instructed to click a button once th^
perceived a change in the expression of the fece they were looking at. The researchers
also collected the participants’ explicit racial attitudes (through a questionnaire) and
implicit attitudes (through a reaction-time psychological test). The results showed
that implicit, but not explicit, prejudice was associated with greater readiness to
detect anger in Black, but not White, feces. The researchers conclude that ^European
Americans high in implicit racial prejudice are biased to perceive threatening affect in
Black but not White faces, suggesting that the deleterious effects o f stereotypes may
take hold extremely early in social interaction (2003: 640).
In a second study. Lynch (2010) examined humour. Lynch asked his participants
to watch a standup comedy routine performed by Bill Burr. The jokes that the
comedian told had some racial and gendered overtones. The researcher videotaped
the participants while they were watching the show and examined the ‘Duchenne
smile’, which can be used to determine whether laughter is genuine or not because
it is hard to feke. The results showed that those with implicit racial bias laughed at
racial jokes while those with implicit gender bias laughed at gendered jokes. Lynch
concluded that the result support ‘the folk psychological belief that we find things
fim ny because we think they are true’ (2010: l4l).
In a third study. Green et oL (2007) examined the implicit attimdes of real-life
doctors. At the explicit level, the doctors did not show any preference for either
White or Black patients, which is what we expect from professional physicians. At
the implicit level, however, the researchers did find implicit preference for Whites in
terms o f perceptions of cooperativeness. More disturbingly, the higher the pro-White
bias, the higher the likelihood that the doctors prescribed to White (but not Black)
patients the correct medical procedure (thrombolysis for myocardial infiu*ction in this
case). The researchers concluded that ‘physicians’ unconscious biases may contribute
to racial/ethnic disparities in use of medical procedures’ (2007: 1,231).
A pp lic at ions in the lan guage class
It is not hard to see how these findings can be relevant to the classroom. If doctors,
whose decisions can be a matter of life and death, can be implicidy influenced by
aspects like race and perceived level of cooperativeness o f difference races, then
teachers might be in the same boat. If teachers have implicit attitudes that students
from a certain minority are less cooperative—especially boys—then this implicit
attitude might be reflected in the teacher’s day-to-day behaviour in the classroom.
This behaviour may in turn lead to self-fulfilling prophesies, thus causing a downward
spiral of events.
On a more optimistic note, this research does not suggest that people are just
hopeless when it comes to their implicit attitudes. Conscious knowledge of a potentially
negative attitude can help one counteract it. In the Green e t aL study on medical
doctors, for example, the researchers had one group of doctors who were informed
Prejudiced against your own students? Teachers' unconscious bias
in advance of their potential implicit bias. This knowledge helped to neutralise their
implicit attitudes. As the saying goes, knowledge is power.
Green, A. R., D. R, Carney, D. J. Pallin, L. H. Ngo, K. L. Raymond, L. I. lezzoni and M . R.
Banaji. 2007. Tmplicit bias among physicians and its prediction of thrombolysis decisions
for black and white patients’. Journal o f General Internal M edicine 22/9i 12318.
Hugenberg, K. and G, V. Bodenhausen. 2003. ‘Facing prejudice: Implicit prejudice and the
perception of facial threat’. Psychobgical Science 14/6: 6403.
Lynch, R. 2010. ‘It’s funny because we think it’s true: Laughter is augmented by im plicit
preferences’. Evolution and Human Behavior 5\!2i 141—8,
Chapter 4: W orking cowards in clusivity in ELT
4 .5 Supporting learners with English as an Additional Langua ge in
London schools
Jill Co lem an Th e B ell Foun datio n, C ambridge, U K
The contex t
There are over a million 5- 18 year olds in UK schools who are speakers o f oth er
languages, and few concessions are made to the pupils with po or o r non-existent
English. They are expected to follow the National Curriculum while learning the
language in which it is delivered. The dedicated funding which existed to sup port
these pupils has been subject to financial cutbacks in recent years.
The pro jec t
I described a parmership between the Bell Foundation, a charity with a five-year
programme to improve educational outcomes for children in the U K with English as
an Additional Language (EAL) and Renaisi, a social enterprise employin g Bilingu al
Advisers (RBAs) who work in London schools, offering one-to-one mentoring,
interpreting and signposting, and building relationships between schools a nd families.
Recruited mainly on the strength of their languages and people skills how ever, these
RBAs had not received much classroom practitioner training.
This project sought to address through five workshops demonstrating practical
activities the RBAs could use with pupils and their parents to develop th e skills
required to speak, listen, read and write in English, and to improve v ocabula ry and
grammar knowledge. We explored ideas on the EAL Nexus website (https://eal., an excellent resource m anaged by
The Bell Foundation. Part of each workshop was devoted to the exploration o f specific
problems and possible solutions. Each participant produced a portfolio describing the
approaches they piloted with one or some o f their learners and the progress made.
So me po siti ve outcom es
One success story involved a 15-year-old Bangladeshi pupil, born in the U K but
speaking Bengali at home. Having only a poor level of academic English and therefore
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Schools for the Future Europe brings together a team of leading academics, policy makers and education professionals to explore the emergence, development and application of European education policy up to the 2009 Lisbon Treaty and beyond. The book charts the historical development of a Europe-wide education policy, and examines how that policy has sought to address such issues as European citizenship, human rights and bilingual schooling. Taking as examples the intended future extension of the European Schools and the European Baccalaureate, and a case study of work towards the first British European Academy or Free School at Culham, UK, the book critically explores the interplay of EU action programmes, policy and rhetoric on secondary education. In the final section, the editors draw on the insights of the previous chapters to outline an achievable programme for the future development of education policy structures and practice in schools for Europe.
Four studies tested the hypothesis that prejudice, social categorization, and the perception of facial emotion are deeply intertwined. Specifically, I hypothesized that individuals who possess implicit anti-Black attitudes would be relatively more likely to perceive hostile affect on Black faces. Studies 1 and 2 showed that, under conditions of affective ambiguity, implicit prejudice is associated with an increased tendency to see hostility in Black (as compared to White) targets. To test this hypothesis, a facial emotion change detection task was employed in which participants detected the offset or onset of facial anger in both Black and White targets. As predicted, implicit (but not explicit) prejudice was associated with a greater readiness to perceive anger in Black faces. Prejudice was unrelated to perceptions of anger in matched White faces. Studies 3 and 4 showed that, under conditions of ambiguous ethnicity, implicit prejudice is associated with a tendency to categorize hostile (as compared to happy) ethnically ambiguous faces as African American. Support was found for this hypothesis using both a speeded dichotomous categorization task and a more deliberative rating scale task. Additionally, identical effects emerge regardless of whether prejudice is measured a week before or immediately after the critical perceptual tasks. As predicted, implicit (but not explicit) prejudice was related to increased sensitivity to the targets' facial expressions, regardless of whether prejudice was measured after or before the ethnicity categorizations were made. Taken together, these findings indicate that perception of emotion in faces is deeply connected with both the implicit attitudes of the perceiver and the social category of the target. It seems that in situations of ambiguity, prejudice can interact with either perceived emotion or target ethnicity to disambiguate otherwise ambiguous social cues. Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 64-04, Section: B, page: 1941. Adviser: Galen V. Bodenhausen. Thesis (Ph.D.)--Northwestern University, 2003.
1. Introduction 2. Idiomatic fluency 3. Mainstream and ELF-oriented approaches to spoken language 4. Analysis of conversational data 5. Corpus methodology 6. Concordance analysis in L1 and L2 spoken corpora 7. Small words in the case of L1 users 8. Small words in the case of L2 users 9. Minimal idiomatic units in an L1 corpus 10. Literal, metaphorical and pragmatic use in the SUE corpus 11. Creative idiomaticity 12. Conclusion - implications.
Linguistic Imperialism
  • A Pennycook
Pennycook, A. 1992. Linguistic Imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Tmplicit bias among physicians and its prediction of thrombolysis decisions for black and white patients
  • A R Green
  • D R Carney
  • D J Pallin
  • L H Ngo
  • K L Raymond
  • L I Lezzoni
  • M R Banaji
Green, A. R., D. R, Carney, D. J. Pallin, L. H. Ngo, K. L. Raymond, L. I. lezzoni and M. R. Banaji. 2007. Tmplicit bias among physicians and its prediction of thrombolysis decisions for black and white patients'. Journal o f General Internal M edicine 22/9i 1231-8.
It's funny because we think it's true: Laughter is augm ented b y im p licit preferences'. Evolution and Human Behavior 5\!2i 141-8
  • R Lynch
Lynch, R. 2010. 'It's funny because we think it's true: Laughter is augm ented b y im p licit preferences'. Evolution and Human Behavior 5\!2i 141-8, Chapter 4: W orking cowards inclusivity in ELT