Thursday, March 05, 2015

Making Lemonade

On Tuesday I wrote about the first three hours, of nine total, of "unconscious bias" training we had at school.  Imagine my surprise at the coincidence of seeing a post on the same topic over at Joanne's today.

After reading that post I got to thinking--I used to draw numbers out of a bucket to call on students, that way everyone has an equal chance.  Some of us teachers were talking at break today and we agreed that it's not uncommon to "engage with students who engage with us"--in other words, we do tend to call on kids who participate, who raise their hands, even those who just talk to us.  I can see that, and I see that it does leave certain students left out.  Yes, they may want to be left out, but that doesn't mean they should be.  Starting today, I went back to drawing numbers out of the bucket.  Having to attend these trainings may be as unpleasant as sucking lemons, but doing so, combined with the post at Joanne's, reminded me that I could do a better job of engaging with all students.  I'm making lemonade.

I mentioned that at our department meeting today.  Another teacher said "that's exactly what we're trained not to do" in some other program in which she participates.  The logic there is that kids who are called on when they don't want to be get stressed too much, especially if they're shy anyway. 

As you can see, you can't win for losing!

So I'm going to stick with drawing numbers out of the bucket and thus giving each student an equal chance of being called upon.  I can hardly wait to be told that somehow I'm not respecting someone's race or religion or whatever.  With some people you're always an -ist.


maxutils said...

I'm of two minds on this. If the student should be able to give some sort of answer based on material they should be accountable for … sure, call randomly. But in a math class frequently you are asking about things which they have not yet been taught … and therefore, you're putting them on the spot and causing stress. My solution has always been wait time … ask the question, the usual hand goes up, you nod towards them, and then see if anyone else wants to make a stab at it. It's not black and white.

Darren said...

Actually, I frequently ask about things that *have* been taught. Funny, that.

maxutils said...

Different styles, my friend … but you just re-enforced my point. I build my redundancy in elsewhere.

Auntie Ann said...

As always, there's an app for that:

Anonymous said...

It's very difficult to fight unconscious bias. It's... unconscious. But it exists, and you can certainly put procedures in place which will minimize it. And there are some pretty straightfoward tactics which work.

The classic example comes from professional orchestra folks, who swore up and down they were just hiring on talent. As it turned out, when they started listening to auditions behind a screen (so they couldn't see gender or race) that wasn't really true: they started hiring very different groups of folks.

Those folks weren't lying. When they said they thought they were hiring on talent, it was probably true--to them. It's just that they were unconsciously biased by their expectations, so that they selectively perceived what they wanted to hear. When you put up the curtain you took away the bias, so they hired based only on musical ability.

If you want to avoid that, you should "blind" as much as you possibly can. Quizzes. Homework. Tests. Some schools do well by assigning a random 4 digit # at the beginning of class, and asking students to ID only by that #: that way you can track progression "by student" without knowing who it is.

You should also track who you call on. You may be one of those rare folks who does so equally. Or you may be one of those more common folks who (like the conductors) thinks that they do so equally, but looks at their notes ta the end of the semester and realizes that they were wrong.

Darren said...

I grade tests, quizzes, etc, without looking at the student's name as much as possible. With multiple page tests I grade all the Page 1's first, then all the page 2's, etc--I don't even get to see the name after the first page. This way not only is my grading standard consistent (this mistake is -1, that mistake is -2) but my personal feelings about the students can't possibly come into play because I don't even know whose paper I'm grading.

I don't do that because I think I'd grade this kid's paper differently than that kid's, I do it so that there's never even a suggestion that I'd do that. And it makes the grading go faster :)

Ellen K said...

If I graded "blind" then every single one of my special ed students would fail because grading "blind" would require that the teacher never takes individual ability into consideration. While this program says we're supposed to treat everyone the same, the Federal law says we're supposed to teach some groups differently. Consequently most of us are already or will very soon be faced with documentation that runs pages per students in the quest for "data" that supports the hypothesis. I retire in three years. Although I love teaching and working with young people, the nonsense such as this is making it where I am not just counting the weeks, I am counting the days.

maxutils said...

Ellen k… which federal law is that?