What is Educational Bias?- Definition & Types

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  • 0:01 What Is Education Bias?
  • 0:42 Types of Education Bias
  • 4:03 Finding Educational Bias
  • 5:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

A sad fact of life is that, sometimes, not all people are treated the same. This happens everywhere, even in educational settings. What does this look like and where does it happen? Complete this lesson to learn about bias in education.

What Is Educational Bias?

A bias is a type of prejudice against a person, event, situation, or group. In simple terms, it's when a person or group of people is treated unfairly. You're probably not even aware of the bias that happens in our everyday lives. We see bias in the media, medicine, and even in education.

Sometimes bias occurs intentionally, but often, people form biased opinions and attitudes without being aware of doing so, which is called an unconscious bias. How does this look in education? Let's look at Hoffman Elementary, an imaginary school struggling with educational bias, which is when a group of students is discriminated against in an educational setting.

Types of Education Bias

Educational settings have several factors that naturally lend themselves to opportunities for bias - intentional or not. Hoffman Elementary is no exception. Hoffman Elementary's students are of mixed gender, culture, economics, and ethnicity. Because of the variety of students and backgrounds and a lack of educator awareness at Hoffman Elementary, many different educational biases occur in its classrooms.

Let's take a look at the different types more closely:

Gender Bias

The first type of bias is gender bias, which is when teachers treat one gender differently than another. Teachers at Hoffman Elementary will tell you they try to treat all students the same - male or female. However, there's a lot of evidence that shows girls and boys are not being given the same educational opportunities. Did you ever have a teacher who was easier on the girls, but gave the boys more grief? Or, maybe the boys got a longer recess because they had more energy. Did the girls clean up the classroom, while the boys lifted heavy boxes? These are all examples of gender bias.

This occurs in instruction, such as when boys are assumed to perform more strongly in math or girls in reading. Teachers also show educational bias in gender roles by allowing more boisterous behaviors from boys than girls or expecting girls to turn in homework more consistently. Teachers also often praise and criticize boys differently than girls, saying 'Good job' to a male student and 'You can do better' to a female.

Cultural Bias

Another type of bias is cultural bias, which is treating people differently based on their cultural background. Hoffman Elementary has several different cultures represented. Students bring a rich cultural background to school with them and hope to be accepted and have their uniqueness honored. Though most teachers do a great job of caring for and providing supportive learning environments for all their students, the educational system itself can be set up for cultural bias.

You may not even be aware of the existence of cultural bias in the classroom, but take a closer look at those textbooks and instructional materials. Though a classroom reflects many different cultures, most books and reading material reflect the majority culture. Social studies texts sometimes offer a misrepresented or slanted view of historical events, such as in the portrayal of the Civil War or westward expansion. Even questions on standardized tests can be culturally biased in the same way by asking questions that are only geared to the mainstream audience.

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