Tyrell met with the counselor of his new school. He wanted to take honors geometry. His advisor didn’t think he would be ready, even though his grades showed otherwise. She felt it might be too tough for him, and he should not stretch himself too much. This scenario may seem like nothing more than a counselor trying to ensure a student selects the right classes, but for Tyrell, it was just another example of schools not believing in him, even when he showed he could do more.

Sources: neaToday.org, Upjohn Research (A study examined 16,000 U.S. teacher interviews, predicting future educational attainment of their 10th grade students.)

Intentions are often well-meaning, but they can be impacted by what is called implicit bias. Implicit bias can shape both teacher expectations and student performance. This is important to understand because, according to an neaToday.org article, whether or not—or how much—a teacher believes in students and expects them to succeed has been shown to affect how well that student does in school. This is particularly true when it comes to disadvantaged students.

Biases in expectations are generally unintentional and begin early in life—from the media, stereotypes, family beliefs, etc. The good news, though, is that once people are aware of their implicit biases, they can address them.

For instance, educators could ask themselves a few questions to help identify their own implicit bias:

  • Who do I call on in the classroom—and how often?
  • How do I seat or group students?
  • Do I treat everyone the same when it comes to homework, or do I give some a break, because I think they have little chance of getting to college?
  • Do I discipline everyone the same?

The answers to these questions and others can reveal if and where bias may be present. It’s also the first step to improving relationships and helping students grow academically, physically, mentally and socially.

We can all take a similar approach to identifying ways our implicit biases may affect how we interact with colleagues and our clients.

About Education

The tie between education and health is undeniable. The education we receive from the time we are small children through adulthood plays a significant role in our ability to live a healthy life. Education has become one of the clearest indicators of life outcomes. That’s because it is the foundation for a range of skills, such as self-sufficiency, problem-solving and personal control. It’s no surprise that studies have shown that the more education we have, the more likely we are to have better health outcomes—and even live longer.