Better Than Our Biases: Using Psychological Research to Inform Our Approach to Inclusive, Effective Feedback

58 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2021 Last revised: 10 May 2021

See all articles by Anne Gordon

Anne Gordon

Duke University School of Law

Date Written: February 1, 2021

Abstract

As teaching faculty, we are obligated to create an inclusive learning environment for all students. When we fail to be thoughtful about our own bias, our teaching suffers – and students from under-represented backgrounds are left behind. This paper draws on legal, pedagogical, and psychological research to create a practical guide for clinical teaching faculty in understanding, examining, and mitigating our own biases, so that we may better teach and support our students. First, I discuss two kinds of bias that interfere with our decision-making and behavior: cognitive biases (such as confirmation bias, primacy and recency effects, and the halo effect) and implicit biases (stereotype and attitude-based), that arise from living in our culture. Second, I explain how our biases negatively affect our students: both through the stereotype threat that students experience when interacting with biased teachers, and by our own failure to evaluate and give feedback appropriately, which in turn interferes with our students’ learning and future opportunities. The final section of this paper details practical steps for reducing our bias, including engaging in long-term debiasing, reducing the conditions that make us prone to bias (such as times of cognitive fatigue), and adopting processes that will keep us from falling back on our biases, such as the use of rubrics. Acknowledging and mitigating our biases is possible, but we must make a concerted effort to do so in order to live up to our obligations to our students and our profession.

Keywords: bias, teaching, cognitive, implicit, inclusive, equity, pedagogy, mindfulness, rubrics

Suggested Citation

Gordon, Anne, Better Than Our Biases: Using Psychological Research to Inform Our Approach to Inclusive, Effective Feedback (February 1, 2021). 27 Clinical Law Review 195 (2021), Duke Law School Public Law & Legal Theory Series No. 2021-28, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3777546

Anne Gordon (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

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