Seven types of bias teachers are vulnerable to

Status Quo Bias

Known as keeping things as they should be or have always been, at best this provides familiarity, at worst, complacency against any form of change. Where any change is seen as a loss, the emotive state of status quo bias can affect decision-making on a grand scale.

Confirmation Bias

This is the tendency to favour, recall or interpret information in a manner which confirms our own beliefs. This can become more extreme and entrenched if someone is defending their opinion, even when greeted with the same information as another party. That troublesome lower group are being taught again, and when one student calls out, it can psychologically reinforce the opinion one might have of that group, rather than factoring in a multitude of environmental issues which might have caused this behaviour. Confirmation bias is pervasive in schools, and its impact cannot be underestimated.

Macabre Constant

This is a relatively new term, explored by André Antibi, which suggested that teachers and lecturers unconsciously assumed three groups of ability within any group — high, medium and low, no matter what the actual ability of the group themselves. This creates an artificial failure of students, carried out by the adjustment of tests to filter to these groups rather than testing knowledge and skills.

Publication Bias

We are largely hungry animals for new information, ideas and practices as teachers, but would be wise to view our diet of literature using the lens of publication bias. There is a certain diet which publishers and course providers feed, and this is based on interest as well as need, thus perpetuating publication bias. Take as an example the term Outstanding. Introduced by OFSTED in 2009 as the highest of its four Inspection categories in England, this word quickly grew in popularity.

Cognitive Bias

This is perhaps the most commonly-known types of bias, demonstrated in patterns of illogical judgement, based around an perception of social reality. In reality, it is the brain’s way of using rules of thumb to make decisions and inform our life. In the book Freakonomics for example, it was shown that swimming pools killed more children in the US than handguns. This is at odds with our available information, assumptions (pools are good, guns are bad), and even the lack of statistical data to support this argument available to us. The statement has an impact precisely due to our cognitive biases toward both pools and guns. Cognitive Bias covers a much wider area, taking into account many of the areas covered in this section, but can be seen as the umbrella term for irrationality. It is also notoriously difficult to correct, especially in view of the range of addictions supported by irrational thoughts. One area of exploration in cognitive psychology has had the most success when those with a cognitive bias are held fully accountable for their attributions.

Observer Bias

No overview of bias in education would be complete without examination of the observer bias, and this is included as an important bias to be aware of in our surroundings rather than a politicised rant against observation of teachers or students in the classroom (where, interestingly, one seems legitimate and the other morally wrong).

Attribution Bias

This is a common bias within Education, and is essentially a judgement made around someone based our own beliefs or assumptions. Those situations where we are frustrated by someone’s behaviour because we wouldn’t do it that way is a classic example of attribution bias.

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Father Teacher Writer Speaker. Passionate: inventive: creative. Indefatigably Cheerful!

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Stephen Lockyer

Stephen Lockyer

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Father Teacher Writer Speaker. Passionate: inventive: creative. Indefatigably Cheerful!