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Addressing Implicit Bias and Barriers to Accurate Assessment

Addressing Implicit Bias and Barriers to Accurate Assessment

Implicit bias is the set of unconscious stereotypes, attitudes, and reactions individuals have in response to specific categories of people or groups. The unconscious nature of these responses points to a psychological divergence of experience that directly affects interactions between teachers or assessors and students. Assessors and educators must understand the concept of implicit bias and its negative effect on the assessment and learning situation. With critical, honest reflection, you can learn to recognize implicit biases and work on addressing the barriers they create when administering the Tests of Dyslexia (TOD™) assessment.

Defining Implicit Bias in Education and Assessment

Implicit bias differs from explicit in its automatic character; while implicit bias is unconscious, the traditional notion of bias is explicit, wherein individuals are cognizant of their prejudices. Examples of implicit bias in educational settings include assuming that:

  • Certain social groups or backgrounds have predetermined intellectual capacities
  • Students with particular accents are automatically weak writers
  • Substandard reading or writing skills mean a lack of intellectual ability.
  • Struggling students know how and when to ask for help

Understanding the Negative Consequences of Bias

Any time an assessor or educator harbors assumptions about students’ learning abilities or behaviors, whether implicitly or explicitly, they undermine their effectiveness and possibly impede student development. Part of this issue is the emotional consequence of implicit bias on student responses to learning and assessment because it inhibits their desire to express themselves. Crucially, implicit bias affects assessment quality and validity, negatively affecting future learning outcomes.

For instance, implicit bias in dyslexia assessment may incorrectly assign an Individualized Education Program label to a learner whose first language is not English. While IEPs offer various essential supports for learners who need them, they also lead to reduced academic expectations from parents and teachers and lower self-esteem for students.

Addressing Implicit Bias in Assessment

The most critical first step in dealing with implicit bias in assessment is to conduct a clear-eyed self-assessment. The above examples serve as a starting point for self-reflection, a practice vital to all educational practitioners. For a more thorough self-evaluation, Harvard University’s  Project Implicit provides numerous implicit bias assessments that will challenge your self-perception and encourage deeper contemplation about the problem of bias.

Other strategies for mitigating the effects of implicit bias in assessment and education involve cultivating inclusive environments and engaging in conversation with various stakeholders and objective observers.

  • Verify that assessments are culturally responsive: They should be linguistically, culturally, and individually appropriate for students.
  • Use comprehensive and holistic assessments: Choose a variety of assessments that look at the whole child in terms of strengths, growth areas, progress and development, and how multiple learning domains relate to one another. Portfolio assessments are a holistic and comprehensive option.
  • Solicit observation and feedback: Invite peers or colleagues to observe your TOD assessment practices and administration and provide honest, detailed feedback.

Culturally responsive and comprehensive assessment practices and genuine self-reflection create a supportive atmosphere and promote more accurate assessment results. Students will engage more fully when assessors account for students’ linguistic and cultural experiences. Learn how to help kids in school using WPS’s dyslexia assessment resources and tools.