Research ArticleSOCIAL SCIENCES

When policy and psychology meet: Mitigating the consequences of bias in schools

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Science Advances  16 Oct 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 42, eaba9479
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba9479
  • Fig. 1 Consequences of bias on discipline decisions without or with structural and psychological approaches for lasting change.

    (A) Structural sources induce implicit and explicit bias among teachers. Structural conduits (the inability to get students’ perspectives) and mindset conduits (fixed beliefs about students and relationships) allow bias to breed troublemaker labeling and pattern prediction, leading to discipline disparities and causing a negative cycle. (B) Typical interventions attempt to shift discipline outcomes by mitigating bias itself. However, because structural sources of bias are overwhelmingly powerful and mechanisms by which bias acts are not affected, discipline outcomes do not shift, and the negative cycle continues. (C) The proposed model accepts that exposure to bias can be stable and instead intervenes to shift the structures and mindsets through which bias acts. It reduces discipline disparities, which further improves structures and mindsets, creating a virtuous cycle.

  • Fig. 2 Experiments 1 and 2 effects on troublemaker labeling and discipline severity.

    Labels are as follows: experiment 1 (Growth, student growth treatment; Tech, technology control; Journal, journaling control; Perspective, student perspective treatment) and experiment 2 (Control, journaling control, technology control, and relationship-fixed control; Treatment, student perspective, student growth, and relationship growth; Black, student named Darnell; White, student named Greg). The error bars signify 95% CIs.

  • Table 1 Sequential description of procedures for experiment 2.

    TreatmentControl
    Intervention 1Read article and
    answer questions that
    encourage
    endorsement of
    student growth
    Read article and
    answer questions that
    encourage
    endorsement of
    student technology
    use
    Intervention 2Read article and
    answer questions that
    encourage
    endorsement of
    relationship growth
    Read article and
    answer questions
    about relationships
    being fixed
    Prime 1Read about a misbehavior incident involving
    either a White (Greg) or Black (Darnell) student
    (2b) or simply involving a Black student (2a)
    Data collection 1Answer questions regarding how troubled
    they feel about the student’s behavior, how
    severely they would discipline the student, etc.
    Intervention 3Imagine and answer
    questions about
    getting student’s
    perspective (talking
    to him and finding
    out he has worried
    about belonging at
    school)
    Imagine and answer
    questions about
    writing in a journal
    Prime 2After being told to imagine 3 days have
    passed, read about a second misbehavior
    incident involving the same student as
    depicted in prime 1
    Data collection 2Answer questions regarding how troubled
    they feel about the student’s behavior, how
    severely they would discipline the student, etc.
  • Table 2 List of independent and dependent variables across experiments.

    Experiment
    12a2b
    Interventions received by
    Treatment groupControl group
    Student perspectiveJournal writing
    Student growthTechnology-engagement
    Relationship growthRelationship-fixed
    Student races studied
    Black (i.e., named Darnell or DeShawn)
    White (i.e., named Greg)
    Hypothesized outcomes
    Feeling troubled by student’s conduct↓
    Discipline severity↓
    Troublemaker labeling↓
    Pattern prediction↓
    Strength of relationship with student↑
    Predicting student will be suspended in the future↓
    Feeling personal responsibility for student’s conduct↑
  • Table 3 Sample comparison between experiment 2 sample and actual K-12 workforce in the United States.

    Sample comparison between experiment 2 sample and actual K-12 workforce in the United States..

    CharacteristicExperiment 2
    sample
    K-12 teacher
    workforce
    Mean age4142
    Mean years of
    experience
    1314
    Percent female68%77%
    Percent White88%80%
    Percent Hispanic5%9%
    Percent Black5%7%
    Percent Asian3%2%

Supplementary Materials

  • Supplementary Materials

    When policy and psychology meet: Mitigating the consequences of bias in schools

    Jason A. Okonofua, Amanda D. Perez, Sean Darling-Hammond

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    • Tables S1 to S3

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