Fine Tuning Virtual Classrooms for Equality
Wed Nov 16
Past research tells us that teachers, like everyone else, have biases. So what does that look like in virtual classrooms? Is it better or worse? Virtual classrooms have very simple interactions but are highly controllable, too. Could it help us unseat biases or at least help us examine them? To answer these questions and more, researchers studied 1,000 teachers (82.4% were female and 68.5% were White) in virtual classrooms.
They found that teachers were less likely to be biased when there was more information (less ambiguity). Teachers were tasked with evaluating students’ written responses on a screen while a video of the student (randomly selected) explained the work. In this situation:
- Teachers were not biased when grading, in contrast to other studies where only a student’s name was available and teachers ended up grading with a bias.
- Evaluation of mathematical ability was also not very biased by gender or race.
- Recommendations for the gifted programs often went to males, but not necessarily more white than Black males.
- Recommendations for testing for disability skewed heavily towards Black students in schools that were racially diverse, but less in predominantly White schools.
It’s clear that biases and stereotypes are being perpetuated in virtual classrooms, but the study taken with others indicates that we may be able to mitigate inequality by prompting students to provide more information, such as explaining their work. This gives teachers the opportunity to attend to the student’s specific learning needs and avoid relying on stereotypes to fill in the gaps.
And closing gaps is a global goal. In 2015, only 5% of girls said they planned on STEM careers in comparison to 20% of boys in OECD countries. One study concerned with the gender divide examined how masculine classroom design (Star Trek posters, etc.) reduced female enrollment. But even in perfect classrooms, tired instructors will fall upon stereotypes that require less thinking without intending to. For the U.S., this is particularly challenging with the teacher shortage (and low wages and burnout).
BELOW THE FOLD BYTES
India Is Pushing Unproven, Possibly Dangerous Medicine
While 40% of modern pharmaceuticals (including aspirin) are derived from natural/traditional medicine, the kind Modi’s administration is pushing to further their ideological and economic agenda is worrying. There have been claims by the ex-Minister of State for Health that cow urine (an Ayurvedic medicinal ingredient) is a side-effect-free cancer treatment without any supporting evidence. Ayurvedic medicine is ancient and there’s much to be adopted and celebrated from it, but such unsubstantiated claims and misinformation have already turned deadly. One 2019 study of alcoholic hepatitis patients found that only 18% of patients using alternative medicines survived to 6 months. In comparison, 52% of standard care patients did.
Colorado Legalizes Therapeutic Psychedelics
Colorado is the second state to legalize psychedelics (Oregon was first). Magic mushrooms' compounds can now be used in therapeutic settings where licensed professionals can supervise. This could help many with mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction. Opponents argued that the scant science and lack of approved therapies meant the policy was premature. Other opponents of the measure, who otherwise advocate for the use of psychedelics therapeutically, were suspicious of the big money at play. Over $5M was raised for the campaign and much of it came from just two organizations backed by big business names such as the founders of TOMS and GoDaddy. The opponents raised $51,000.
🎬 Action of the Week
Care to do a little bias digging? Take an implicit bias test and learn more about implicit biases with Project Implicit, a nonprofit, international collaborative of scientists and researchers interested in implicit social cognition.
THIS WEEK'S SOURCES
- The Conversation: Math Teachers' Bias in Virtual Classrooms 2 days old | 2 minutes long
- Gender Action Portal: Math Teachers’ Implicit Bias Widens Gap 3 years old | 1 minutes long
- Science Direct: Teacher Bias in Virtual Classrooms 5 months old | 40 minutes long
- Edweek: Teachers as Biased as Everyone Else 2 years old | 6 minutes long
- Bloomberg: Great Teacher Resignation 2 months old | 3 minutes long
ASCII-ING ABOUT THE NEWS
n / `\ (___:) """" || || )) // (( \\ )) || psylocybe (liberty-cap) hallucinogenic mushroom (western-Europe) 26oct98 CJRandall
Chill pills are so last decade.
Art Credit: CJRandall, ASCII.co.uk