Bias and the Learning Environment: Making the Invisible Visible

By Fiona Jewell.

Published by The International Journal of Diversity in Education

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: March 14, 2014 $US5.00

This paper investigates the presence and effects of conscious and unconscious bias in diverse learning environments drawing upon current initiatives across various industry sectors within Australia. Unconscious bias influences the way people perceive gender, ethnicity, religion, youth, age, disability, sexuality, cultural diversity, social class, demeanour, height/ weight and general appearance. ( Educational institutions as an environment for establishing self and group identities have a profound impact on the valuing of diversity. ‘Educational systems have been profoundly troubled by complexity, diversity, and difference’ (Luke, et al., 2010, p ix) and from this difference and notions of ‘otherness’ (Matthews and Sidhu 2005, Bhabha, 1990) subliminal delineations and bias are formed between individuals and groups. In 1988, Delpit asserted, “Liberal educators believe themselves to be operating with good intentions, but these good intentions are only conscious delusions about their unconscious motives.”(Delpit, 1988) Most people have the unspoken belief that ‘good people do not discriminate’ (Dovidio and Gaertner 2005 p. 2). This belief confuses intent with outcome. An application of multi-industry experience and analysis of research on unconscious bias indicates the opposite: good people do discriminate.

Keywords: Unconscious bias, Diversity, Cultural Competence, Professional Development

The International Journal of Diversity in Education, Volume 13, Issue 2, March 2014, pp.91-104. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: March 14, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 197.465KB)).

Fiona Jewell

Director, Diversity by Design Pty Ltd, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Fiona Jewell is an instructional designer, facilitator and guest speaker for diversity initiatives in international educational, manufacturing, chemicals and mining, construction organisations, multicultural service providers, government and local council. While senior consultant at Diversity@Work she delivered programs to professionals in Australia, North and South America, Europe and Asia. Her educational expertise includes adult, tertiary, secondary, Indigenous culture and language/cultural studies. She also provides individual corporate coaching in work place diversity management to provide more effective management of diverse teams.