Research Stories

Responding to Bias at School

For teachers and principals, vetted resources to help you prepare for unsettling incidents

Usable Knowledge
April 19, 2017
Photo illustration of hands coming together

With incidents of anti-Semitism spiking this year (including, troublingly, in K-12 schools, according to the Anti-Defamation League), and with other forms of intolerance in the news, what happens if or when there's an incident of bias or hateful speech in your school or district? Do you have a plan? The Making Caring Common initiative at the Harvard Graduate School of Education has a sampling of vetted resources [PDF] that provide a starting point for educators, either proactively or in the moment. The resources (excerpted below) are not meant to be comprehensive, but they offer a foothold and a place to begin.  

This collection is one of several resource lists from MCC; the others focus on social media, sexual orientation and gender identity, and social emotional learning and the Common Core.

Best Practices

Creating an Anti-Bias Classroom
A set of practices from the Anti-Defamation League that K–12 educators can incorporate into their daily routines to foster a respectful and inclusive classroom. Also helpful: these additional anti-bias resources — with classroom tips and teaching strategies — from the ADL.

Speak Up at School
This guide [PDF] from Teaching Tolerance provides strategies for responding to remarks made by students and by other adults and gives guidance for helping students learn to speak up. The guide also focuses on preparing adults to act as models for students.

Race: A Teacher’s Guide
A substantive teaching tool to help middle and high school educators understand and address race and human variation, from the Race Project.

Group Activity

Understanding Stereotypes
A lesson plan [PDF] from Discovery Education that helps students understand how assumptions can lead to stereotypes and unfair judgments about individuals and groups — and how biases affect our lives and our society.

Writing Reflection

What's Your Frame?
A classroom activity from Teaching Tolerance that encourages students to reflect on their individual cultures and histories, their backgrounds, the norms they grew up with, and their values. The goal is to help students enlarge their perspective and recognize diversity of belief and background.

Next Steps

Read and download Making Caring Common’s full resource guide to race, culture, and ethnicity [PDF].

Updated from a previously published article.

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We Want to Hear from You
Our country is polarized: How is that showing up in your school? What are you doing to protect students, confront discrimination, prevent bullying, and foster inclusion? Usable Knowledge would like to hear from you. Join us on Facebook and Twitter, using #OneAllHGSE. Send your advice and resources to uknow@gse.harvard.edu, and we’ll share as much as we can. Read more at One and All.

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Usable Knowledge is a trusted source of insight into what works in education — translating new research into easy-to-use stories and strategies for teachers, parents, K-12 leaders, higher ed professionals, and policymakers. Usable Knowledge is produced at the Harvard Graduate School of Education by Bari Walsh (senior editor) and Leah Shafer (staff writer). Contact us at uknow@gse.harvard.edu.