Faculty reflected on unconscious biases in the classroom and its effects on students during a “How to Be Anti-Racist” workshop on Tuesday.
Terri Patchen, a professor in the College of Education, and Edward Robinson, a lecturer in African American studies, led the workshop with Cal State Fullerton’s Faculty Development Center.
“After the murder of George Floyd, we just saw a big swell of interest, not necessarily interested, but asking about books, resources and stuff as well,” Robinson said.
The workshop enrollment usually maxed out around 20 participants, but enrollment doubled this time around, Patchen said.
Robinson said that unconscious biases can take place when a professor unconsciously categorizes a student based on their clothes, speech or other factors.
Susan Sy, a psychology professor, shared her own experience with unconscious bias when trying to implement Proctorio into her classroom and not realizing the effect it had on certain students. Particularly, students without a quiet, empty place to take exams at home.
“It’s not necessarily directly related to race, but it is an unconscious bias that may be indirectly related to it,” Sy said.
The workshop provided faculty with active steps toward becoming anti-racist educators, and highlighted the ways in which faculty can own up to their own biases, connect to other people’s perspectives and commit to making a change.
Patchen said that one change that can be implemented is through the syllabus.
“There’s a lot of power and possibility in the syllabus,” Patchen said. “You can immediately include a statement on diversity and inclusion on your syllabus.”
Some of this inclusion extends beyond setting an anti-racist agenda on the first day of class and extends into respecting the way that students represent themselves, Robinson said.
He added that supporting correct ethnic terminology and preferred pronouns in the classroom showed his students that he was willing to learn and improve his understanding of inclusion.
Professors and faculty were then posed with the question of how they could foster equitable outcomes in their syllabi.
Katherine Bono, a professor and department chair for child and adolescent studies, said that most of what professionals in the child development field know about children is based on research done on white children, and although there is still some research based on children from other ethnic backgrounds, the imbalance remains.
Bono told faculty that she understood that in the field of childhood development there were cultural inequities and explained how she could better clarify that in her syllabus.
Patchen and Robinson encouraged faculty to create transparency behind assignments.
“I think the numbers of faculty who participated in this workshop today is a testament to the attention and commitment that faculty have to developing and understanding and a capacity to implement anti-racist practices into their courses,” Patchen said.