"We scaffold student lessons so they can work their way up to the harder stuff. The key is to build up the student’s knowledge base, then work on skills."
Biases can be sneaky. We all have them, but sometimes recognizing them can be challenging.
Dr. Meghan McCoy, a part-time faculty member in the Department of Psychology, and manager of programs for BSU’s Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC), said people of all ages can benefit from learning how biases arise and how to best deal with them.
“The need for education about bias and diversity is mainly because we spend too little time around people that are different from us,” she said. “Our experiences are limited, and it leads to problematic ways of interacting with each other.”
Dr. McCoy has developed bias and diversity curricula for middle and high school students, and training in those areas for K-12 teachers. The program is being piloted this semester in 10 local school districts, and there’s a waiting list of more than 20 others interested in the training.
According to Dr. McCoy, there are five major types of bias: race, religion, sexual orientation, ability or disability, and weight. She also addresses socio-economic biases.
Dr. McCoy has developed five lesson plans each for middle and high school students, in addition to three-hour workshops for faculty. The goal is to improve cultural sensitivity, and deepen understanding and acceptance of diversity. Educators will learn how to address bias with students and how to handle bias-related occurrences in the classroom or school.
“We scaffold student lessons so they can work their way up to the harder stuff,”she said. “The key is to build up the student’s knowledge base, then work on skills.”
Dr. McCoy earned a Master of Education in counselor education from Bridgewater State in 2009. Bias and diversity are areas in which she has been interested since her early years, triggered by the reading of Mildred Taylor’s series of books about an African-American girl who learns the hard lessons of racism while growing up in Mississippi. Dr. McCoy’s work with MARC and as a part-time faculty member (and recent recipient of BSU’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Part-Time Teaching), combined with the birth earlier this year of her son, Harlow, has strengthened her belief that people, both young and old, need to be taught how to live and relate in a society rich with diversity.
“Ideas about equality began forming when I was young and have been drivers in much of my life,” she said. “But as a new mom of a white male, it has become a daily goal to learn more, create change and make sure my son grows to be a compassionate, aware and active white man. I plan to do this through my work, my parenting and in my classroom.”
Among the goals of Dr. McCoy’s bias and diversity training are to:
- examine how one’s cultural self impacts his or her work and experiences
- bring to light the biases that exist in disciplinary actions, curriculum and educational policy
- define implicit bias and explore the role of such bias in educational settings
- introduce research about culturally relevant practices
- offer practical tools and skills for addressing personal and systemic bias in education
- assist teachers and students in approaching difficult conversations in the classroom and beyond
- educate students about the benefits of recognizing and addressing bias