Moral Judgements and Bias

Macdonald and Mellor-Clark state that: “Human nature confers a vulnerability to biases, blind spots, and self-enhancing illusions, which frequently distort our capacity to make rational sense of ourselves and our environment” (19).

It would be amazing to believe that we approach our students and families without judgement or bias, but research shows that this is not the case. School professionals must process an immense amount of information which could have an impact on the students they support. We hold information on previous schools, family dynamics, attainment history and much more. Bias is part of us as humans, but we can choose to check that bias and reflect on what cannot be seen.

There are Real Consequences for Ignoring Bias

In a study in England and Germany, teachers were asked to grade students in maths work but had knowledge of the education status of their parents. Teachers underrated students whose parents had lower levels of education and overrated those whose parents had higher levels of education. This had implications for attainment later on, when overrated pupils would typically perform better than their underrated peers. Judgements like these contribute to the increase in gaps of attainment and equality (20).

(19) Macdonald J, Mellor-Clark J: Correcting psychotherapists’ blindsidedness: formal feedback as a means of overcoming the natural limitations of therapists. Clin Psychol Psychother 2015; 22:249–257 Crossref, Medline, Google Scholar

(20) Olczyk, M., Kwon, S.J., Lorenz, G. et al. Teacher judgements, student social background, and student progress in primary school: a cross-country perspective. Z Erziehungswiss (2022).

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