Improving Classroom Performance through Diversity

The articles this week about how unconscious bias and diversity effect our performance came as a bit of a shock to me. I never felt that I act any different when I’m working in a diverse group of people versus a group of people with similar race, gender, and background. Personally, I like to think that I don’t act any different around diverse people, but I would be interested in finding out if I do.

When it comes to unconscious bias, since I heard this term in a seminar about a year ago. Since then I have been working on identifying unconscious bias that I have and making myself aware of them. Coming from the engineering world I found the seminar a refreshing change of pace. It was interesting to learn how a person (i.e. me) could jump to a bias conclusion about an individual based on one or more of their characteristics. During the presentation the presenter did a test that involved relating words and pictures to either Chicago or Boston (this presentation was given in Boston where many of the people have lived for a long time). It was interesting to see that even when a crowd was used when nice/happy things were related to Boston the crowd was much quicker to form the relationship versus when they had to related bad things to Boston. As more of a bystander than a participant since I’m not from either city I found it interesting that people can have unconscious bias purely based on where they are from.

Thinking about all of this in a classroom setting. When it comes to projects I always like the idea of letting students pick who they want to work with because I enjoyed this more when I was an undergraduate student. When working in groups I find that I work better when I already know the other people and have had experience working with them. I felt that when I was put with a new group of people we would have to spend a sizable amount of time getting use to each other, figuring out how each of us worked in a group, and everyone’s strengths/weaknesses which I felt made group projects tougher. But, after reading “The Hidden Brain” by Shankar Vendantam and “How Diversity Makes us Smarter” by Katherine W. Phillips it got me thinking that maybe assigning groups and using the diversity in the classroom can be advantageous to producing quality results from group projects. This is defiantly an idea that I might try to mess around with in the classroom depending on the course, the size of the class, and the students in the class.