Implicit bias is the idea that people create certain judgements on a person’s character based off of their race, gender or physical appearance. It has been generally accepted that all people have implicit bias, however research from a Yale University Child Study Center has found evidence of implicit bias among preschool teachers. This could possibly help explain why young black students are expelled or suspended from school far more often than white students. The study also showed that black teachers recommended longer suspensions regardless of the child’s race or gender.
In the research, 132 teachers were asked to watch video clips of preschool children and to note instances of challenging behavior. The videos were filmed using actors and didn’t include any signs of trouble. However, eye tracking software showed that the teachers spent more time looking at black children than white children. In particular, they spent considerably more time watching black boys. This study suggests that some preschool teachers expect trouble from certain students based on their race and gender, and if this is the case, additional training for these teachers would be needed to rectify these assumptions.
The study also found that white and black teachers evaluated a child’s behavior differently depending on their race. When asked to read about an instance of misbehavior from a child with a stereotypically black name, white teachers were less likely to say that the child’s misbehavior had been severe. This could suggest that white teachers hold black preschoolers to a lower standard; they expect misbehavior from black children and so acting out is not as much of an issue for them.
It’s unlikely that preschool teachers are intentionally prejudiced against certain students. However, with black preschoolers almost 3.6 times more likely to be suspended than white children, it seems implicit bias could be shaping teachers’ attitudes towards young children.