Identifying and Addressing Implicit Bias

In order to enjoy truly collaborative learning communities, students need identify blind spots and develop proactive responses to bias
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About This Strategy

The Identifying and Addressing Implicit Bias strategy contains tools needed to discover and explore unconscious biases, and to develop ways to respond to those who act on prejudices. It is designed to support teachers to create safe, considerate and successfully collaborative learning environments. The strategy can be used in the beginning of and throughout the school year as students explore new content that may uncover new biases. When students have opportunities to transform their own thinking and plan ways to transition from bystanders to upstanders, the learning community becomes a place of empowerment.

Implementation Steps

1. Take an Implicit Bias Test linked in the resource section below, and reflect on your results using the Understanding Implicit Bias: The Power of Reflection resource. If appropriate, provide students with the opportunity to take the test and engage in the reflection as well. Plan to share your results with your students, as appropriate.

2. Read the Introduction, Preparing Yourself and Preparing Your Students sections of the Speak Up at School: How to Respond to Everyday Bias, Prejudice and Stereotypes guide. Read the whole guide if you're able to. Use BetterLesson's Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning (CRTL) Lesson Plan Template linked in the resource section below to customize your own Speak Up at School lesson plan in a way that is responsive to the needs of your learners.

3. Provide each student with a copy of the Speak Up at School Pocket Cards. Show the Speak Up Pocket Guide short video, and give students time to make their own set of cards. While they're making the cards, discuss what it means to echo, educate, interrupt and question in response to biased comments (providing students with copies of Appendix A from the guide would be helpful).

4. Debrief the lessons with your students by asking them questions such as, "What were some of your most powerful learning moments during this lesson?" and "What was most challenging about this lesson?"

Addressing Implicit Bias in Distance and Blended Learning

It can be difficult to have conversations about stereotypes and biases with students when the learning is not taking place within the classroom.  However, in a distance or blended format, starting conversations by using familiar topics can be a way to begin conversations. Each step above can still be used in a blended lesson. The following steps incorporate digital tools for having these conversations outside the space of a classroom:

  1. Create a bias board to allow students to list biases that they think exist about groups or regions of the country.  Using, create columns to which students can post biases/stereotypes and potential harm.

    • Allow students to post to the board anonymously.

    • Create three categories on your board: Group, Bias/Stereotype, Potential Harm

    • Samples for the “groups” column may include the following: homeless, the South, pitbulls, rich people, poor people, the elderly, athletes, and cheerleaders.

  2. Ask students to read the entire board and then choose two groups on which to reflect. A reflection question could be “What is a way to challenge the stereotypes and biases about this group?” These reflections can be done in writing on an added column to the Padlet or in small group discussions.  

  3. If students discuss their solutions in small groups, such as in a breakout room in Zoom or Google Meet, be sure to remind students that they are only discussing ways to challenge those stereotypes. Ask each group to record their solutions to share to the whole class.

  4. Allow students to share their ways to challenge biases and stereotypes.

  5. In a follow-up lesson, ask students to review the board again. Have an open discussion with students about how they can prevent bias and stereotypes from impacting their relationships with peers.

  6. Utilize the resources attached to this strategy to frequently ask students to reflect on what they learn in their curriculum, in the news, and in conversations with peers.

Additional Resources on Implicit Bias

Explore the following resources to deepen your knowledge about how to acknowledge and address implicit bias

Related Lessons

Explore the two Facing History and Ourselves lessons ("The Challenge of Confirmation Bias" and "Challenging Assumptions with Curiosity") to learn more about how to address implicit bias in your classroom.

Explore the "Environmental Bias" lesson by 11th grade Science BetterLesson Master Teacher Daniel Babauta to see how his students explore and define environmental bias.

Social Justice Standards - Justice and Action

Addressing Justice and Action Standards empowers educators to explore how stereotypes affect us, how systemic discrimination influences our world, and how privilege influences justice. There are also opportunities to learn about different ways of understanding, experiencing and taking action, and how action impacts our way of understanding each other and our world. Applying and reflecting on learnings will deepen educators' anti-bias teaching practice.

Extending the Learning

In order for students to overcome implicit bias, they need opportunities to connect with one another across racial differences. Unfortunately, since the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, schools have become resegregated. These resources provide educators with tools to understand and address the challenges that segregated schools present. 

Special Education Modification

Nedra MassenburgDEMO
Special Education Specialist

Teachers using the strategy identifying and addressing implicit bias to create safe, considerate, and successfully collaborative learning environments is a foundational tool critical to support students with disabilities.  In particular, given the way the implicit biases can doubly negatively impact students of color with disabilities, the investment in time to unpack and address these biases can go a long way to increase engagement and investment in learning for these students.

Learning to identify and address implicit bias for both teachers and students requires significant executive functioning (task initiation, prioritization, working memory, etc.), emotional regulation, reading, and written expression skills.  In order to support students with disabilities in these areas, consider the following modifications:


  1.  Knowledge of student disabilities and disability bias is a key piece of information teachers need to identify and address implicit bias in their classroom. Teachers should consult with special education department administrators or specialized teachers for information on how to address disability in a classroom setting. See the resources in the resource section below for more information.

  2. Use structured handouts that help students with task initiation as well as provide clear benchmarks (bolded words, bulleted lists) to assess task completion when exploring implicit bias in lessons.  

  3. Use visual timers and verbal reminders to help students with task initiation and task completion when exploring multiple implicit bias in lessons.    
  4. Depending upon the number of students with disabilities present in a classroom, teachers should consider increasing the amount of time they spend on explicitly teaching norms for exploring implicit bias in lessons.  The first few rounds of exploring implicit bias in a classroom should be followed by explicit individual and whole group feedback on engagement and task completion. 

  5. If multiple teachers are present, careful thought should be put into co-teaching models and how they integrate into a differentiated lesson plan on exploring implicit bias. See the "How to Choose a Co-Teaching Model" and the "Differentiation Within the Inclusion Classroom" resources in the resource section below for more information.



EL Modification

Shannon Coyle
English Learner Specialist

This strategy supports teachers to empower learners with the skills they need to identify and counter bias when they see it. English learners benefit from understanding how and when to use their voice both at school and in their daily lives. 

English learners may need to use all four domains of language, reading, writing, speaking and listening when engaging in activities used in this strategy. In order to support English Learners consider the following modifications:


  1. Explicitly pre-teach vocabulary. Ensure learners understand the vocabulary that will be used in discussion, e.g., implicit, bias, “speak up”. Ensure learners understand vocabulary used in the Speak Up Pocket Guide in advance. Provide authentic contextual examples, e.g., scenarios to deepen understanding. Have learners reference their vocabulary guides in class. Consider translating concept words into home language. 

  2. Activate and/or build background knowledge. Learners with diverse or unknown educational backgrounds may require support to build background knowledge required to understand new concepts. English learners who are new to the country may lack knowledge of social justice issues in America. Consider partnering with learners’ language specialist to identify deficits and which gaps are most important to fill in order to participate fully in lessons. See the resources in the resource section below aligned to building background information.

  3. Differentiate lesson materials. Ensure English learners at all levels of proficiency use scaffolded materials and have a variety of ways to express learning e.g., graphic organizers, templates, discussion frames, sentence starters, graphics representations of writing, models, audio and video content or response, etc. See the "WIDA Can Do Descriptors" in the resource section below for more information.