Welcome to the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnicity’s Implicit Bias Module Series. At the Kirwan Institute at The Ohio State University, we are committed to the creation of a just and inclusive society, where all people and communities have the opportunity to succeed. Our commitment to this mission is why we work so hard to understand and overcome barriers that prevent access to opportunity in our society, such as implicit bias and racial disparities in our education system.
This course will introduce you to insights about how our minds operate and help you understand the origins of implicit associations. You will also uncover some of your own biases and learn strategies for addressing them. Each module is divided into a short series of lessons, many taking less than 10 minutes to complete. That way, even if you’re pressed for time, you can complete the lessons and modules at your convenience.
We are excited that you are starting this process to explore implicit bias and what its operation means for your decisions and actions. Thank you for joining us!
If you are interested in scheduling an in-person training, please fill out an Inquiry Form. For information on our research and Kirwan's Race & Cognition program, contact Kelly Capatosto, Senior Research Associate, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity is an interdisciplinary engaged research institute at The Ohio State University established in May 2003. As a racial equity research institute, our goal is to connect individuals and communities with opportunities needed for thriving by educating the public, building the capacity of allied social justice organizations, and investing in efforts that support racial equity and inclusion. Here at the Kirwan Institute, we do this through research, engagement, and communication.
The Race and Cognition team at the Kirwan Institute would like to give thanks to all of those involved in the process of creating and launching the Online Implicit Bias training. Countless hours have been dedicated to the creation of the modules and we do not take that for granted. There are several people we would like to show an additional level of gratitude to:
- Kelly Capatosto
- Lena Tenney
- Joshua Bates
- Kyle Strickland
- Robin Wright
- Cheryl Staats
- Preshuslee Thompson
- Ashley Wilson
- Jason Duffield
- Kip Holley
- Rachel Besse
- Karima Samadi
- Amy Malcolm
- Jillian Olinger
- Glennon Sweeney
- Leigha Grosh
- Jocelyn Smallwood
- The Schott Foundation for Public Education
- Mills James Production
- Sharon Davies
- Kathy Lechman
- Art James
- Christy Rogers
- Jason Reece
- Tara McCoy
- Jamaal Bell
- Donnie Perkins
- La’Tonia Stiner-Jones
- Zach Kenitzer
- Sheeba George
- Alicea Kouyate
- Mary McKay
Special thanks to the entire staff at The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity—thank you so much for your dedication to this work and your everyday efforts to make the world a more just and inclusive society. We appreciate you!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why focus on implicit rather than explicit bias?
Although our modules focus primarily on implicit bias, Kirwan acknowledges that inclusion and equity efforts must also address explicit bias and discrimination in order to create real change. Our explicit and implicit attitudes are related constructs, and many times peoples’ implicit and explicit attitudes are in alignment.
However, even though concepts are related, they are distinct. Someone can act in a biased manner based on their implicit associations, even if they do not indicate an explicit preference for certain individuals or groups. Learning about implicit bias provides a lens to help examine the causes of racial, gender, or other social disparities, even in the absence of explicit intent to discriminate or cause harm.
How long will it take me to complete these modules?
While everyone works at a different pace, these modules should take participants roughly 45 minutes to 1.5 hours to complete, depending on the time spent on activities and supplemental exercises.
Are these modules supported by research?
Yes. The methods and research shared in these modules is supported by our annual flagship publication, the State of the Science Implicit Bias Review. Each year, Kirwan researchers compile studies on the subject of implicit bias into an interdisciplinary literature review in a format that is accessible and easy to understand from a wide range of academic and professional backgrounds.
Does implicit bias reflect my beliefs about equity or inclusion?
We will get more into this during Module 1, but our implicit preferences do not necessarily align with our explicit beliefs. For example, one can believe in equality of all people and still hold a pro-self-identity bias. Importantly, some people possess implicit attitudes that do not align with their own held identities.
If I didn’t intend to be biased in the first place, how will learning about implicit bias help?
Becoming aware of what biases you possess and the decisions that are most likely to be influenced by our unconscious processing can help you build interventions and strategies to prevent the expression of bias and unwanted outcomes. Our training also includes information about empirically based interventions to both reduce the expression of bias and alter the associations we possess.
What is the connection between implicit bias and how people act?
Implicit bias has been shown to impact decision-making across a wide array of sectors, including employment, medicine, and education. However, there are limitations to the extent to which unconscious biases can predict individual behavior. People with an implicit preference for one identity may not act on this bias or make biased decisions, much of this depends on the circumstance.
Does this training apply to me if I don’t have implicit bias?
We will touch on this during the modules, but because biases can be activated across a wide-range of identities, we all hold some implicit preferences. However, even people without an implicit preference can still act in ways that produce discriminatory behavior, such as not speaking up when they see bias in their environment. This need to translate knowledge into action is why Kirwan also emphasizes the importance of being an Active Bystander.
Will these modules eliminate bias?
These modules are not designed to eliminate bias. Rather, we hope that an awareness of implicit bias and how it operates will help participants engage in more equitable decision-making practices and behaviors. These strategies to reduce the expression of bias are only one piece of the puzzle and should be complemented by policies and strategies to address institutional and explicit discrimination.
I’m not a K–12 educator, are these modules for me?
This module series includes examples and activities that are uniquely tailored to the experience of those who work in a K–12 education setting or closely-related field. However, much of the content in Modules 1, 3, and 4 are generalizable enough to apply to most audiences.
Module 1: Introduction
In this first module, you will be introduced to the basics of implicit bias:
- What is meant by “implicit” or “unconscious” associations or biases?
- How are implicit biases different from explicit biases?
- What does it look and/or feel like when implicit associations operate?
- How do our biases form?
- Why does all of this matter?
You are encouraged to complete each lesson in order and at your pace. Each lesson is followed by a quick check-in question that will help us gauge your understanding thus far.
We hope you enjoy this first module!
Module 1: Recap
- Implicit bias operates outside of our conscious awareness.
- Implicit bias is unconscious, automatic, and relies on associations that we form over time.
- We can form bias toward groups of people based on what we see in the media, our background, and experiences.
- Our biases reflect how we internalize messages about our society rather than our intent. Nevertheless, we can still act on our biases in ways that can harm others.
Module 1: Check-In
Test what you know!Take the Module 1 Quiz
Module 2: Recap
- Implicit bias can turn even our best intentions into unwanted outcomes.
- Teacher’s implicit biases can impact their perceptions of the quality of students’ work and the teaching strategies they choose to implement.
- Implicit biases can impact perceptions of students behavior and is a contributor to racial differences in school discipline outcomes—particularly between Black and White students.
- Institutional and historic patterns of inequity within the education system contribute to the manifestation of implicit bias in schools. A targeted approach to address the negative effects of implicit bias must also include strategies to address these systemic issues.
Module 2: Check-In
Test what you know!Take the Module 2 Quiz
Take the IAT!
- You can find out your own biases by taking an implicit association test at: https://implicit.harvard.edu/
- All tests are free and take roughly 5 minutes
- Try taking 2–3 tests and reflect on your results
Module 3: Recap
- There are two main ways in which we measure implicit bias. We can understand our biases through examinations of our behavior and by looking at how our brain is activated through the use of imaging technology.
- One of the most utilized behavioral assessments of implicit bias is the Implicit Association Test (IAT), which measures if there are positive or negative attitudes toward a particular concept or social group.
- You can better understand your own biases by taking the IAT, available at https://implicit.harvard.edu/
- It is important to reflect on your results. Consider how your background and personal experiences may have impacted your results.
Module 3: Check-In
Test what you know!Take the Module 3 Quiz
Our Brains are Malleable
In this process of understanding what implicit bias is and getting to learn about our own biases, it is normal to start to feel like they are too deeply ingrained in our thoughts and actions to be able to combat their effects. However, as more research comes to light, we are able to find more and more ways to either lessen the effects of bias, or change the biases themselves. Although the latter is certainly a larger undertaking, it is very possible to do so. In the same way that our implicit biases were learned over time, we can disrupt this process with intention, attention and time.
This is because the neural connections between our associations get stronger as we take in more information that confirms our stereotypes or biases. By paying better attention to what we are exposed to and making the intentional choice to seek out experiences that go against our biases, we are able to disrupt this automatic chain of events, and those physical connection in our mind can be weakened. Two interventions we will be talking about later—mindfulness and intergroup contact, have shown the ability to not only stop the manifestation of these biases, but alter the implicit biases we possess.
Module 4: Recap
- There are long term strategies and changes that we can engage in to reduce our unwanted biases, such as mindfulness and intergroup contact.
- One of the best ways to prevent and intervene against bias, is by knowing when you are more susceptible to acting on it, such as moments of high ambiguity, subjectivity, or stress.
- Knowledge about the operation of implicit bias can help inform the individual and institutional approaches you take to address inequitable outcomes in your classroom or school.
- Learning about implicit bias provides a lens to help examine causes of racial, gender, or other social disparities, even in the absence of explicit intent to discriminate.
Module 4: Check-In
Test what you know!Take the Module 4 Quiz
Now that you have an understanding of how implicit bias operates, manifests in the real world, and ways to mitigate your biases, it is important to put theory into practice. This scenario workbook provides you with a series of case studies, scenarios, and reflection questions that will assist you in thinking about how to apply what you have learned to your work as an educator.Download the Workbook
Let us know your feedback!Take the Exit Survey
- Being an Active Bystander (PDF)
- Identifying and Mitigating Implicit Bias Worksheet (PDF)
- Race and Education Timeline (PDF)
- Making Sense of Your Implicit Association Test Results (PDF)
- Myth-Busters: Clearing up the Confusion Surrounding Implicit Bias (PDF)
- Institutional Interventions to Prevent Implicit Bias from Undermining Organizational Diversity (PDF)
- The Principles for Equitable and Inclusive Civic Engagement (PDF)
- Ending Racial Inequity in Out of School Suspensions: Mapping the Policy Landscape and Equity Impact (PDF)
- Race Matters... And So Does Gender (PDF)
- Ohio Discipline Data: An Analysis of Ability and Race (PDF)
- From Punitive to Restorative: Advantages of Using Trauma-Informed Practices in Schools (PDF)
- School Discipline Policy: Updates, Insights, and Future Directions (PDF)
- Strategies for Addressing Implicit Bias in Early Childhood Education (PDF)
- Implicit Racial Bias and School Discipline Disparities - Exploring the Connection (PDF)
- State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review - Kirwan Institute
- Understanding Implicit Bias - Kirwan Institute
- Did They Really Just Say That?! Being an Active Bystander
- For more information on how to support equity in K–12 education, please visit the Resources page provided by the Schott Foundation for Public Education