Understanding Culture and Identity

Step 1: Show your students the following video that defines culture and then discuss it to check for understanding.

Step 2: Have your students watch the following video on how to create an Identity Diagram.

Step 3: Have your students create their own Identity Diagrams. Create your own first to show as an example.


Understanding Bias

Step 1: Show your students the following video on stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, and oppression:

Step 2: Let your students know the definition of bias:

Prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another.
— Google

Step 3: Review the following key points about bias and decide which are most important to share and discuss with your students.

  • Social identity bias occurs because people see the world differently based on their cultures, identities and life experiences.
  • Everyone has them. Just because we all have them doesn't mean we can't/shouldn't do anything about them.
  • Biases are often considered to be unfair.  
  • Society provides advantages to certain identities and disadvantages to other identities. These advantages and disadvantages may be invisible. Similarly, people in the majority often do not realize their biases because the social forces impacting those from disadvantaged groups are invisible to them.
  • Because of their power, their biases have influence on the policies and practices of institutions (e.g., legal, educational, religious), which often adversely affects groups with less power.
  • In addition to the ways systems impact individuals (i.e., systemic oppression), biases can occur through individual oppression, in which biases manifest in everyday interactions between people, such as coworkers, strangers, or friends.
  • Any individual or group can face discrimination, harassment, jokes around their identity, due to stereotyping (thoughts), prejudice (feelings), and discrimination (actions).
  • However, because certain social groups are better represented in decision making positions and have greater collective resources, they influence institutions (e.g., education, media, criminal justice, religion) in ways that oppress, advantage and disadvantage different identities (oppression).
  • Over time, one can also imagine how (a) systematic oppression can lead to stereotypes and prejudice in society and (b) groups that face ongoing institutional oppression may similarly begin to accept the stereotypes and/or lower status of their group identity (internalized oppression).

Step 4: Show this video on oppression to your students:

Step 5: Have your students go back to their Identity Diagrams and think through different aspects of their identity they feel provide them with a clear advantage in society, and those they feel provide them a disadvantage in society. Have them journal around these ideas for 15-20 minutes, as well as around the messages that they have learned about different aspects of their identity.

Step 6: Ask for 2-3 student volunteers who are willing to share their reflections. Students may be hesitant to discuss the areas of advantage and disadvantage they believe they face. You can help by encouraging multiple people to share, noting that we are just exploring at this point so there are no right or wrong answers, by reminding them that this is a safe place to have dialogues about these topics, or by modeling openness by sharing your own areas of advantage/disadvantage.

Students may be hesitant to discuss the areas of advantage and disadvantage they believe they face. You can help by encouraging multiple people to share, noting that we are just exploring at this point so there are no right or wrong answers, by reminding them that this is a safe place to have dialogues about these topics, or by modeling openness by sharing your own areas of advantage/disadvantage.

Combatting Bias

Working on our own biases

Step 1: Have students journal for 15-20 minutes about things that have helped them change their views/biases in the past.  They can also discuss other ideas they have for addressing their own biases.

Step 2: Ask students to share some of the ideas they wrote about in their journals.  Write the ideas down and possibly poster them in your room, to remind students on an ongoing basis of ways they can work on their own biases.  

Step 3: If your students do not share these ideas from their brainstorming, let your students know other ways to address bias include:

  • making and taking opportunities to work with and get to know people who are different from you.
  • being mindful of your own biases and how this may affect your perceptions of things
  • remembering a time that you personally were impacted by bias/stereotypes can help motivate one to examine biases and stereotypes that they may have about others. 
  • retrain yourself to realize that identifying a bias you have is not a bad/shameful thing, but instead a positive/opportunity-type moment in which you can learn, grow and be a more inclusive person. Shame makes us ignore our biases, when actually being curious about our own biases is a more effective strategy for reducing them. 

Addressing interpersonal bias

Step 1: Have students talk about how they handle instances of bias (e.g., stereotypes, microaggressions) they encounter in their lives, and how effective they think the strategies they use are. 

Step 2: Let students know you are going to watch a video about different ways to address instances of bias. Ask them to think about the different strategies shared in the video and how comfortable they would feel using these strategies. Show them this video:  

Step 3: Post or pass around a list of the 12 strategies. Have your students work in pairs or small groups to come up with ways to handle either the situation at the end of the video, or another scenario that would be relevant to the group, based off of the 12 strategies offered in the video. You can assign one or more strategies to each group, or have each group come up with examples based off of each strategy.

Step 4: Have your students discuss the following topics:

  • How comfortable do you feel using the different strategies offered in the video? Which would you feel the most comfortable using? Which feel the least comfortable? Why?
  • Do you think certain strategies are more comfortable or effective depending on whether the person you are talking with is a friend, family member, someone in a position of authority, or a stranger? Why?
  • What other strategies can you think of that may be effective in these situations?

Bias in School Setting

Step 1: Now ask your students to think about how bias plays out in their own school.

Step 2: Have them get into small groups and discuss the different biases they see playing out in their school and the types of conflicts that occur around culture and identity.

  • They should think about what actions, if any, the school takes to address these biases and conflicts, and whether these actions are effective or not.
  • They should also think about what types of actions may be effective.  Have each group report out to the larger group.