Systemic bias in the education system focus of newly funded project
05 November 2021
A project focusing on combatting systematic bias in Aotearoa’s education system has been given a grant from the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi Catalyst Seeding Fund.
Education and Social Work senior lecturers Dr Frauke Meyer and Dr Jo Smith will be involved in an ongoing collaboration with researchers from the Centre for Equity Promotion and company SHIFT bias in Oregon, US, who have been using virtual-reality technology to help teachers recognise bias.
SHIFT’s Wendy Morgan developed the technology which provides teachers with a glimpse into how ethnic minority students experience racial bias.
The need to combat bias in educational environments is increasingly evident and urgent, especially for Māori learners, so all learners experience a strong sense of belonging.
Their piloted programme, called Understanding Belonging: Empowering Everyone to Build an Inclusive Culture, combines online learning with virtual reality to deepen users’ empathy and understanding of bias in education by stepping into someone else’s shoes.
Drs Meyer and Smith are looking into the potential to develop something similar for Aotearoa.
"The need to combat bias in educational environments is increasingly evident and urgent, especially for Māori learners, so all learners experience a strong sense of belonging," says Dr Smith.
“Systemic bias in Aotearoa’s education system and its negative impact on our learners’ success has been acknowledged and there has been an ongoing call for action.”
The grant will allow the researchers to visit the team in Oregon to get a greater understanding of their work.
The fund will also mean they can bring together researchers from across New Zealand to exchange ideas on the opportunities and challenges in adapting such an intervention here.
Our team includes Māori and Pasifika researchers and advisers who have extensive expertise in researching teacher expectations and bias.
"Our team includes Māori and Pasifika researchers and advisers who have extensive expertise in researching teacher expectations and bias," says Dr Meyer.
“An intervention that shows effects in the US context is promising but we will have to do a lot of work to see how it would fit into the context of Aotearoa, with a different value system and student population.”
She says those engaged in anti-bias research and work with educators are acutely aware of the need to create authentic experiences to guide educators toward dismantling bias.
“It will be exciting to see whether and how we can use technology to support educators in their efforts and if it can be brought to scale for training for teachers,” Dr Smith says.
Julianne Evans | Media adviser
M: 027 562 5868