Context Matters

This is a blog post by Dr. Val Wise, who is Landon’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion consultant. Dr. Wise is not only conducting a schoolwide equity audit, but she also leads professional development sessions for faculty and staff as well as provides counsel on the school’s search for its next Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. This post outlines professional development with faculty and staff this week on the topic of implicit bias.

Nearly 140 faculty and staff engaged virtually in deep, rich discussions around the topic of implicit bias on January 4, a professional day at Landon. To start the day, the faculty and staff were presented with the following scenario: You are in a car that’s moving at a constant speed. To the left, a steep downward slope. To the right, a large fire truck is moving at the same speed as your car. Directly ahead, a helicopter flies less than two feet off the ground, blocking your progress. And, if that’s not enough, you notice a rider on a large horse keeping pace with your car from behind. How do you get out of the situation without hurting yourself or someone else? Working in teams, faculty and staff collaborated on an answer and presented their plan to the group.  

After all the plans had been presented, an interesting twist (think carousel) was added to the scenario that changed the entire paradigm completely. This twist highlighted the importance of context and the consequences of incomplete information in the decision-making process.  

Context matters, I told the faculty and staff because stereotypes are often based on incomplete information. Thus started a highly interactive and conversation focused experience. The professional development session was designed to support Landon faculty and staff in not only becoming aware of bias, but also to develop some of the necessary tools that will help manage its influence. We look forward to continuing to partner with all members of the school community as they work to achieve the integration of an equity lens in all aspects of the organization.