Mary-Jo Hill

21 Nov 2018
Lest we forget.

Why is important to fight ‘In-group bias’ in education.

Last week I watched the Peter Jackson film about the Great War ‘They should not grow old’ and many elements of it are still floating around in my head. One of which was the immense feelings of comradeship towards each other in such hideous circumstance, and also the complete and collective dread of returning to the Frontline. Returning soldiers came home with a complex mix of Shell Shock, guilt and the fact that no-one could ever understand what they had gone through. The in-group bias was so strong as a consequence of their experience.

In-group bias is a cognitive distortion and can be termed as the tendency to trust and value people who are like ourselves; who share our experiences. With that, however, there is an increased danger of assumed similarity and the belief that others have similar thoughts or attitudes to our own. This then, in turn, may distort our thinking into making assumptions about how that group behaves. This brings us to the need for ‘staying woke’. Labeling these groups, whoever they are: teachers, young people, investment bankers, the millennials, is easy to do but one slips easily into the stereotype. We are in fact, dehumanizing them. A dangerous error.

Credibility and respect in the teaching profession are quickly lost, once the intensity of teaching a class of thirty plus on a full-time basis is not shared. Once the very real pressures of time and immediate management of 30 human beings all day, every day, plus the obvious teaching and learning expectations are not felt by others, it is really hard to not fall into the trap of a thinking error.

So how to keep it real with the frontline? How to keep a finger on the pulse of the organization, so you can lead more effectively? This story from the Harvard Business Review is a great one to highlight how the ego of being at the top of the hierarchy can be damaging without real connection.

So how am I keeping it real? Well, currently two ways: I teach a mixed-age/ ability group how to play chess every Monday as an after school club in a local primary school. Secondly, I have started watching School on the BBC. Now that’s one to watch.