Recognizing Bias

6, 7, 8

Students discuss biases and recognize that we all have biases, but we aren't always aware of them. Since people have different experiences, we all develop different biases. Students learn that a bias can create an unfair situation.

PrintOne 20-minute lesson

The learner will:

  • define bias.
  • reflect in writing about a personal bias and make a plan for overcoming the bias when making decisions or judgments.


  1. Anticipatory Set

    Play a game called "Find the Common Trait." In this game, the students mingle around the room slowly, until the teacher says a number between 2 and 5. Upon hearing the number, the students quickly join into groups of the named number. In that group, they need to talk among themselves until they find something they all have in common. It may be something physical such as eye color or type of shoes, or it may be something related to an interest, a practice, or their family. When they find a commonality, they raise their hand and tell the teacher. When the teacher hears from all the groups, the students mingle again. They form a new group of a different number named by the teacher. In the new group, they look for a common trait again. After playing two or three times, debrief with the class. Ask them if it is difficult to find something that they have in common. Discuss why it is easy to find differences with others. Then ask them how finding things in common between diverse people helps them in a conflict.

  2. Tell the students that they are all diverse individuals with different perspectives. Their experiences and personalities form who they are and what they believe. Introduce the word bias. [A bias is a point of view influenced by experience.] Tell the students that we all have biases, but we aren't always aware of them. Since people have different experiences, we all develop different biases. Tell the students that the following example shows how a bias can create an unfair situation.

  3. Read or have a student read the following paragraph:

  4. When a big-city symphony wants to hire musicians, they do not judge the applicants on their appearance; they judge them only on their musical ability. That seems fair, doesn't it? But that hasn't always been the case. At one time, more men than women were hired to play in symphonies. For some reason, the judges preferred male musicians. Today, however, most symphonies listen to the musician applicants from behind a screen so they can't see what they look like. Sometimes the musicians even have to take off their shoes so the judges can't get hints from their footsteps about whether they are listening to a man or woman. Although that may seem unnecessary, it has been proven to be the fairest way to hire. Now, because of the practice of "blind auditions,"the balance of men and women is more equal. This is how the symphony overcame a bias. It wasn't enough just to be aware they had a bias; they had to guarantee it with a "blind audition" so they wouldn't let their bias toward male musicians influence their decisions.

  5. Ask the students why blind auditions are a fair way to hire musicians.

  6. Have students think about and describe in writing in their journals a bias that may not be fair to others. For example, they may form unfair opinions of people based on their looks, interests, dialect, clothing, neighborhood, or what music they listen to. Tell them to write about why they have the bias and what they can do to make sure they don't treat others unfairly because of their bias.Tell them to use some of the words and concepts explored in this unit to guide them as they form a plan.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how individuals have helped others.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Describe how different needs are met in different ways by government, business, civil society, and family.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.9 Identify pro-social behavior in different cultures and traditions.