Understanding and Implementing an Anti-Bias Curriculum in Early Childhood Education
Published Date: 07/02/20
Studies support that biases are formed in early childhood and before age five, children are showing a preference for white faces. Childcare providers have the ability and responsibility to mitigate development of those early prejudices through their every interactions with children and through their curriculum.
Embracing differences should be a critical component of all preschool and daycare classrooms. Your bookshelf should be filled with books featuring diverse children and families, and you should introduce and actively discuss topics including race, ethnicity, disabilities, and LGBTQIA+ families to children at young ages.
Often, subjects related to diversity become themes, rather than being incorporated into the overall curriculum throughout the year. Black history is taught in February during Black History Month. LGBTQIA+ topics are discussed in June during Pride Month – an approach NAEYC calls the “tourist curriculum.” But by utilizing the anti-bias curriculum, you will address diversity year-round and incorporate conversations into other lessons.
What is the anti-bias curriculum?
Anti-bias education is a way of learning that is designed to teach children to recognize, understand, and embrace differences. It used to confront and prevent bias, obstruct stereotyping, and all address injustices in preschools and society at large. Anti-bias education includes a comprehensive curriculum that demonstrates and discusses diverse perspectives and experiences, techniques that improve learning, and tactics to create a wide-ranging and inclusive community.
The anti-bias curriculum promotes value-based principles in support of recognizing and accepting existing differences. This type of teaching requires problem-solving and critical thinking skills by children and adults alike. The ultimate objective is to create an atmosphere of constructive self-identity development. Preschool children come away with a strong sense of self-awareness, pride in who they, pride in their families, and positive social identities, without feeling morally superior to others.
An anti-bias curriculum requires every child to be treated individually which helps them achieve their maximum potential. Occasional lessons on fairness and diversity are eschewed in favor of weaving concepts in throughout other lessons.
Why is it important?
As mentioned, research tells us that children begin formulating ideas on race from the earliest ages. Accomplished psychology professor and researcher Dr. Frances Aboud says, “After the age of 9, racial attitudes tend to stay constant unless the child experiences a life-changing event.”
This highlights the significance of implementing an anti-bias curriculum in early childhood education.
Dr. Erin Winkler, a notable researcher in the field of children and race writes, “There is a myth in popular culture that young children are “colorblind” or don’t notice race. By this logic, children are “blank slates” who cannot develop racial prejudices until they are explicitly taught to do so. This leads many adults to argue that we should not discuss race with preschoolers because they are “too young,” and even mentioning race will “put ideas in their heads” or “poison their minds.” When young children talk about race or express any bias, it is often either dismissed (“She doesn’t know what she’s saying.”), blamed on parents or other adults (“Someone must have said that at home.”), or only indirectly addressed as general bad behavior (“We don’t say things like that because it hurts people’s feelings.”). However, current psychological research suggests this approach is all wrong.”
Beyond preventing prejudices and stereotypes, the anti-bias curriculum also helps children to develop leadership qualities and a practical approach towards everything in their future. It enables a student to acknowledge social dilemmas and develop an action plan to counter such issues.
Objectives of implementing an anti-bias curriculum
The anti-bias curriculum has specific objectives that provide a framework for implementation and they help create a supportive learning environment for each individual child. These are:
- To empower every student to become confident, mindful, and to have a constructive social character and family pride;
- To educate each student to understand and admire cultural diversity;
- To encourage every student to appreciate their partners and develop a feeling of much-needed empathy towards others;
- To urge every student to act against any form of prejudice and discrimination. They must be trained to identify injustice and biased actions happening in our society.
How to implement it?
Implementing the anti-bias curriculum requires taking stock of your current environment and existing biases, developing the curriculum, identifying moments when bias has occurred, educating parents, and planning and executing bias-free activities in your preschool.
Examine the environment: This is the first and foremost step in your journey towards the implementation of an anti-bias curriculum. You can start by examining the environment of your preschool classroom. Remember, children pay a lot of attention to every minor detail. Books, posters, paintings, and everything in the classroom must be free from prejudice and represent diversity. The learning materials should depict people from different backgrounds and of different abilities. Importantly, those individuals must be portrayed in a positive manner so that all children see themselves and their families reflected, and they develop a feeling of empathy towards them. Preschoolers are at the most sensitive phase of their lives so your attitude and teaching methods will play a vital role in developing their outlook.
Examine the existing bias: Observe and identify the existing bias in yourself and in your preschool classroom. Reflecting upon those prejudices will give you a base point for planning future activities. Focus on yourself and eliminate any kind of biased behavior that is affecting your thinking. Use observation and open-ended questions to find out what the children in your class think about diversity – socioeconomic, cultural, racial, and differing abilities. The questioning method is quite effective as you can inquire about certain things that will reveal if they have begun stereotyping or showing preferences for certain types of people already. These things may look diminutive, but they can have drastic effects on the atmosphere of your classroom.
Design a comprehensive curriculum carefully: Preschools must focus on designing a play-based curriculum that will help children build strong feelings of egalitarianism. By doing this, childcare providers will have a much clearer roadmap to confront any sort of discrimination and nurture the spirit of fraternity among children from diverse backgrounds. The director or teacher can alter the curriculum according to the varying requirements of the class. Preschool teachers can should also have a plan to discuss any child’s existing bias with their parents.
Look for the right moments: Preschool teachers must stay vigilant. They must be able to recognize any sensitive or noticeable biased action when it occurs and effectively tackle them. Discrimination may be subtle or it may be apparent. In a 2001 study that took place within an ethnically and racially diverse childcare center, researchers found that children used racial categories to include and exclude other children from activities, identify themselves, and used race to negotiate power within their social networks. Whenever any sort of discriminatory action occurs, avail that teachable moment, and help the children learn from it.
Educate parents: Very often early childhood educators don’t take the initiate to educate parents. They believe it oversteps bounds or isn’t useful. But parents are your partners in educating their child. Parents aren’t privy to the depths of your early childhood knowledge and what might seem obvious or simplistic to you often is not something they’ve ever considered. Educating parents shouldn’t come across as heavy handed. Simple tools like newsletters, infographics, and postings on your bulletin board can do wonders. A parent education night is also a great opportunity to give parents a deeper understanding of what you’re doing. If there’s an opportunity, bring in an ant-bias expert to speak with them.
Plan bias-free activities: Planning anti-bias activities require some brainstorming but is actually quite easy. These activities may focus on self-awareness and the fact that every child is unique. With older preschool children, activities like self-portraits give teachers insight into how children perceive themselves. Ask the children to describe what they’ve drawn and listen to their answers. Help children spot unfairness in the world and create activities to rectify it. When you evaluate your environment, include a book audit. Look to see which books only portray white people or only portray able-bodied people. You may decide to write to the authors and have the class send their self-portraits to demonstrate how to celebrate differences.
Listen to the victims: Remember! Listening is extremely important. Whether you are a teacher, parent, or educator, you must be able to listen to the concerns of the victims of discrimination and prejudice. While you hopefully will not find offensive slurs used in your preschool class, as discussed, there may be subtle ways that children are discriminating based on looks or ability. If a child tells you they’ve been excluded because of prejudice, get involved and address it immediately.
Research shows that children from a very young age are much aware of the differences in gender, race, ethnicity, religion, and abilities. It is up to early childhood educators to ensure those differences are thought of positively and work to prevent biases from ever forming. Initially it may seem overwhelming but your classroom – and the world – will benefit in the long run.
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