To achieve Step 13, individuals will show that they can think about bias when looking to understand different perspectives.
In the previous two steps, the focus has been on listening critically by comparing perspectives and then thinking about what might underpin individuals having those different views. This step builds on this by investigating whether a perspective is biased.
The building blocks of this step are learning:
Bias is when someone has a disproportionate or prejudged preference towards or against someone or something. Essentially, they have already made up their mind of what they think based on some details of the situation rather than the entire situation.
There are many different types of bias. The two we explore here are cognitive biases and prejudices.
There are many different types of bias, many of which come from the limitations or short-cuts of the human brain. These are called cognitive biases, and examples include:
While some biases are the result of the limitations of the human brain, other prejudices are learnt or absorbed and can be more damaging.
At the core of these biases are judgements of an individual based on some characteristic, which can include:
Acting along these biases is generally illegal in the UK. However, often these biases are not explicit and can be hard to prove. There is also evidence of bias which does not lead to outright discrimination but to ways, sometimes subtle, in which groups are disadvantaged relative to the prevailing norms.
Bias clearly matters when individuals are discriminated against, or not given the same opportunities to contribute and thrive. This is a clear injustice, and that is why such behaviour is illegal. It also squanders the talents of those involved and undermines their abilities and contribution.
Cognitive biases are also significant because it leads to the wrong decisions being made. They are shortcuts which save thinking time, and which are frequently helpful when navigating the world with the limited brainpower that we have. But when it comes to important decisions or perspectives, mistakes can be caused by these biases.
We can only identify bias when we are listening by taking a critical, questioning approach to what we are hearing. This is not an easy thing to master, and one of the reasons that this step is at the advanced end here.
The critical thing is to keep reflecting on several questions:
By being more aware of the cognitive biases and prejudices that exist, then we are more likely to be able to recognise them. The critical thing is to consciously think about trying to understand them.
In education, we are often presented with different perspectives on topical issues. This might be during debates, in extra-curricular clubs or societies or within specific subjects such as Humanities. As we move through school, college or university, we build up our knowledge and understanding of the world through listening to and analysing different perspectives. Through a greater awareness of different types of cognitive bias and prejudice and being able to identify them, we are more likely to recognise when they are being used and ensure that they do not influence our opinions or result in us forming unfounded arguments.
In the workplace, we listen to many different people share their perspectives on a variety of issues. These might relate to a company’s values, policies or strategic direction. When others share their viewpoints, being able to identify potential cognitive biases and prejudices is important when making decisions or supporting suggestions and proposals. It is essential that you can recognise bias in different perspectives to ensure that you support ideas that are representative of the company and beneficial to your customers or clients.
It is also an important tool when it comes to recruitment. When sorting through applications, conducting interviews and screening potential new hires, potential biases can influence which candidates are best supported. By understanding and recognising when there might be potential bias in an individual’s perspective, you can make informed and objective decisions on who will be best for a particular role.
When making important decisions in our wider lives, it is crucial that we give ourselves time to think critically about matters. Cognitive bias and prejudices can lead to the wrong decisions being made as they provide shortcuts that prevent us from considering what is objectively best. When forming opinions, considering who to vote for or deciding where to live, it’s important that we are able to identify if people who are sharing their perspectives with us are influenced by biases. If we are able to think critically, we can identify the information that can help us and filter out unfair biases.
To best practise this step of Listening, apply what you have learnt to a real-life situation. Choose one or more of the activities below, remind yourself of the key points and strategies in the step, and have a go!
To teach this step:
This is a good step to reinforce in lots of different parts of advanced studies. For instance, in reviewing topics in history or literature to identify where the writer had a biased perspective on events.
It is also helpful to encourage learners to think about what they are reading or listening to more generally, and to spot examples of different types of bias.
This step can be effectively assessed in a couple of ways:
This step is particularly relevant for individuals who have to consider different perspective to reach decisions, particularly where they might be controversial.
To build this step in the work environment, managers could:
There are plenty of opportunities for building this skill in the workplace:
For those already employed, this step is best assessed through questioning. For instance:
During the recruitment process, this step could be assessed by:
We work with a wide range of organisations, who use the Skills Builder approach in lots of different settings – from youth clubs, to STEM organisations, to careers and employability providers.
We have a lot of materials available to support you to use the Skills Builder Universal Framework with the individuals you work with, including:
We also do a lot of work with organisations who join the Skills Builder Partnership to build the Universal Framework into their work and impact measurement systems. You can find out a lot more using the links below.
At home, you can easily support your child to build their essential skills. The good news is that there
are lots of ways that you can have a big impact, including: