Building Anti-Racist Early Childhood Programs with Implicit Bias Trainings & Resources

In recent weeks, we have been reminded of the detrimental importance of ensuring early childhood program staff are resisting racism and actively working against systems of oppression toward marginalized groups. An anti-racist approach to education is needed in order to heal and bring reconciliation for years of oppression and heartache for families and children of color and other marginalized communities. 

One of the first steps in taking an anti-racist approach is to support educators and staff to identify and reflect on their own personal biases that influence their teaching and treatment of students and families.

What Is Implicit Bias?

Implicit bias refers to the stereotypes and attitudes that are unconscious that impact our understanding of an individual or social group. The political party we affiliate with, the religions we practice, what town we grew up in, and what socioeconomic status we belong to along with many other experiences contribute to how we interact with people who are different from us.

Are we subconsciously showing favoritism to white families over black families? Are we interacting with a child who has autism with a negative attitude?

Identifying our own hidden bias helps move toward change in a positive direction contributing to an awareness of attitudes and an ability to push back against racism at large that in turn creates an anti-racist school culture. 

How to Help Staff Become Aware of Their Implicit Biases

Implicit Bias Training is imperative for staff to recognize their own bias and how to control for it in order to understand the roots of prejudice and stereotypes in our society. Once we identify implicit bias, we can make intentional decisions to push back against our subconscious mind. 

There are a variety of resources available for early childhood leaders to use in order to support their staff to work towards an anti-bias and anti-racist work culture through reflecting on implicit bias. Various aspects to keep in mind when initiating implicit bias training:

Communicate the Importance of Training

As the leader of the program, you want to communicate the purpose of implicit bias training: the goal is to develop a school culture that resists racism and stereotypes that could potentially lead to discrimination. 

It’s a Long Process

Developing a school culture in this way should be seen as a process. Just as we do not want to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. only on his birthday, but celebrate him in various contexts throughout the classroom all year- we want to have a similar approach with implicit bias work.  

Hire a Trainer If Needed

If you yourself are not comfortable facilitating the conversation and discussing racism through implicit bias training, seek a professional to hire. Organizations such as: Eliminating Racism & Creating/Celebrating Equity; Project Implicit consultants, lectures, and modules; Liz Kleinrock an anti-bias anti-racist educator and consultant out of LA, California. 

Work On Culture

A trusting, safe, collaborative school culture should already be established in order for staff members to feel open to self-reflection through implicit bias training. 

Resources for Implicit Bias Training

Potential educational resources and trainings for administrators to implement:  

  1. Have your staff take a test to identify various elements of implicit bias through Project Implicit. Project Implicit is a non-profit organization and international collaboration between researchers from Harvard, University of Washington, University of Virginia, and Yale who are interested in implicit social cognition- thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control.
  2. Free trainings offered from Kirwin Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnicity that offers various webinars and videos that address race, including, What does it mean to be Anit-Racist?, to watch during a staff meeting and have a roundtable discussion afterward.
  3. Various Ted Talks and Videos that you could encourage your staff to watch independently or together:
    1. How to Teach Kids to Talk About Taboo Topics by Liz Kleinrock.
    2. Is my Skin Brown Because I Drank Chocolate Milk? by Beverly Daniel Tatum. 
  4. Include a list of resources, such as the following websites for your staff to explore:
    1. The Conscious Kid- An organization that supports families, educators, and organizations in taking action to disrupt racism in young children.
    2. Teaching Tolerance- An organization that emphasizes social justice and anti-bias through providing free resources and curriculum for the classroom such as videos, movies, articles, and webinars for educators and educational leaders. 
    3. Kirwin Institute- A research institute at Ohio State University that seeks to create a just and inclusive society where all people and communities have the opportunity to succeed.
  5. Print out an article during a staff meeting to read independently and have a discussion reflection afterward:
    1. Strategies for Addressing Implicit Bias in Early Childhood Education, The Kirwin Institute. 
    2. What Anti-Racism Really Means for Educators by Jamilah Pitts. 

Keep the Conversation Going

Once your staff has completed an implicit bias training, it is important to =look for ways to continue the conversation:

Ask for Staff Input

Potentially invite a staff member who is passionate about the topic to look for opportunities to keep moving toward anti-bias and anti-racism from hosting a meeting during lunchtime to creating a Zoom meeting in the evening to discuss organically. 

Book Club

Choose a book that will help spark conversations regarding anti-bias and anti-racism related to education. A few suggestions:

  1. What if all the kids Are white? Anti-bias multicultural education with young children and families by Louise Derman-Sparks and Patricia G. Ramsey. 
  2. Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves by Louise Derman-Sparks, Julie Olsen Edwards and Catherine M. Goins.
  3. Why are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum. 

The pursuit of developing an anti-racist approach in early childhood programs takes time, yet is is necessary and needed to ensure the fight against racial injustice is a constant goal. As educators and staff members identify, reflect, and dialogue about various topics related to racism, prejudice and oppression, the hope is that their teaching practices and treatment of children and families will improve and be transformed.   

Heidi Harris

Heidi Alene Harris, P.h.D., is an adjunct professor for Ashford University & Spring Arbor University and has been an early childhood professional for 16 years serving as an educational consultant, educator, and freelance writer. Heidi has a passion for bringing an awareness of the importance of quality Early Childhood Education and an interest in the Reggio Emilia educational project where she has completed her doctoral dissertation on the creative, interactive, and co-collaborative philosophy.