ERIC Identifier: ED351146
Publication Date: 1992-00-00
Author: Hohensee, Julie Bisson - Derman-Sparks, Louise
ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education Urbana IL.
Implementing an Anti-Bias Curriculum in Early Childhood
Classrooms. ERIC Digest.
Children are aware of differences in color, language, gender, and physical
ability at a very young age. Numerous research studies about the process of
identity and attitude development conclude that children learn by observing the
differences and similarities among people and by absorbing the spoken and
unspoken messages about those differences. The biases and negative stereotypes
about various aspects of human diversity prevalent in our society undercut all
children's healthy development and ill-equip them to interact effectively with
many people in the world. Consequently, anti-bias curriculum seeks to nurture
the development of every child's fullest potential by actively addressing issues
of diversity and equity in the classroom.
Specific curriculum goals of anti-bias curriculum are to foster each child's:
*construction of a knowledgeable, confident self-identity;
*comfortable, empathic interaction with people from diverse backgrounds;
*critical thinking about bias;
*ability to stand up for herself or himself, and for others, in the face of
A belief in the value of human diversity and the fair treatment of all people
is a prerequisite for doing anti-bias work. When teachers become committed to
learning how to implement anti-bias curricula in their settings, they seem to go
through four identifiable phases.
CREATING THE CLIMATE
Phase one involves teachers raising
their own awareness of anti-bias issues related to themselves, their program,
and the children in their care. A support group is essential for this process.
Cooperative learning is the best method for developing anti-bias awareness and
knowledge. Everyone needs the diverse perspectives and honest feedback of peers
to develop new insights and teaching practices. Support group members may be
other staff, parents, or early childhood teachers who want anti-bias curriculum
for their children. Groups should meet regularly--at least once a month. Group
members can build self-awareness by asking introspective questions and talking
over responses with others committed to doing anti-bias work. Useful questions
are, How did I become aware of the various aspects of my identity? What
differences among people make me feel uncomfortable? When have I experienced or
witnessed bias in my life and how did I respond? Group members should work
toward facing biases and discomforts and eliminating their influence on
Another step in this process involves finding out what ideas children have
about diversity by observing and interviewing them. Teachers can ask questions
such as, What do you know about Indians? What makes you a girl or boy? What kind
of work could this person do? (while showing a picture of a person in a
wheelchair). Teachers can evaluate children's answers for signs of
misinformation and discomfort. Responses alert the teacher to necessary
directions for curriculum activities. The reading of research studies about
children's development of identity and attitudes will also fill out the
framework for curriculum decisions.
Evaluating the classroom environment and beginning to make necessary changes
is the third component of phase one. Teachers must take a critical look at all
the materials in the classroom environment, asking themselves what messages
about diversity the children get from the materials. Do children see abundant
images of people that reflect diverse abilities and current racial, ethnic,
gender, and economic diversity? Do the images include depictions of important
individuals who participated in struggles for justice? (See the first chapter in
Derman-Sparks, 1992 for ideas.) After this evaluation, teachers can make a plan
for buying and making needed new materials and eliminating inappropriate
Finally, teachers can begin to identify parents who might be interested in
anti-bias curriculum, and invite them to participate in the process of changing
In the second phase, a teacher
begins to explore the process of doing anti-bias activities. "Teachable moments" that arise from observing and interviewing children are one starting point. For
example, the arrival of a child who uses leg braces may stimulate questions or
discomfort from some children. The teacher can get ideas about what to do by
reading relevant curriculum materials, talking with other teachers about how
they might handle the situation, and taking the plunge of initiating some
activities. A teacher who observes children insisting on role-playing only
stereotypical gender roles in dramatic play could initiate activities that
expand children's awareness of gender roles. These might involve visiting
workplaces, inviting visitors to the classroom, or reading a book about girls
and boys doing nontraditional as well as traditional activities.
Teacher-initiated activities are another starting place for exploring
anti-bias curriculum. For example, an activity about skin color, such as mixing
paints to find children's individual skin colors, can be included in the
frequently used curriculum theme of "I'm Me; I'm Special!"
In this second phase, it is crucial to begin involving all parents. Parents
should be informed about how and why anti-bias activities are now part of the
children's curriculum and invited to participate. Newsletters, parent meetings,
and individual conferences are all useful. Plan a parent education session about
how children develop identity and attitudes.
As teachers explore the process of doing anti-bias work with children and
parents, they also continue their own personal growth on anti-bias issues. Once
implementation is underway, ongoing support groups remain essential to share the
successes, evaluate the mistakes, provide encouragement, and plan what to do
After spending some time trying
out anti-bias activities, a teacher is ready to do more systematic, long-term
planning. The teacher can step back, take a look at what has happened, and ask,
What issues have surfaced? What has been accomplished? What areas need further
Teachers can consider ways to regularly integrate all anti-bias goals and
issues into all aspects of the ongoing curriculum. Children's backgrounds and
developmental needs should be taken into account in the planning of culturally
inclusive curricula. Parents should regularly be involved in the planning and
implementation of activities, and in group discussions about specific anti-bias
issues. Teachers should continue to work on personal issues that arise in the
course of teaching children and parents and continue to meet with a support
In this phase, the anti-bias
perspective becomes a filter through which the teacher plans, implements, and
evaluates all materials, activities, and interactions with children, parents,
and staff. Learning about diversity and equity permeates all activities. As
children engage in activities, they respond with comments and questions that
become further "teachable moments." Teachers then plan more activities in
response, which in turn lead to more teachable moments from the children, and
the cycle continues as a part of daily classroom life. The teacher adapts
curriculum to the changing needs of children; continues to consult with parents
about their current issues; and continues to deepen his or her own awareness of
anti-bias issues. Doing anti-bias curriculum is now a way of life.
This ERIC/EECE Digest is based on Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools For Empowering
Young Children, by Louise Derman-Sparks (1989), Washington, DC: NAEYC.
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Potentials: Appropriate Curriculum and Assessment for Young Children.
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