On Reducing Bias in Online Teaching

I found this short answer to the question, “How can we reduce bias in online teaching?” which I composed a couple of years ago. I’m curious about my suggestion that Standard English is a method whereby we can reduce bias. I’m not sure I would give that suggestion now. Is that inclusive language or not?

One of the points made in this video is that “slowing down” is one method whereby professionals can minimize the degree to which unconscious bias influences their interactions. The very nature of online education, especially that fact that most interaction must be written, slows the thought process, which minimizes unintentional bias.

Over the summer, I happened to read Daniel Kahneman’s (2011) Thinking Fast and Slow which details how “fast and lazy” thinking can lead to bad decisions, including allowing unconscious bias to affect those decisions.  Kahneman observed that unconscious bias influences how humans act, but also how they interpret the actions of others. He noted this is demonstrated in very young children, and he concludes, “Your mind is ready and even eager to identify agents, assign them personality traits, and specific intentions, and view their actions as expressing personality propensities” (2011, p. 76).

One rule that can minimize the unconscious bias that enters online interactions and that can contribute to a more inclusive culture is to use Standard English in all posts and writing. Often bias is contained in vernacular and slang and we are unaware of the hidden and offensive meaning in our informal words. By adopting a more formal register in online interactions, we are both practicing professional communication and minimizing bias.

Further, online education should be a space where our mentors and peers reveal our biases to us. When a fellow student points out bias which leads to new understanding, an online course can help emerging professionals learn soft skills as well as content.


Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.