Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Strive to be fair

Academia and society at large are deeply affected by biases. It permeates our hiring practices (Moss-Racussin et al, 2012), and even graduate student advising (Milkman et al, 2012; 2015). Because many of these biases are implicit (i.e. we have them without being aware of it), it is important to be mindful of them when teaching. In particular, implicit biases can reveal themselves during grading (Malouff and Thorsteinsson, 2016), calling on students (Hall, 1982), or during classroom discussions (Hall, 1982).

  • When grading, instructors should strive to grade anonymously (Malouff and Thorsteinsson, 2016). Some Learning Management Systems, including Canvas can handle this task. For hard copy exams and papers, cover up the names ahead of time with sticky notes and shuffle the papers.
  • To prevent a small group of students from dominating discussions, adopt active learning strategies that will encourage everyone to participate, wait longer before taking answers so more hands go up, and if you are using cold calling, make sure that it is truly randomized (e.g. use a number generator or a deck of cards, etc.).
  • Clearly state your policies on grading and regrading on your syllabus. In particular, indicate if you will use rubrics. This gives students an understanding of procedures to follow and lets you apply them to everyone without bias. Students feel more secure that one does not need “special access” to the instructor to obtain a good grade or be re-graded.


Hall, R. 1982. Classroom Climate: A Chilly One for Women? Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges.

Malouff, J M and E B Thorsteinsson. 2016. “Bias in Grading: A Meta-Analysis of Experimental Research Findings”. Australian Journal Of Education. Vol 60 (3). 245-256.

Milkman K., M. Akinola, and D. Chugh. 2012. Temporal Distance and Discrimination: An Audit Study in Academia. Psychological science. 23:710-717.

Milkman K. M. Akinola, and D. Chugh. 2015. What Happens Before? A Field Experiment Exploring How Pay and Representation Differentially Shape Bias on the Pathway Into Organizations. Journal of applied psychology.

Moss-Racusin, C. A., J. Dovidio, V. L. Brescoll, Mark J. Graham, and J. Handelsman. 2012. Science Faculty’s Subtle Gender Biases Favor Male Students. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America, vol 109, no 41, 16474-16479.

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