World Trust

Addressing Unconscious Bias Tip #5: Create a Disorienting Dilemma

Posted by Adwoa Gyimah-Brempong on October 16, 2014

JudithScottartSpecial mention: today World Trust is taking part in Blog Action Day, along with thousands of others around the globe. This year's topic, Inequality, is one that we care deeply about discussing in order to move toward change.

One of the strongest perpetuators of the system of racial inequity is unconscious bias. As diversity trainers and educators, it is crucial to find ways to interrupt this bias so as to pave the way for change.

Transformative learning asks adult learners to engage in critical reflection on their experiences and learned beliefs, for the purpose of deconstructing embedded assumptions about how the world works. 

At World Trust, we have found that transformative learning is the perfect pedagogy for addressing unconscious bias. In this blog series, we look at six elements that can be included in your diversity activities, harnessing the power of transformative learning to combat unconscious bias.

#5 Facing One’s Own Bias: Creating a disorienting dilemma.
Learning that the world does not function the way you thought it did can create a phenomenon that transformative learning theorist Jack Mezirow called a “disorienting dilemma.” Abrupt change in your own way of thinking can have a curious effect on the mind and body. It can rip the ground out from under your feet, interrupt the misinformation we all carry about the world. But in the space left by the sudden shift, our points of view have the potential for expansion.

In our Racial Equity Learning Modules, one exercise accomplishes this without referencing race at all. By playing on the cultural assumptions held about artists, we provide an ‘aha’ moment – further opening participants to a personal experience of their own biases.

The module Shifting Perspectives in Education uses video of the artist Judith Scott to create a disorienting dilemma. By experiencing her art before learning more about the artist herself, participants have a visceral experience of their own assumptions and bias.

The Takeaway
This creates a sense of wonder, making people aware that each person views the world through their own unique set of experiences; it also generates curiosity about looking at the world beyond the assumptions that we make.

Want to learn more about our Racial Equity Learning Modules? For more information, please click here. Curious about the rest of the tips in this series? Download them all for free below!

Download "Addressing Unconscious Bias" from World Trust