McDermott receives Spencer grant to investigate implicit bias in schools

College of Education professor Kathryn A. McDermott, an expert on the politics of education policy, received a 2016-17 Spencer Foundation Mid-career grant to conduct research on how implicit bias influences school practices and school-level effects of education policy.

“The effects of broad policies in education depend on the day-to-day decisions that teachers and administrators make about students,” McDermott explained. “Understanding how these decisions contribute to maintaining or challenging racial bias is key to understanding the actual effects of public policy.”

With Linda Tropp, psychological and brain sciences, McDermott is examining the latest research on how people’s unconscious racial biases shape their decisions and behavior. She is also working with Rachel Godsil of Seton Hall University on applying this research to policy and law, and observing how Phillip Atiba Goff and the Center for Policing Equity, University of California Los Angeles, conduct evidence-based anti-bias training for police officers. Her ultimate goal is to design interventions that will reduce the influence of unconscious bias on education policy and school practices.

The purpose the Spencer Foundation’s mid-career grants is to provide support for faculty members to build on their previous scholarship by acquiring new methodological skills or theoretical perspectives that can be applied to a particular line of inquiry.

The Spencer Foundation is one of the foremost grant makers in the field of education research. It was established in 1962 to investigate ways in which education, broadly conceived, can be improved around the world. It has awarded nearly $500 million in grants through its research, fellowship and training programs. The Foundation is based in Chicago, Illinois.

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