Creating Bias-Free Classrooms

ENCOMPASS now offers a unique training program that helps schools increase their effectiveness in addressing bias in the classroom.


ABOUT CREATING BIAS-FREE CLASSROOMS

“Creating Bias-Free Classrooms offers an unprecedented experiential learning opportunity for students and teachers alike.” - Judy Chaisson, Office of Human Relations, LAUSD

Creating Bias-Free Classrooms is a new teacher-training program that uses live, improvisational theater to equip educators to build safe and inclusive learning environments for students impacted by homophobia. The program utilizes professional teenage and adult actors to bring to life classroom conflicts, offering teachers hands-on practice intervening in LGBT harassment and addressing homophobic behavior.

 

PROGRAM NEED

“Homophobia is rampant in high schools—teachers need tools to diffuse, teach and engage the discussion.” - Parent of a LAUSD High School Student

The need for hands on anti-homophobia training in schools has been underscored by countless studies, statistics and hate crime cases. Since 2000, California schools have been legally obligated to ensure that no student is harassed based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.


Teachers play a crucial role in preventing and stopping harassment yet they do not get adequate training on how to intervene. Creating Bias-Free Classrooms was designed for middle and high school teachers in response to the ongoing need for effective and engaging solutions to harassment, bullying and hate-behavior aimed at students who identify as—or are perceived to be—lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).


PROGRAM METHODOLOGY

“This training takes teachers into the heart of commonly faced situations and helps them think about better ways to turn them into learning situations.” - Shelly Tochluk, Assistant Professor of Education, Mount St. Mary's College

Creating Bias-Free Classrooms uses the power of live theater to transport teachers into a contemporary classroom. The training sessions blend guided self-refection, facilitated dialogue and experiential learning, offering a highly effective, multi-faceted training approach.

Most importantly, Creating Bias-Free Classrooms encourages teachers to learn from one another. During each training session, information is shared between the training facilitator and the teachers—and between teachers themselves.

The stories, voices and scenarios presented in Creating Bias-Free Classrooms are inspired by years of interviews, group dialogues and experiences with youth and teachers. Key training components include self-assessment, critical thinking, skill building and student feedback.


TRAINING COMPONENTS


"I really appreciated the role-playing and that we could actively participate in creating strategies. I learned as much from the failures as from the successes.” - Teacher, BTSA Induction Program

Self-Assessment
Participating teachers listen to descriptive stories—shared in the form of a monologue by our adult actors portraying teachers—vividly detailing bias-related classrooms scenarios.
 
Shared from the perspective of various teachers, each story details a classroom environment impacted by anti-gay prejudice and the teacher’s desire to remedy the situation. During each monologue, participating teachers use a confidential reflection tool to assess their abilities to effectively identify and handle the problem presented.
 
Critical Thinking
Participating teachers watch our cast of trained adult and student actors bring two classrooms to life before their eyes.
 
During the five-minute scenes, teachers make mental notes on the acts of bias that occur in the classroom, and identify the appropriate moments and methods of intervention. After each scene, teachers brainstorm solutions with the help of a trained facilitator. The facilitator then coaches our adult actor on how to better handle the classroom situation.
 
With these suggestions in mind, the identical scene begins again and the students actors improvise their character’s likely reaction to the teacher, who is now equipped with new classroom management strategies. Teachers see their feedback in action—for better or for worse—as the scene unfolds.
 
Skill Building
Participants will have an opportunity to step into our scenes and assume the role of the teacher, implementing their own approach to creating a bias-free classroom.
 
This experiential learning segment offers teachers an opportunity to role play, trying out their own strategies and getting feedback from their colleagues within the safety of the training session, before they begin implementing strategies to combat bias-motivated behavior within their own classrooms.

Student Feedback
Participants will have an opportunity to hear from our cast of high school actors as they share vital information about creating safe spaces for students impacted by homophobia.
 
Together, the students will summarize some of the key learnings of the training, sharing some practical strategies—along with a couple of common pitfalls—for teachers to consider when working to create safer classrooms.


PROGRAM
OUTCOMES

"It made me question what I am doing to help mold students' perceptions of others. I want continue to reflect on my own perceptions."  - Teacher, BTSA Induction Program

Creating Bias-Free Classrooms is designed to support teachers' classroom management abilities by offering them a unique hands-on opportunity to discuss and practice establishing safe, equitable and bias-free learning environments. This preparation includes:

Knowing Their Responsibility
Participating teachers will learn their mandated responsibility to create safe and equitable classrooms for students who are—or are perceived to be—lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
        
Assessing on Their Abilities
Participating teachers will reflect upon their current comfort and effectiveness addressing issues homophobia.
       
Developing and Practicing Strategies
Participating teachers will gain hands on practice identifying and addressing anti-gay bias to create safer learning environments for students impacted by homophobia.

Understanding What is at Stake
Participating teachers will gain a clear understanding of the why confronting homophobia is a vital part of contemporary classroom management.

Sparking a Commitment to Inclusion
Participating teachers will develop a stronger commitment to confronting homophobia in their classrooms and to creating safe and inclusive environments.


LACHSA PARTNERSHIP

"Outstanding job conveying material in an interesting way. 1st rate student actors!"  - Teacher, BTSA Induction Program

Since its inception, ENCOMPASS has worked exclusively with the finest student actors from the Los Angeles High School for the Arts (LACHSA) to deliver Creating Bias-Free Classrooms.
 
LACHSA offers a specialized program combining college-preparatory academic instruction and conservatory-style training in the visual and performing arts. Founded in 1985, the tuition-free public school is run by the Los Angeles County Office of Education in partnership with and on the campus of California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA).
 
Recognized as the premier public arts high school in the western U.S., LACHSA is the recipient of numerous awards, including: California Distinguished School for academic excellence, Golden Bell Award (visual arts program), Grammy Signature School (music program) and Bravo Award (Music Center of Los Angeles County) for excellence in arts education.