GMIT incident highlights need for unconscious bias training for college staff

15th December 2020 - Aisling Dolan

A shocking incident in which lecturers were overheard using insulting language about their students has highlighted the need for unconscious bias training for all staff in the Higher Education sector, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Aisling Dolan, Fine Gael spokesperson for Education, Further & Higher Education, said “I was shocked and distressed to learn of an incident were lecturers at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology were overheard making personal remarks in relation to students while grading them for virtual assessments after an online meeting.
“This behaviour is unacceptable, unprofessional and has rightly angered and upset students and parents.

“I appreciate that GMIT has apologised to the students, but the episode highlights the need to take action to ensure that robust, accountable and transparent systems are in place, especially with a new way of conducting assessments due to Covid-19.

“We have an excellent education system, however there is always room for improvement, and this is something that I raised in the Seanad today.

“We know that conscious and unconscious bias has a serious impact on decision-making – proven by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman based on decades of research.
“It is proven that we are all influenced by our environment and it causes us to jump to conclusions and impacts on the judgements we make.

“As a member of staff at NUI Galway, in the last few years as part of HR requirements, we had to conduct unconscious bias training prior to conducting any interviews. This exists at 3rd level and I would like to call for this training to be rolled out to all staff involved in making assessments.

“Under Dept of Further & Higher Education, Science, Research & Innovation, Minister Simon Harris is bringing through governance reform for third level will is due before the Houses here at the start of 2021.

“I would call on all stakeholders to take part in this discussion so that all views can be taken into consideration,” Senator Dolan concluded.

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