Monday, February 6, 2012

Overcoming stereotypes in science

I recently tweeted out a link to this Tumblr (This Is What A Scientist Looks Like) in which they post pictures of scientists in their natural habitat (complete with David Attenborough discussing their mating rituals).  I received a tweet in response to it (from @MissDSciTeacher):

which inspired this post.  What a great way to not only overcome students misconceptions about scientists but also to discuss stereotypes and cognitive biases.

Following Danielle's suggestions, have students come up with what they think a scientist looks like, acts like, or has for personality traits.  Then have them peruse the Tumblr.  At that point lead a discussion about the differences between the perceived idea of a scientist and the reality of a scientist (of course assuming their is dissonance there, which there most likely will be).

From here you can lead the discussion in what causes us to have stereotypes and why they are so difficult to get rid.  This leads perfectly into a discussion of confirmation bias, which is something that should be discussed in every science classroom (and in my opinion, every student should leave school aware of their own cognitive biases and how to correct for them).