Bias and assumptions matter to our students.
I encourage you to read Tiffany C. Martínez's post about the cost of assumptions.
Her situation is pure bias and prejudice on the part of the instructor. In an age of intentional & unintentional plagiarism, it is easy to assume the worst. However, there is a fine line between that and bias. I have made mistakes with grading assumptions. One in particular stands out where a student of mine studied journal examples to learn how to write. The resulting paper was better than most published articles I have seen. I went on to encourage that student to publish, but I still regret asking them about how they wrote the paper.
As bell hooks (1994) writes in Teaching to Transgress, “This is the oppressor’s language yet I need it to talk to you” (p. 167). We often teach and reward students who write in the language of academia, rather than in their own voice. In doing so we can lose the value of their narrative and their language, something I have come to appreciate greatly. bell hooks' own writing is a prime example of how to blend language with scholarship. Yet, even when students use such academic language, our assumptions can still make it oppressive.
This is something that we need to consider, the next time we are grading, evaluating, or even offering feedback for our students. What are the messages we are sending? What are the assumptions we are making? What are the implications for our students?
John P. Sauter Jr., Ph.D
Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs
Niagara University, NY
Cross Posted at A Life in Higher Education