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School Leaders Unearth Personal Biases

Updated: Jul 20, 2019

Many scholars emphasize the need for critical self- reflection of one’s leadership practices (Cooper, 2009; Gooden, 2005; Gooden & Dantley, 2012; Johnson, 2006; Lomotey, 1989; Theoharis, 2007). Scholars have argued that engaging in critical self-reflection supports the personal growth of leaders and unearths their own biases, assumptions, and values that stem from their cultural backgrounds (Capper, Theoharis, & Sebastian, 2006; M. D. Young & Laible, 2000). 

The ability of educational leaders to critically self-reflect about their biases and their practice is integral to both transformative (Cooper, 2009; Shields, 2010) and social justice (Bogotch, 2002; Brown, 2004; Larson & Murtadha, 2002; Theoharis, 2007). Critical reflection, which is also essential to culturally responsive leadership, is foundational and precedes any actions in leadership; It must also be ongoing. Dantley (2005b) contended, “A psychology of critical self-reflection involves the education leader coming to grips with his or her own identity and contrasting that against the identity of the learning community (p. 503). In this process, an individual leader is recognizing that she or he is a cultural being influenced by multidimensional aspects of cultural identity, even as she or he attempts to do the work of leadership. In scholarly articles, such leaders are urged to examine their own biases and how they affect their professional practices (Dantley, 2005a, 2008; Furman, 2012; Madhlangobe & Gordon, 2012). 

Critical self-reflection also establishes the foundation for the development of critical consciousness in leadership preparation programs. In moving toward critical consciousness, scholars have suggested activities that get at attitude development like cultural and racial autobiographies, educational plunges, cross-cultural interviews, diversity panels, and journaling on critical topics of culture (Brown, 2004; Capper et al., 2002; Gooden & O’Doherty, 2015; Jean-Marie, Normore, & Brooks, 2009; Pounder, Reitzug, & Young, 2002). Although social justice leadership scholars have recognized the importance of reflection and action–as an essential aspect of leaders’ work, it is now beginning to appear more frequently in the social justice leadership literature. 

Scholars have also started to recognize the need for professors of social justice leadership to develop their critical consciousness before they attempt to impart this knowledge or affect the work of those they train as educational leaders. For instance, educational administration departments have been called upon to model the change they wish to see in their graduates to spark a rethinking of educational leadership, including an emphasis on hiring diverse faculty (Cambron- McCabe & McCarthy, 2005; J. Lightfoot, 2010; Pounder et al., 2002; Santamaría, 2014). 

IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your school community gain an understanding of one’s sense of self. Having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown it is linked to better well-being, less stress and delinquency, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed. Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally responsive practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience.  Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a dynamic learning environment that honors your school community, visit our website at, or contact us at or 1800-507-2502.

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