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#1 Joanna C

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Posted 16 January 2004 - 07:06 PM

Please help! I have a number of AS students who believe that there is such a thing as an unbiased source. The explanation that all sources (primary and secondary) are biased, and the trick is to analyse where the bias is coming from, was met with a blank stare. I have banned use of the word bias in written work, in the hope that more experience will clear up the problem. But I would like to tackle the underlying problem. Any ideas?


#2 georginadunn


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Posted 16 January 2004 - 07:39 PM

Hmmmm! Don't know if this will be of any help - sure there are more experienced out there with better advice!

If I am trying to get across the idea of bias in terms of points of view, I usually explain it as a football match (Man Utd v someone else). I then go through how what I'd be saying at the end of the game if we won (we're the best, etc etc), and then compare it to what I'd say if we lost (bad ref, dodgy ball/pitch etc). That sometimes helps.

In terms of analysis, I always tell my pupils that a good historian sits on the fence, or is the middle bit of a see-saw keeping it balanced. My newly acquired year 8s understand this perfectly but my year 11s still struggle - maybe it's an age thing?

Hope that helps (maybe?)
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#3 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 16 January 2004 - 10:31 PM

In my experience, pupils find it difficult to distinguish between 'balanced' and 'unbiased'. They tend to think that writing that is not loaded with 'emotional' words is necessarily 'unbiased' especailly when it appears to be 'just a descriptive account. What they don't always seem to grasp is that everyone (you and me included) carries a great deal of 'baggage' and this inevitably influences our view of events both past and present.

I found that lots of concentrated emphasis on the provenance of a source tends to be helpful. I don't think that it is necessarily an age thing at all. Much will depend on whether those AS students of yours have been exposed to an examination of provenance at any meaninful level in the past.

The all-boys I used to teach found this all pretty easy to understand because (i) I was 'old' (ii) I was female and (iii) I didn't belong to the same religious denomination as them. So I often would highlight the fact that my view was coloured by my age/generation or gender or religious conviction and showed them how to spot when my apparently 'unbiased' words were in fact very loaded.

They enjoyed spotting when I was deliberately leading them 'up a gum tree'. Might you be able to approach things in this way as well? It worked well for me and they got pretty good at spotting my 'liberal bias' and enjoyed trying to 'gut' me. :D

#4 neil mcdonald

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Posted 17 January 2004 - 09:40 AM

I say to my year 7s that bias is a four letter word and not to bother with it. Instead they are to look at the reliability of the sources using similar methods as mentioned earlier - especially the football match idea. I have found if I mention bias to them all they tend to do is say it is biased and that is it.
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#5 Joanna C

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Posted 17 January 2004 - 11:27 AM

Thanks for these ideas ... it's helpful to know that other people are grappling with the same difficulties. I particularly like Carole's idea - as I teach in an FE college I'll only be able to use the generational difference with conviction, but that's probably enough. It's rather depressing that so many 6th form students have failed to move on from Neil's Yr 7 thinking that saying it's biased is enough (they're generally the ones who can't spell it, either!).

#6 Gidz


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Posted 17 January 2004 - 09:39 PM

Go figure ;)


\Un*bi"ased\, a. [Pref. un- + biased.] Free from bias or prejudice; unprejudiced; impartial


\Un*bi"as\, v. t. [1st pref. un- + bias.] To free from bias or prejudice. --Swift.


Bias \Bi"as\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Biased (b[imac]"ast); p. pr. & vb. n. Biasing.] To incline to one side; to give a particular direction to; to influence; to prejudice; to prepossess.

Me it had not biased in the one direction, nor should it have biased any just critic in the counter direction. --De Quincey.


A line going diagonally across the grain of fabric: Cut the cloth on the bias.

A preference or an inclination, especially one that inhibits impartial judgment.
An unfair act or policy stemming from prejudice.
A statistical sampling or testing error caused by systematically favoring some outcomes over others.
A weight or irregularity in a ball that causes it to swerve, as in lawn bowling.
The tendency of such a ball to swerve.
The fixed voltage applied to an electrode.


#7 Lou Phillips

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Posted 26 January 2004 - 04:29 PM

I hate the word 'bias'!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
"True generosity towards the future consists of giving everything to the present" Albert Camus

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