Examining Bias

“Neutral perspectives on a situation are rare and … everyone’s perspective is coloured by their context, beliefs and background.i

Before teaching students about healthy living topics, educators need to reflect on their own assumptions, prejudices, stereotypes, and biases, in order to create a safe an inclusive learning environment. Educators must carefully consider both the ways their perspectives are articulated to their students and the ways they respond to the ideas of others. When addressing healthy living topics, educators must be able to ensure that all learners feel supported in a stable, nonjudgmental learning environment where they are free to learn about and explore their own personal beliefs as well as the personal and social views of othersii.

An effective way for educators to identify personal bias is through personal reflection. This process allows a person to identify their feelings, ideas, values, and possible reactions towards healthy living subject matter. Once a person had identified these things, they need to consider which are private and personal, and which are appropriate to share with students.

To examine their personal beliefs and identify potential bias they may hold about their students, educators can ask themselves the following reflective questions:

  • What personal biases shape my emotional reaction to the content?
  • What steps will I take to support my students so that my personal biases and beliefs will not interfere with my ability to respond professionally to their questions?
  • What assumptions do I make about learning and teaching about this topic? Do some of these assumptions come from my own biases?
  • How will I address the curriculum expectations if aspects of it challenge my personal beliefs?
  • Do I consider and respect the diverse values, experiences, backgrounds, and identities of my students?
  • Is the diversity of my students reflected in the scenarios, activities, and resources used in my classroom?iii

Engaging in personal reflection will benefit both educator and students. It will help the educator understand himself or herself as well as students’ needs, before exploring the learning with students. Educators are extremely important in their ability to help students develop living skills and access current and accurate information as they grow into confident, safe, and healthy adults.

i Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services. (2012). Stepping stones: A resource on youth development, page 48. Queen’s Printer for Ontario. Retrieved from: http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/documents/youthopportunities/steppingstones/SteppingStones.pdf

ii Ontario Ministry of Education. (2013). Supporting minds: An educator’s guide to promoting students’ mental health and well-being. Queen’s Printer for Ontario. Retrieved from: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/document/reports/SupportingMinds.pdf

iii Ophea. (2015). Level Up. Retrieved from: https://teachingtools.ophea.net/sites/default/files/pdf/level_up_-_program_guide.pdf