Assessment of classroom diversity begins with a teacher's examination of his or her own attitudes and dispositions. Students are adept at picking up both verbal and non-verbal cues that indicate how teachers really feel about them, their capacity to learn, and the subject that is being taught. Teachers need to reflect upon and where appropriate, challenge personal attitudes and beliefs. Self-assessment can be done in a number of ways:
- Candidates and teachers may reflect on their own experience with issues like bullying, social ostracism or substance abuse. They can recall the behavior of significant adults in relationship to these life problems and think about the kinds of responses from important adults, including teachers, that were (or would have been) most helpful when they were students.
- Bullying and social ostracism by definition involve power. An imbalance of power is inherent in the student/teacher relationship. Candidates and teachers can reflect upon memories or literature in which teachers bullied or ostracized students (or created an environment where this could occur) and ways that they can safeguard against this in their teaching.
- Future and current teachers may assess their attitudes towards students who display problem behaviors. Are such students "written off" or is there a belief that they can learn? How is the belief demonstrated and expressed? What memories or reading can be drawn upon to support the belief that individuals can and do overcome problem behaviors or situations?
- Candidates and teachers may also reflect on their attitudes towards communities that are different from those to which they are accustomed, including communities that are different by race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Are they comfortable with such differences? Do they regard diversity as the opportunity to learn about other cultures and teach in the context of respect for such differences? Does their teaching include minority or alternative perspectives regarding history and current events, real life issues, or other controversial topics?
- A working knowledge of the diversity of the classroom is critical if the design of Real Life Issues CI is to command the student's attention and be perceived as relevant. Candidates and teachers might begin by reflecting upon their own cultural identity and values and how those values have informed personal perspectives and choices. They may then reflect upon significant adults who were sensitive or insensitive to their culture, gender, values, or perspectives and how those adults impacted their learning and attitudes about self. They may consider the implications that these reflections might have upon their future teaching. Are their interactions with students of different races, ethnicities, languages, religions, genders, sexual orientations, ages, exceptionalities, or other backgrounds supportive or discouraging?