Module 4: working with young people: learner's workbook

4.1 The impact of values, attitudes and assumptions

Page last updated: 2004

It is now time to think about the impact of your own values and attitudes on your work. How do you ensure that you work with young people in a non-judgemental and professional way in which their rights and needs are respected?

In this topic you'll undertake a number of self-assessment exercises that will help you recognise some of the skills and values that contribute to ensuring the best outcomes for young people. The exercises may also help you to identify your own limitations and areas that you may need to address.

Let's begin with an exercise.

The impact of values, attitudes and assumptions
Managing your values

The impact of values, attitudes and assumptions

(A good point for students to contact facilitator). Distance learners may complete this task with a colleague or fellow learners.

Task - writing exercise/group activity

Read the following statements and plot where you would place yourself on a scale of 1-10 (1 = yes, 10 = no) – then discuss your thoughts with a partner.
  1. Australia should adopt an attitude to cannabis like that in the Netherlands i.e. legalised and available in 'coffee shops'.

  2. People have a fundamental responsibility to solve their own problems.

  3. Immigrants should be encouraged to establish their own cultural community.

  4. People who have a terminal illness should have a right to choose whether they live or die.

  5. There should be condom vending machines in schools.

  6. Female prisoners should be allowed to keep their newborn children with them in prison for the first two years of the child's life.

  7. Smoking should be banned from all public areas including clubs, bars and restaurants.

  8. School uniforms should be optional.

  9. University education should be free.

  10. A list of names of known pedophiles should be publicly available.Top of page

Workplace learning activity

Consider the following questions:

Question - What values can you identify that underpin your response to these questions?

Question - How may these values impact on your work with young people?

Question - How similar is your position to that of your partner?

Question - How might the way you view a person affect the way you behave towards them?

Question - To what extent did you make assumptions? Do you do this in real life situations?

Question - What conclusions can we draw (in regard to your work with young people)?

How did you find this exercise? Did it raise any contentious issues for you? Your values and attitudes are in many ways the essence of who you are and it can be uncomfortable to be challenged about them. It can also be difficult if someone makes assumptions about you which are not accurate. Consider the following points:


  • Personal values are directly influenced by social values
  • Values vary in all cultures
  • Young people may have values that are not consistent with yours
  • Workers should not make assumptions about a young person's values
  • Cultural groups should not be stereotyped
  • We need knowledge and understanding to assist young people from different cultures, backgrounds and lifestyles.
Values can affect:
  • what we notice, encourage or discourage
  • how we prioritise work
  • what information we choose to give to young people or the options that we provide for them
  • decision making – criteria for decisions is often valuebased
  • relationships with young people
  • record keeping – what we choose to write down – or not write down.Top of page


  • Making assumptions in everyday interactions is the way that we sort information about people quickly.
  • We use criteria such as age, previous experience, similar interests, language, education, etc.
  • Assumptions are based on our values and these vary significantly from one person to the next.
  • We often assume if people are like us they will have similar values (The exercise will have demonstrated that often this is not the case).
  • Often judgments are attached to these assumptions/ impressions – like us: superior; not like us: inferior.
  • There is a difference between making assumptions and making hypotheses. Hypotheses are propositions that we use as a basis for gathering further information which then supports or disqualifies our hypotheses.
  • Assumptions are often taken-for-granted 'truths'.
  • Often if you don't challenge your own assumptions you regard them as fact and you respond to people accordingly.
  • In crises or hurried situations we are likely to slip more into our value and attitude base.
The point of this exercise is to uncover some of the values and assumptions that you hold, and the assumptions that you can make about others. As your values underpin your interactions and decision-making, you can see how important it is to be aware of them and to consider the impact they can have on your work with young people.

The process of self-reflection should be a regular part of your professional practice.

Managing your values

Task - writing exercise/group activity

Question - With a partner, discuss some strategies for managing your values. (If it is not possible to work with a partner complete this exercise by yourself.)

Answer - (Write your answer, then check the possible answers page.)