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Author: Dr. Neil Hawkes, Founder: Values-based Education International

 

VbE is a developmental process that connects with the intrinsic qualities of human beings and actively nurtures them.

 

It invites the individual to be aware of the potential power for good or ill of their inner world of thoughts and feelings; how the way that these are used affects our own general well being, that of others and potentially the world. It sees the purpose of education as the flourishing of humanity.

 

It is soundly based on international research, (Lovat et al, 2009), which shows the positive effects on students, both socially and academically, when educators model and teach about universal, positive human values. The purpose of adopting the values philosophy is to inspire young people to live the values in their lives so that they develop positive character traits, becoming the best people that they can be; actively demonstrating the values in their daily lives, thereby creating a sustainable world.

 

Values-based Education (VbE) occurs when universal, positive human values underpin everything a school or other organisation thinks about and does. Its aim is to develop humane self-leadership, founded on the capacity to inwardly reflect about thoughts and consequent actions.

 

Values Education is any activity, which promotes the understanding and enactment of positive values, which develop the skills and positive dispositions of adults and students so they can live the values as active members of the community. It is considered as a very successful form of character education.

 

VbE creates a better learning environment, in which students are able to attain better academic results. It creates a better teaching environment, in which staff are more fulfilled and significantly less stressed. It equips students with social capacities that help them work with, and relate to others effectively. It provides them with the self-esteem and confidence to explore and develop their full potential. It leaves no student behind, irrespective of their background.

 

We estimate that over 3000 schools in England and Wales, and a rapidly increasing number worldwide, are embedding VbE in their schools. According to research, VbE creates a better learning environment, in which students are able to attain better academic results. It creates a better teaching environment, in which staff are more fulfilled and significantly less stressed.

 

It equips students with social capacities that help them work with, and relate to others effectively. It provides them with the self-esteem and confidence to explore and develop their full potential. It leaves no student behind, irrespective of their background. Meanwhile, findings consistently point to notable improvement in student:

 

• Well-being

• Behaviour

• Emotional, moral and spiritual intelligence

• Academic diligence

• Academic achievement

 

You may be thinking, this all sounds great but how you go about introducing VbE in your school? Well there are a number of ways to get started, however, these 5 steps are a great place to begin...

 

Step 1 - Get Clarity on your Big "WHY"

 

First, be clear about why you want to develop your school to be values-based. It is imperative that the leadership of the school is fully committed to the development of a values-based school.

 

Have you seen one, read about one, or considered the research evidence for introducing VbE? Who will take the lead or will a mixture of people lead VbE from the school and community? Are you prepared to invest the necessary, time, energy and resources? Think about timescale for implementation, success criteria, monitoring and evaluation. Have colleagues realised that VbE is about cultural transformation and challenges personal assumptions and mindsets about the nature of education and schooling? It is important to audit how things are at present.

 

Ensure that you think about the current climate for teaching and learning; relationships; level of synergy/cooperation in the staff; the level of cultural entropy (aspects of the school that work against it being valuesbased). Ask, how does our school currently impart values to pupils? What are these values? Are they taught implicitly or explicitly? What do we hope the benefits will be for adopting the values-based approach?

 

2. Shape your School's Values-Based policy

 

The whole school community (staff, pupils, parents and community representatives) is involved in shaping a values-based education policy. A process of values understanding/identification takes place involving the school’s community. A meeting/forum is set up to facilitate this process. The forum will propose that the school adopt universal, positive human values such as respect, honesty and cooperation.

 

These are chosen through a careful process that involves thinking about what qualities (values) the school should encourage students to develop. These values are then circulated to all parents for consultation and endorsement so that everyone is aware of the values that have been agreed. This is the most effective way of engaging the community in the values process. In secondary schools it is imperative that students are actively involved in the development of the VbE policy.

 

3. Choose your Values

 

The model that colleagues and Neil recommends for Primary Schools contains 22 values, introduced over a two-year cycle (no value for August when the school was on holiday/vacation): one value being the focus for each month. Schools may decide to have fewer values with a longer focus time but it is important to have enough values to create a common ethical vocabulary.

 

Neil believes that this vocabulary, if adopted at national level, can be the basis of a transformational common language bringing peace to the world. In secondary schools that build on the work of their primary feeder schools, it is advisable to have a fewer number of values with supplementary values that are the focus for the development of character traits such as fairness, perseverance and honesty.

 

Working in and with the community in service learning programs creates opportunities for living the values and character traits. By the time students leave secondary school they will have developed what Neil refers to as personal holistic competence (PHC), which is the ability to deal with the complexity of life in an ethical and empathetic manner, whilst maintaining personal integrity and well being.

 

4. Decide on Your Principles

 

In the light of the values identified, the school decides the principles that will guide the way adults behave. Elements will be discussed to determine these such as:

 

• How adults will care for their well-being and mental health and be mutually supportive;

 

• How adults will be consistent in their behaviour, leading to consistency of behaviour across all members of staff (teaching and non-teaching) i.e. students will experience the same care and respect from all members of staff;

 

• The emotional, intellectual, physical, moral and spiritual needs of the students will be considered to ensure that the curriculum is holistic i.e. nurtures all aspects of the pupil; • the way pupils are treated, in terms of the school’s relational (behaviour) policy and sanctions.

 

5. Developing Values-Based Education

 

 It is highly recommended that if you want to begin your journey towards becoming a values-based school that you set aside a training day when all teaching and non-teaching staff can attend and be an active part of this process of transformational cultural change.

 

VbE will fall at the first hurdle if you make up a list of values and tell the school community that these are our values! Involvement and ownership is key to the success of VbE.

 

To find out more about VbE professional development training, please click here.

 

 

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