Value Socialisation and Pedagogy, Part 2: The Theoretical Basis of Teaching Values in the Classroom

Part 1 dealt with issues arising in the field of values education, looking at the literature of academic debate over three decades. In my estimation, a fundamental problem of the whole field is that it has taken insufficient account of the philosophical discourse of values and lacks a concept of values as transmissible entities or a model of institutional transmission. I have elsewhere written on these topics (September 2015, August 2016). The present essay outlines this institutional model in a specifically pedagogical context of the school classroom. All schools and all teachers attempt to instil values in their students, and the success of these attempts are measurable in terms of the interrelated variables of expected behaviours and expected outcomes. However, much of this is implicit rather than explicit, but by exposing the nature of successful transmission mechanisms, even when implicit, there is the hope to give values education on a more robust theoretical and evidential basis. This model has drawn for its inspiration on several theorists, but particularly on the cultural transmission theory of Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman (1981) and Bernstein’s (1975) theory of educational transmission. However, the conclusions reached are based on a cross-case analysis of values education carried out in three UK secondary schools with different demographic profiles and differing forms of governance (Trubshaw 2014).

Methodological Considerations

Before presenting the model, a consideration of the methodological procedures for data collection and analysis are in order, summarised from the document referred to above. The model emerged from an iterative cross-case analysis of three cases employing a mixed methods – primarily qualitative – approach to gain a snapshot view of institutional processes in constructing, realising and maintaining the institutional ethos, investigating embedded values in school documents, pedagogy and student lived-experience.

Observations, several interviews, a survey and student focus group and an examination of public and internal documents were carried out at each school and the data subject to a range of analyses, such as content analysis, conceptual coding, semiotic analysis and statistical analysis, as appropriate. A profile of institutional transmission was built up through a series of matrices tracing the fortunes of prominent value groups across the management/administrative, teacher/classroom and student/recipient levels of each school, which formed the backbone of each case study.

The resultant model, outlined below, was subject to several tests. First, each element was checked against the raw data, to determine whether there was supporting evidence for the particular concept, and to test the extent and variability of the concept (and to rule out the possibility that it was an artefact of theorising or theoretical influence). Then the whole model was applied as an analytical tool to randomly chosen passages of interviews, to look for ‘conceptual clustering’ around values in the text. Finally, the model was applied to the description/transcription of a classroom observation. The first and second strongly validated the model. The last was more problematic as transmission is an institution-wide phenomenon, not limited to the classroom. Moreover, it is a transformative phenomenon, taking place over time, and so unlikely to be captured in its entirety in a single class. Nevertheless, there were elements on display and I remain confident the model will be further validated when longitudinal studies are carried out.

Finally, two concepts referred to in this essay, invocation and evocation, are terms denoting processes deduced from philosophical analysis of the nature of values to hypothesise the mechanics of value transmission, and are therefore not part of the empirical model derived from collected data, but rather what Blumer (1954) refers to as ‘sensitising concepts’ in the research design. Invocation refers to the ritualistic (incantatory) utterance of value terms by an authority figure to a receptive audience, while evocation refers to the declaration of the existence of a community bound by a value or set of values (moral community).

PRESENTATION OF THE MODEL

Overview and Outline of Model for Institutional Value Transmission

Based on the analyses of data obtained at the three schools covered in the case studies, an overview of the model for institutional value transmission in four stages can be outlined, shown in the table below. The categories/concepts in bold are constitutive aspects of the stages in the left-hand column; non-bolded ones are typically examples of the categories/concepts or ‘scaffold’ terms that have been important at various stages in the construction of the model.

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The following section will provide a definition of all the main categories and concepts in the model, the principal stages in the first column and those bolded in the second column of the table.

Categories of Permeation

Permeation is the state of conceptual saturation of the life-world of an institution, specifically by value concepts. This arises through the normal routes of institutional communication in schools: policies, meetings, notices, discourses, colleague dialogue, books and films, classroom pedagogy and more informal exchanges, peer conversations, and so on. As well as the specifically linguistic, it can also include extra-linguistic communication, such as pictures, symbolic acts and behavioural modelling.

Value

A value is any term, or a description of a state of affairs, that has the connotation of a good in a particular frame of reference, and can influence how individuals feel and behave in certain circumstances. Here, it includes specifically social, moral, spiritual, individual and achievement values. Using a variation of content analysis, values are designated by abstract nouns being assigned to sections of text that match the noun in meaning, either through being identical, transformed (e.g. syntactically) or synonymous.

Disvalue

Disvalues, as they are interpreted in this research, are negative states that reinforce a good or invoke a positive reaction, so are found in clusters either with or without values.

Strategy

A strategy is an action, intention to act or action plan with a pedagogical aim, specifically (though not exclusively) to facilitate the teaching of a particular value or set of values.

Semiotic marker

A semiotic marker is a word or phrase that designates an object or event, either real or imaginary, which has some pedagogical significance, particularly, though not exclusively, in the teaching of values.

Intentional state

The term is taken from the phenomenological literature, from the ‘intentionality of consciousness’, used first by Brentano (1973) and then by Husserl (1970), meaning that consciousness is not a pure abstraction but is always consciousness of something, that something being either indiscriminately the perception of an object in the external world, the awareness of an emotional state, a belief, etc. In this essay ‘intentional state’ is used to denote particularly expressions of experiences in the context of a value or set of values.

Categories of Authority

Authority is understood to consist of power and control. Power is hierarchical and distributive and this distributive aspect is reproduced throughout all levels of the institution. Control, by contrast, is individual and charismatic, and limited only to a particular arena. Power and control are not themselves represented at the analytic level, but power by ‘power distribution’ and control by ‘periodicity’, ‘boundary’ and ‘symbolisation’.

Power distribution

Includes any references to the power structure, the giving (empowering) or the removal (disempowering) of power: within the class, within the school, or from outside the school.

The following three categories denote techniques for exerting control within the school environment, that arise from individual or collective autonomy, initiative and creativity, outside of the hierarchy of power. They include physical manipulation of the environment, but more specifically the manipulation of language. At the administrative level this latter is more likely to be written; at the pedagogical level it is more often spoken.

Periodicity

Periodicity refers to the action of patterning language with respect to time. That could include placing things in a chronological order, or even creating a time reference for a single event. It also includes introducing cycles into language through various rhetorical devices, such as rhyme, rhythm, repetition, group of three, etc, and also grammatical regularities such as parallel clauses, linking and reference, and phonological aspects such as intonation and stress. In all cases examples should be immanent in the text rather than a secondary reference.

Boundary

Boundary refers to the action of using language to pattern space, of dividing space – in the widest sense, including physical and all forms of imaginary space – up and thereby bounding sections of it. Examples would be dividing the class into groups, prohibiting or promoting certain actions (dividing moral space, creating regions of ‘allowed’ and ‘not allowed’). The language tends to be imperative, but the bounding transcends the language and is ‘felt’ in the realm of meaning.

Symbolisation

Symbolisation can include the use of visual images, but refers specifically to the manipulation of language to create images in the mind of the reader or listener. Includes, metaphor, metonymy and simile, onomatopoeia and alliteration, etc., which are immanent in the language, but also various transcendent narrative and anecdotal devices. The use of visual images, particularly used pedagogically, would probably be classed under ‘semiotic marker’.

Categories of Resistance

The natural reaction to change, particularly when that change is perceived (rightly or wrongly) to impact negatively on the relative freedom, power, status, wellbeing or economic circumstances of an individual or of an individual to act on behalf of an institution. In the context of this research the definition is more narrowly focused on the struggle between the relatively empowered and disempowered over the question of the good.

Moral autonomy

The desire of each person to be able to decide the good for themselves, irrespective of whether that good might be fundamentally selfish, self-denying or public-minded. It is the encroachment of power into the area of moral autonomy that is the basis of resistance.

Intensity

Every reaction to the usurpation of moral autonomy is a form of resistance, but its manifestation can vary widely, particularly its intensity. The intensity of resistance can be categorised in a range of behaviours, from the least to the most intense: questioning, criticism, distraction, defiance and rebellion.

Target

The target of resistance is that authority which is perceived as encroaching on moral autonomy. The identification of this source with the real situation depends entirely on the correctness of this perception. This can be problematic, as power is invariably diffused and authority notoriously subject to mythologizing by those subject to it.

Negotiation

We all negotiate a compromise between various goods, for example between freedom and security or leisure time and income. Sometimes this is subtler and more fundamental. The acceptance of a value requires the sacrifice of a degree of moral autonomy. Often this proceeds through an internal dialogue; sometimes the bargaining is in the open but the nature of the process is not acknowledged, as when a teacher convinces a pupil to work hard for an exam. The institutional transmission of values in a school requires a specific negotiation that may be made partially explicit, but ultimately takes place within each individual: the acceptance of a place in the moral community, which the school has to offer, in return for – at least a measure of – the pupils’ moral autonomy. That is clearly not an offer that every person feels obliged to take up. The youths in Willis’ (1977) classic study of working class pupils were clearly not willing to sacrifice their moral autonomy to accommodate academic study, despite this condemning them to a life of industrial labour. Children who truant are rebelling against the authority of the school and placing themselves outside the moral community. These are the more extreme cases, but as a measure of negotiation takes place within all individuals, there must be something that both makes the moral community an attractive proposition and assists in the mitigation of moral autonomy.

Categories of Transformation

In the notion of ‘transformation’ a link is made between the institutional and the individual. Although transformations take place within the individual, they are never spontaneous and isolated, but always related to the particular context of the individual and, in the case of transmission, the processes taking place within that institutional context.

Transformative experience

As the experience of a shared feeling constitutes the interiority of value, the acquisition of a value should logically be accompanied by a type of ‘experience’ – i.e. a transformative experience – the occurrence of which allows and enables the experiencing of that shared feeling. Though these two meanings of experience used here are distinct, as continuity of consciousness and irruptive event, they are connected at a very fundamental level, as awareness of emotional response.

Trigger

The change from a state of non-acquisition of a value, particularly in the case of active resistance though not limited to this, to a state of acquisition requires an event in the individual’s personal or social environment that triggers the change. This can be something dramatic or something quite mundane, but it leads to a shift in perception. In the schools I investigated, in particular talking to students, I found evidence that such transformative experiences were invariably connected with a good personal relationship with an authority figure, sometimes with an insight into the human warmth and humour of those who must ordinarily present an authoritative role, a trigger event that I termed ‘the slipping of the mask’.

Turning inward/reflectivity

The exteriority of a value is its linguistic conceptualisation. Therefore, the acceptance of a value, particularly as this is explicitly recognised, should engender a more reflective attitude towards life. Though values are relative and underpin very different life-worlds or ‘forms of life’ (Pring, 1986), all values qua values require something of an inward turn.

Replication

Values are intrinsically shared. Moreover, they are inherently transmissive, meaning they require being transmitted. On acquiring a value, at the expense of a degree of moral autonomy, there is a need not only to reinforce the decision through invocation of the value but also to extend the moral community of the value. This underlies the sociality, actually the tribalism, of human nature, which is evident from phenomena as disparate as religion, being a fan (of a sport or a genre of music) and hobbyism.

EVALUATION OF THE MODEL

Comparison with models of values education and models of value transmission

Because the model I have presented takes a holistic and integrative view of values transmission, it bears similarities to other holistic views in the literature. For example, Downey and Kelly (1978) and Plunkett (1990, pp.128-9) put forward similar ideas of values education being approached from one of four possible avenues: through a specialised curriculum, through a broadening of the existing curriculum, through pastoral care or through the school community. Hawkes (2010) has effectively taken all those approaches and combined them in pedagogy of values education. Hawkes, even more explicitly recommends the creation of a vocabulary of value terms to structure pedagogy, an approach essentially undertaken on a national level in Australia which has a list of desired values (Toomey, 2010), around which participating schools can design their curricular and pedagogic approaches. Seeing values education less from a curricular and more from a psychological perspective, Darom (2000) discerns four distinct aspects of education, the cognitive, affective, values and behaviour, which he believes should be integrated for education to have ‘a chance of truly touching young people’ (ibid, p.20). The model of values transmission touches on all those points but explores their theoretical connections, not only as interconnected parts of institutional structure but as aspects of a coherent mechanism.

That mechanism, which I have presented here, I would argue, builds upon, incorporates and goes beyond the mechanism put forward by Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman (1981) and Schoenpflug (2001a), a two-stage process of awareness and acceptance. Looking at transmission from an institutional perspective, it has had to take into account issues of authority and control which are constitutive of the deontology of institutions, aspects not made explicit in their theories even if assumed, which make formal education possible and, as I have described, have a central role to play at the stage of awareness. Between awareness and acceptance there is also a hiatus, which they have not clearly addressed, that of resistance and transformation. This theory has provided a theoretical framework that bridges that gap. In some sense the theory of transmission explained here could also be said to extend Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman’s viral transmission model by incorporating the idea of the dual conceptual and symbolic functions of values, allowing them to switch from ‘diffusion’ mode to ‘infection’ mode.

The centrality of the human relationship to transmission

If there is any consensus over the frequently disputed area of values and values education it is the centrality of the human relationship and the quality of that relationship in the transmission of values. As Schönpflug reminds us (2001b, p.132), the contents of transmission are ‘particularly sensitive to the channel’ of transmission, which I interpret to mean that for the recipient of any form of information, and particularly with the case of values, which also need to be activated in the recipient, who the transmitter is, in terms of the perception of the transmitter by the recipient, is vitally important. From a negative perspective, in cases from the schools studied where teachers were not held in high regard, this had a negative impact on academic performance; and in all these cases the cause of the complaint was not their competence as teachers, which in all but a small minority would be taken as given, but their lack of warmth, remoteness or unpredictability. Research invariably backs this observation up. There is a broad area of agreement with various psychological and philosophical views that the quality of relationships is central to the idea of transmission. For Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman (1981) the relationship between the teacher (transmitter) and the taught (recipient) is a key condition of transmission. Although the focus of studies on values transmission has been on the parent child relationship, shifted into an institutional context, all of that which has been predicated of relationships in intergenerational transmission is equally true of the teacher-pupil relationship. For Schönpflug it is (2001a) that is ‘an empathetic style’; for Euler et al. (2001) it is ‘emotional closeness between the generations’; for Barni et al. (2011) it is the ‘relationship’ among the parents and the ‘consistency’ of the value message that is received, as well as the ‘closeness’ of the relationship. These all fit into a pattern of successful parenting, which most now agree is authoritative (Steinberg, et al., 1989), rather than authoritarian or permissive. This also seems a fitting description of the relationship that ought to exist between teachers and their pupils in the context of education in general, but specifically in the context of transmitting values. An ‘authoritative style’ seems a fitting description of the combination of authority and humanity of key figures that I discovered in the data from the schools , which I concluded was fundamental to a contextual transformative experience en route to the acceptance of institutional values.

An evaluation and interpretation of the model

Through this research, the aetiology of value transmission has been traced, from the nature of values having a dual role as concept-like and symbol-like, through the institutional permeation of value concepts throughout the institution, to their invocation through the medium of pedagogical control of the value concepts and their re-symbolisation for the student audience. In doing so this theoretical perspective has developed an understanding of the school as an institutional structure for value transmission, incorporating and offering a reinterpretation of its power hierarchies, and its administrative and pedagogical functions. Moreover, it has demonstrated that the definitionally problematic notion of ethos has a tangible meaning in the context of value transmission. The abstract notion of value has been shown not only to be real but implicated into and – importantly – co-defined with its institutional context, incorporating aspects of space, time, authority, strategy and dramatic play. In short values, value transmission and institutions are co-existent and inter-related conceptually (Rokeach, 1975).

It has also considered what many theorists of values education and values transmission have not, that of the role of resistance to values inculcation and its incorporation into a more inclusive theoretical model of transmission that embraces both inculcation and acquisition perspectives, through the negotiation of moral autonomy for belonging under acceptable conditions. Parsons (1959) did recognise the phenomenon of resistance to schooling, but saw that as a structural reaction to raising levels of achievement. Values education is much more than a one-dimensional race towards academic or vocational achievement, although research on longer term programmes of values education (Lovat, 2010; Toomey, 2010; Hawkes, 2010) suggest that it can impact considerably on those outcomes; it is about humanising the curriculum (Aspin and Chapman, 2000) and creating the opportunity for education to touch the lives of young people (Darom, 2000) based on ‘the kind of persons that [as a society we wish them] to grow up into’ (Pring, 1986, p.181). For this to happen, values education, as all good education, requires a transformative experience in the life of the recipient, one which can mitigate or even prevent resistance to transmission.

The emerging picture of transmission of values within an institution is both simple and complex. It can be understood at the level of an individual journey through the institution, a negotiation with and reconciliation to the demands placed by institutional belonging. But it can also be understood at the institutional level, as the workings of a complex system of interlocking hierarchies, in the cases considered here the relationship between the teacher in the classroom, the administration, management and ethos of the school, and the influence of outside forces, notably religions, local communities or constituency, and local and national governments. A school is an intricate web of control, dependence and autonomy (Morris, 1964) at every level and a consideration of the transmission of values highlights this very clearly. But at its core it is about a series of spaces and encounters in which significant relationships between authority figures and pupils flourish or wither.

Value socialisation and pedagogy

The model of values transmission should prove useful for teachers, managers and administrators within schools concerned with the pedagogy of values. Derived to solve a purely theoretical problem, that of the process of institutional value transmission, nevertheless its conclusions converge significantly with the empirically-based views and strategies of educators who take a more proactive approach to values education and add a theoretical underpinning to their programmes and curricula. As detailed in the previous section, though, it remains a highly conceptual and abstract model, so I will attempt to draw out its relevance to pedagogical practice.

The model of institutional values transmission addresses a number of issues that have been discussed in the academic literature on values education and also issues that are recognised by teachers generally, such as the role of ethos and school culture, implicit and explicit forms of values education, pupil resistance to authority, issues of student empowerment, the school as a community  as well as part of the community, school discipline, rules and regulations, friendship groups, gangs and bullying, ethnic or class tensions, and the risk of increasing alienation through raised standards, although its primary contribution is in promoting values as fundamental to all educational development and a balanced view of values education as being a process of both inculcation and acquisition.

IVT.pedagogical

The process of value transmission in a school can be considered as a pupil’s ‘journey’ through the institution towards the acquisition of its values. According to this model, simply stated, the necessary stages on this journey are the transition from self-empowerment (i.e. self-directed freedom and desire) to disempowerment under the authority of the institution, where they are inducted in the values, culture and structures of the institution, to empowerment (or re-empowerment) under the authority of the institution, where they have the opportunity to rationalise the choice of these values as their own.

However, these stages involve a complex choreography of institutional strategy and individual response in which the desired outcome is, or at least is experienced as, an individual choice. A pupil enters a school in which an established ethos reigns, which is promulgated by the governing body of the school, embodied in the person of the headteacher, and carried into the classroom by the teaching staff. Pupils may initially follow this as a matter of course, but at a certain point in their development, usually around puberty, when they become more morally autonomous, they may start to manifest resistant behaviours. Resistance is typically seen as problematic, but from an axiological perspective, because values must be freely assented to, resistance to the prevailing ethos – except in the more extreme cases – should be seen as a healthy and necessary development, as a testing of the moral community of the institution as a prelude to acceptance of and belonging in that community. But that resistance also has another function, which is to alert those in authority that the moral community must be sufficiently attractive that it is likely to elicit a transformative shift from resistance to acceptance and catalyse the negotiation with moral autonomy which this transformation requires.

One conclusion of this research, based on an understanding of the nature of values, is that values can only be acquired, and only acquired in any meaningful sense by an experience of the moral demand that they place upon us (‘moral’ being understood in a broad sense of ‘requiring commitment to a set of behaviours’), but that they are rarely, if ever, acquired in the absence of an intention to teach them.

None of the schools I studied had a specific values education policy or programme, although all of them considered values to be an important concern of the school and the education of values in general to be a part of what they did. The schools were different in the degree to which they were able to identify specific values which they considered important, though my research indicated that all of them had policy statements in which values were prominent, though perhaps subsidiary to the overall purpose of the texts. Again, I observed examples of PSHE classes in all the schools, and of good practice in each, but, except in one case, the   education of values was not an explicit aim of the class. The implicit education of values has an important function, in reinforcing a particular message or desired behaviour, but evidence from the research on values education indicates that an institutional discourse of values in which specific and explicit values are a pedagogical focus is more effective in terms of behavioural outcomes – and academic performance as a result. This is perhaps unsurprising, as conceptual clarity with effective practice is invariably a potent combination.

Another conclusion of this research, based on an understanding of the nature of values, is that the acquisition of a value is never merely a private experience, but through acquiescence to a shared meaning and a shared commitment to its moral demand, is bound up with belonging in a moral community (one that shares that commitment) and a shared experience. This means that schools in order to transmit values not only have to acquaint students with the meaning of value terms, make clear the expectations in terms of attitudes and behaviours, and ensure that their staff are setting an appropriate example, but also create the communal structures that both reflect and elicit that sense of belonging.

Schools face two challenges to accomplishing this. The first of these is what I have come to call ‘spontaneous sociality’. By that I mean simply the natural tendency of humans to form social groupings, not necessarily those deemed by authority to be in the interests of the common good. My research indicated that where the student body is highly heterogeneous in terms of cultural background student perception of the school as a ‘community’ is lower than where it is more homogeneous, despite this being an important focus of the official policy, and that the primary commitment of pupils is to the community of their cultural background, class, ethnicity or friendship group. While all pupils enjoy the opportunity to socialise that schools provide, they do so largely with people of the same background. This is not necessarily a problem as such – although it can lead to factionalism and be the precursor of bullying – but it tends to weaken that sense of belonging to the school community that schools clearly wish to foster, and hence commitment to its institutional values, and replace it with a sort of co-presence. This may have implications for the definition of what we mean by ‘inclusion’.

The second challenge is resistance to institutional authority, as discussed above. ‘Resistance’ is a broad category that ranges from boredom and disengagement, though criticism and disobedience to outright rebellion and non-attendance, including truanting. Although resistance creates problems for teachers and schools, it should not, except in its most extreme forms, be taken to be something essentially negative, but as an expression of moral autonomy and, as such, a precondition for the acquisition of values. Also, resistance is by no means limited to pupils. In my research, I came across instances of resistance to institutional authority from Heads, teachers and pupils, though the targets were variable and commensurate with the forms of authority with which they were dealing.

Implications and recommendations

Implications for values education

Data from the literature (Hawkes, 2010) and from the field both indicate that expectations of appropriate and good behaviour, and the organisation of the structures within the school to promote that, and to minimise poor behaviour, while a worthy end in themselves in promoting young people who aspire to play a positive role in society, are also fundamental to creating the atmosphere, ethos and culture in which academic attainment can be optimised. A school culture in which there are strict boundaries and clear sanctions for transgression, but one in which the inward pull of community is strong, a strong institutional pride and identity is fostered, but also one in which a balance between authority and humanity is maintained, is clearly fundamental to this effort. At the same time, the concept of invocation, which has largely been vindicated through this research, implies that the explicit voicing, explication and modelling of values is more important than is generally practiced within schools, and this view is strongly backed by evidence from programmes of explicit values education (Lovat, 2010). Evidence from the field in all the schools studied shows, though, that even implicit or ‘intrinsic’ approaches bear fruit in the permeation of fundamental and strongly-held values, whether those are moral, individual attainment or socio-political, into the student body.

The model of institutional values transmission described above has several implications for pedagogical practice and organisation in schools.

  1. Schools should develop an integrated and specific set of values which reflect the character of the school, reinforce the community of the school, further their commitment to creating educated persons in the broadest possible sense, and develop their place in and service of the local and wider communities of which they are a part.
  2. These values should be taught explicitly and integrated into all aspects of the school culture, particularly attitudinal and behavioural expectations. They should also be taught implicitly, by the example set by the management and staff of the school. The model does not specify that these values should be integrated into the curriculum as such, but that knowledge/skills and values should be ‘twin pillars’ of the institution, though some subjects may be naturally appropriate vehicles for the broader educational contextualisation and discussion of values.
  3. The specific values, or their origin, are less important than that these are assented to by the entire staff and reinforced on a continual basis. The expectation is that there would be a convergence on a core of common and widely shared values, though variation at the institutional level is probably socially beneficial.
  4. Although the excesses of resistance to authority, as described above, should be controlled, critical evaluation of authority and institutional values should be accepted as a natural phenomenon of cognitive development and the assertion of moral autonomy, and pupils should be encouraged to exercise their moral imagination in different scenarios, at an age-appropriate level. The inner nature of values as shared experience entails that any form of coercion is counter-productive; explanation and dialogue are the required methods to achieve acquiescence to the institutional values and their behavioural requirements.
  5. Schools should be structured in such a way as to maximise opportunities for belonging under the auspices of the school that ‘cut across’ and thus mitigate spontaneous sociality based on class, ethnicity or friendship group and primary commitments to those values (which weaken the communal integrity of the school). Evidence seems to suggest that a culture of belonging to such sub- and micro- school communities (diffused belonging) actually reinforces a sense of belonging within the greater school community. Two of the schools I studied employed a house system to good effect, but there are numerous ways to achieve this diffusion: clubs, boards, groups, teams, and projects, both internal and external.
  6. The acquisition of institutional values requires some element of personal transformation that occurs within the specific institutional context. Although in the research the manifestation of that transformation was found to be different, such as a growing academic interest, a spiritual crisis and its resolution or the assumption of greater communal responsibility, the institutional trigger was invariably the relationship between a member of staff and a pupil. Pupils look to their teachers and senior staff as role models and appreciate those who are open, friendly and helpful and who make themselves present and available, while maintaining their authority and setting clear boundaries, and clearly these are qualities that need to be sought, emphasised, nurtured and developed. Indeed, a striking finding was that it is the dissonance between the ‘mask of authority’ and the underlying humanity that plays a key role in triggering transformation.

Implications for schooling in general

Schools already provide, and are required to provide, a measure of education in values for their pupils, whether it is explicit or, more usually, implicit. As discussed above, I believe, and the evidence tends to support this viewpoint, that the more explicit the education the more pronounced are the outcomes. There is one thing to add: fundamental to values and to values education is the development of reflectivity, a higher-order and late-developmental cognitive skill, which as a technology-driven and highly pressurised culture we do not provide sufficient context for young people to develop. While I make no specific recommendations in this regard, I believe that we do our young people a disservice if we model our schools on too narrow a view of success as the success of the marketplace, and bias learning and means of knowledge acquisition too strongly towards the technocratic at the expense of the traditional, creative and reflective.

Recommendations for educational policy

  1. There should be national standards for developing and overseeing values education programmes. At the moment Ofsted oversee the provision of moral and spiritual education in English and Welsh schools, but there is no requirement for schools specifically to have a values education policy.
  2. While national oversight is important, an approach that allows schools freedom in determining their own policies of values education would be preferable, following the example of Australia, which has a nationally determined policy, but allows schools to determine their own values strategy (Lovat, 2010).
  3. The pedagogy of values should be integral to all teacher-training programmes, and an element of school and teacher evaluation.

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Lovat, T. (2010). The new values education: A pedagogical imperative for student wellbeing. In Lovat, T. et al. (Eds.), International research handbook on values education and student wellbeing. London: Springer, pp. 3-18.

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