Philosophical Roots
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I recently returned from Singapore, where I had been invited to run workshops on Values-based Education. Despite Singapore doing well in basic subjects, (when measured in terms of international comparisons e.g. ranked 5th in the PISA study 2009), its Government is placing an increased emphasis on the development of good character in its young people. There is growing awareness that Singaporean society is being undermined by an increase in detrimental factors, which are breaking down its social infrastructure and will, it is feared, have an increased affect on its economy. They are also mindful of worrying trends worldwide, such as the 2011 London riots. What of our own awareness in the UK? On return from Singapore, I was invited to speak at the Frome Festival of the Future. Before I took the platform, I listened to an educator who drew the audience’s attention to the words of England’s Secretary of State for Education. On instructing the current review of the National Curriculum he had stated that, ‘This government believes that recent changes to the National Curriculum, such as the inclusion of skills development and the promotion of generic dispositions, have distorted the core function of the National Curriculum and diluted the importance of knowledge.’

Wow! I hope the argument contained in this article will help to convince him, and you, that character development should be at the heart of a revised National Curriculum? Despite such governmental statements, increasingly, schools are actively promoting dispositions (values) that positively affect the development of good character, by underpinning the curriculum with positive, universal human values. Ofsted school reports increasingly refer to the positive effects of Values Education in supporting the social, moral, social and cultural aspects of the curriculum. Such schools are being recognised as Values-based schools (see: Values Education is shown to have a significant impact on attainment and social, emotional development. However in this article, I want to focus on why Values-based Education may be considered as an explicit pedagogical response to the historical challenge of ensuring that the education of young people has a moral purpose and therefore embraced around the world.

The rationale for moral education, and hence Values-based Education, resides within a long tradition of educational philosophers who considered it central to the aims, purposes and values of education. For instance, Aristotle reasoned that people acquire moral virtue through practice. He says that we become just by performing just acts, temperate by performing temperate ones, brave by performing brave ones (H.Tredennick 1976). As an aim of education, moral education can be seen as central to the thinking of a range of philosophers, spanning the last two thousand five-hundred years, which include Confucius, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Saint Augustine, Erasmus, Comenius, Locke, Wesley, Rousseau, Kant, Pestalozzi, Froebel, Dewey, Montessori, Buber, Noddings and Fielding. Setting Values Education within this philosophical historical context exemplifies the intellectual context that has led to its development. It is important to consider this tradition in order to grasp the pedagogical foundations on which Values Education rests (especially at a time when education seems to have strayed away from its moral purpose and educational philosophy is not a central concern of teacher initial or continuing education). This article, drawn partly, and necessarily selectively, from a study of major thinkers in education, gives an overview of the development of this tradition (A. Palmer, 2001).

Child-centred education
Friedrich Wilhelm Froebel (1782-1852), a major figure in the history of early childhood education, is seen as the originator of the term child-centred education, by which he meant placing children at the centre of their worlds (not the centre of schooling as this term has often been misinterpreted to mean). He was influenced by the ideas of Comenius, Rousseau and Pestalozzi but transformed their ideas. He did not agree with Rousseau, that children should be protected from the unsavoury side of society but instead, they should be helped to follow the eternal law of development, thereby developing independence, individuality and freedom. In his book on the educational principles of early childhood, The Education of Man, he expressed this with the words, in the period of childhood, man (the child) is placed in the centre of all things, and all things are seen only in relation to himself, to his life (F.W.Froebel 1886). He was convinced that contemporary schooling was disconnected from real life and consequently devoted his life to arguing that a child’s learning experiences should be rooted in first hand, practical, real life situations. He argued that teaching should be linked to knowledge of the laws of child development. He believed that as the young child learns through the senses, not through reason, early childhood (0-8) should therefore be spent in purposeful play, engaging and acting upon objects in order to gain an understanding of the world. These objects he called gifts (e.g. series of cubes) and occupations (e.g. craft activities). Whilst on a walk in 1840 he coined the name Kindergarten (child’s garden) for his form of school. He wanted to show that children learn when they are happily engaged in purposeful activity. The Kindergarten, staffed by women teachers, was to be a place for self-education through creative play and spontaneous self-instruction. Froebel’s influence on educational thinking in England and elsewhere has been profound, as has been that of John Dewey who was committed to encouraging participatory democracy in schools.

Democratic communities
An American, John Dewey (1859 – 1952) based his doctorate on the psychology of Kant. In 1899 his book, The School and Society was published. In this he stressed the need to develop a democratic community and that the key to promoting this was to ensure that schools were miniature communities that actively fostered democratic principles. He said that we must:

make each one of our schools an embryonic community life, active with types of occupations that reflect the larger society, and permeated with the spirit of art, history, and science. When the school introduces and trains each child of society into membership within such a little community, saturating him with the spirit of service, and providing him with the instruments of effective self-direction, we shall have the deepest guarantor of a larger society which is worthy, lovely and harmonious (Dewey 1899 pp 39-40).

Whilst stressing that the school curriculum should be linked to the interests and play of the child (Dewey 1916 pp 194-206), he criticised the notion of extreme child centredness. He believed that freedom was not an end in itself. For him, the role of the teacher was to nurture the pupil’s interests with positive educative experiences and sustained intellectual development.

In the early part of the twentieth century Dewey’s views, although widely discussed, seem to have had little impact on the American ‘factory style’ schools, where the pupil was seen as passive and to be moulded by teachers. However, his legacy can be identified as schools to-day work towards a more values-based, democratic engagement of pupils in the life of schools. As a contemporary of Dewey, Maria Montessori proposed a form of education that was unique and challenged the notion of pupils being passive receivers of knowledge.

Continuity between home and school
Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952) challenged the then current western pedagogical thought that drew distinctions between the worlds of home, school and community. None before her had argued that school should replicate aspects of the ideal home. School had been seen (and to a large extent still is today) as a bridge between home and community, socialising the child into cultural norms. There is an implied assumption that the child’s home is a natural environment that functions appropriately for the nurturing of the child prior to attending school. Good parenting is assumed and little help is given to prepare people for carrying out the range of tasks associated with the role. Montessori challenged the assumption that school is a bridge between home and community in her book, The Montessori Method (Montessori 1972). She expounded the theory and practice of the Casa dei Bambini (the children’s home, house). She argued that for there to be peace in society children needed to be educated in a process where home school and society were seen as continuous. Many of our schools currently aim to prepare children to be members of society as it is. They do not help the children to be educated and formed in a way that encourages the development of a more morally aware society. Montessori wanted each school to represent the model of an ideal family. The school environment to be safe, secure, loving, encouraging the development of right character. The emphasis was to be on individualised learning that encouraged each child to care for others. She maintained that putting children in the wrong environment would lead to abnormal development – dysfunctional adults. For her the child must no longer be considered as the son of man, but rather as the creator and the father of man (Montessori 1972 p.104). Maria Montessori’s educational philosophy sympathetically resonates with her contemporary Martin Buber.

Teacher/pupil relationships
Throughout his life Martin Buber (1878 – 1965) was deeply affected by the affect of his mother leaving him when he was three years old. Older children had told him that she would never return. As a consequence of this experience, he later coined the expression vergegnung (mismeeting) to represent the failure to have a real meeting between people (Buber 1973 p.22). He devoted his life to exploring how real meetings can be achieved. He described two types of relationships: I – Thou and I – It (Buber 1970). Throughout life we can choose which of these relationships to have. The I – Thou relationship he described as existing when participants are fully participating in a situation, whereas the I – It relationship is functional, automatic and allows us to negotiate our daily existence. In order to enter into I – Thou relationships we have to cultivate a sense of true presence allowing the true self to sense the experience. Such an experience gives the individual the sense of being really alive. He translated this philosophy into the school setting by maintaining that at the heart of the teaching process is the key, most decisive, relationship of teacher and pupil. The teacher must establish the trust of students and be able to be empathetic to them. Buber expected a great deal from teachers and saw them as more that facilitating knowledge transfer Buber’s influence on the affective dimensions of education can be seen in the current work of current educational philosophers, such as Nell Noddings, whose work is featured next.

Multiple intelligences
Nell Noddings, Professor of Education at Stanford University, (Noddings 1992 p28) bravely challenges the belief that a general education based on the liberal arts is the best education for all. She is aware that criticising liberal education within academe is like criticising motherhood in a maternity ward. She asserts that the contemporary focus in schools on a narrow curriculum based largely on verbal and mathematical achievement cripples many, whose talents and abilities lie elsewhere; and that we need a radical change in both curriculum and teaching to reach all children, not just the few who fit our conception of the academically able. For her, the traditional organisation of schooling is intellectually and morally inadequate for contemporary society (p173). She argues that the curriculum should be based on our growing understanding of multiple intelligences (Gardner 1983) and the great variety and variability of children. Such a basis would support a drive for the human dimension to be put back into schools, which she sees as having become dehumanised. As a fundamental human need is, to be cared for and to care, the general focus of the teacher should be to promote the concept of care, which would enable teachers to address the unique talents, abilities and interests of children.

The importance of caring
The aim of education should be re-established as a moral one, that of nurturing the growth of competent, caring, loving and loveable people. Such a moral purpose encourages the development of positive character traits, thereby supporting the development of schools that are moral in purpose, policy and methods. A negative outcome of the current education system is that a high proportion of pupils feel uncared for by schools (American High Schools) (Comer 1988). Comer argues that teachers too often seem unable, perhaps through a perceived lack of time, to make connections with their students that sustain in the student a sense that adults care for them. To change this perception, teachers need to demonstrate more overtly that they care for their pupils. Noddings argues that if pupils feel cared for, through the modelling of this quality by teachers, then they in turn learn the capacity to be more caring. She draws attention to female capacities, skills and attitudes, which she considers are currently undervalued.

Noddings maintains that the key skill of the teacher is to care for the pupil. This can be demonstrated by listening to the pupils’ needs and interests and then responding differentially, thereby helping them to develop the capacity to care for themselves, others, the environment, objects and ideas. Such an understanding of moral development echoes the work of educators such as Dewey (Dewey 1963), who proposed that education should begin by using the first hand experience and interests of the child. Secondary, indirect experience would then follow when the child would be encouraged to make connections with traditional school subject matter. In comparison Kohlberg (Kohlberg 1981) proposed a developmental model based on stages of moral reasoning. His argument being that moral reasoning leads to moral knowledge that demonstrates itself in moral behaviour. Noddings refutes this assumption suggesting that moral responses in a given individual may vary contextually at almost any age and that the capacity to care may be dependent on adequate experience in being cared for (p22). In an earlier book Noddings (Noddings 1984) describes moral development based on an ethic of caring having four essential components. She describes the moral development elements as modelling, dialogue, practice and confirmation. Modelling by teachers is important in most schemes of moral education but in one founded on caring it is vital. Open-ended genuine dialogue is important too as the means to reach informed decisions. Times to practice (community service) give opportunities to gain skills in care giving and to develop positive attitudes towards caring. The fourth and final component of an ethic of caring is confirmation, which is described by Buber (Buber 1965) as the affirming and encouraging of the best in others.

Why does Noddings reject liberal education as educationally inadequate? The history of liberal education is rooted in the classical education of gentlemen. It was used as a device to perpetuate a class structure by only giving sections of the community access to it. In more recent years liberal education is inadequate for preparing students for life. It is often not seen as relevant to them. It perpetuates a myth that the same education is appropriate for all students and does not take account of the different capacities that individuals have as explained by Gardner (Gardner 1983). Currently, schools focus on the logical and mathematical capacities discriminating against students who possess others such as linguistic, musical, spatial, bodily kinaesthetic, interpersonal and intrapersonal. The focus on the logical mathematical aspects with its emphasis on rationality, such as abstract reasoning, neglects important aspects associated with feelings, concrete thinking, practical activity and moral action. What kind of education would we develop if we wanted our children to be kind, moderate and nurturing? Noddings therefore argues that in the future students need to develop the capacity to care (respect) self, intimate others, distant others, the living environment, the world of objects and ideas. Teachers need to focus on the interests and capacities of pupils engaging them in moral discourse. She argues that surely intelligent adults can and should talk to the children in their care about honesty, compassion, open-mindedness, non-violence, consideration, moderation and a host of other qualities that most of us admire (p39).

Having rejected liberal education Noddings builds an alternative vision for the curriculum. Readers are challenged to begin with envisioning themselves as wise parents of a large heterogeneous family and to ask what they want for each of them? This consideration reflects the view of Dewey who stated that what the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon it destroys our democracy (Dewey 1902).

Care and the curriculum
Noddings wonders (p60) if schools are really supportive places for children with genuine intellectual interests? The curriculum currently supports the behavioural objectives movement of teaching and then testing capacities. It ignores fundamental existential questions that motivate students. The alternative vision challenges schools to develop the existential aspects of the curriculum, which are related to the attitudes, passions, connections, concerns and experienced responsibilities of the student. Consideration of the existential aspects of the curriculum leads to care being its central concept. It is not an easy option as it makes significant demands on curriculum planners, in terms of curriculum design and school and class organisation. Its aim would be to nurture the cognitive capacities or intelligences of all children.

The curriculum would feature what she calls centres of care. An example would be the care of the self, which would integrate aspects such as nutrition, hygiene, physical, exercise, appearance and health. It would also look at the intellectual and spiritual aspects of the self. Topics would be arranged that would be of general concern and small groups would concentrate of specialized interest subjects. Genuine dialogue, rather than control, would be a feature of the school with the aim of shared living and responsibility. Thus, the moral purpose of education would be restored as schools become committed to the great moral purpose: to care for children so that they, too, will be prepared to care. The traditional model of the educated person needs to be replaced with a multiplicity of models designed to accommodate the multiple capacities and interests of students. Such a philosophy resonates with the British philosopher Michael Fielding who is currently challenging the assumption that schools should be structured around the theoretical model of high performance institutions.

A person-centred model
Michael Fielding, Reader in Education at the University, of Sussex argues that the current emphasis on school effectiveness will inevitably fail to meet the needs of pupils in the twenty-first century and proposes the establishment of person-centred schools as a viable alternative (Fielding 2002). Fielding’s preferred person-centred model sits within the philosophical tradition that focuses on the holistic development of the pupil. It empathetically resonates with the work of other contemporary educational philosophers, notably Nell Noddings and applies aspects of Martin Buber’s thinking (cited above).
Fielding suggests that educational policy makers have focussed on a narrow range of measurable outcomes on which to measure school effectiveness and standards. They and the practitioners who implement the policies have become prisoners to a model of school improvement that he asserts is doomed to failure. He argues that teachers are disillusioned because their teaching role has been changed so that they spend a great deal of their time acting as technicians, implementing strategies that imply that the ends are more important than the means. Why is the model, favoured by the current government, failing? Fielding, who draws on the philosophy of Macmurray (1941), argues that failure is built into the present system because education has strayed away from its central moral purpose, which he maintains is about becoming more fully human and better people. This purpose is achieved through communal relationships that fall into two categories. The first is functional, day-to-day task-centred relationships, exemplified by activities such as buying a train ticket or shopping. These usually transient relationships underpin the efficient functioning of society. The second is personal, person-centred relationships that nurture the development of the individual. Friendships exemplify such relationships as they are based on acceptance and mutual support and are free of constraints based on role or status. Within friendships we can feel free and safe and can be ourselves. Moreover, we develop more completely as people in and through our relations with others. Macmurray expressed this notion in the following way:

We need one another to be ourselves. This complete and unlimited dependence of each of us upon the others is the central and crucial fact of personal existence…Here is the basic fact of our human condition (Macmurray 1961) page 211.

Thus, personal relationships, built on freedom, equality and care nurture the sense of a mutually supportive community that sustains a just society. Of course, the two models of relationships are not mutually exclusive – one needs the other. However, Fielding argues, that although both are necessary and interconnected they are not equal. Again, Macmurray expressed this as; the functional life is for the personal life…the personal life is through the functional life. Therefore the functional life should support the individual to become more fully human and to engage with others in community. This is so important because successful social, economic and political life depend in the first instance on the development of a sense of community. The former three aspects of society only have a moral legitimacy if they enable personal and communal relations to flourish between people. If this is not the case then it is legitimate to ask what our political, social and economic arrangements are for? Do they in fact give us the opportunity to be fully human?

Michael Fielding addresses these concerns by proposing a typology based on the two forms of relationships (described above), containing four approaches to schooling. This intellectual construction and analysis leads to the proposition that one of his models (person-centred) must be seen as the most viable alternative to the current model of school effectiveness, which is constructed on the proposition that the model of schooling should be based on achieving high performance. Fielding asserts that this current (rather than educational) economic model of schooling is inappropriate, being instrumental, dreary, lacking in diversity, and doomed to eventual failure. In its place he proposes an alternative person-centred school that actually improves on the effectiveness of the high performance model. Such a school is imaginatively conceived and its success is based on being interpersonally and morally satisfying whilst able to achieve good standards. In such a school, teachers act as educators mutually reinforcing means and ends. They promote good interpersonal relationships (between all members of the school community) to enhance effective pupil learning. School structures support an active and dynamic learning community that promotes respect for the individual, a focus on individual needs and personal achievement, that in turn support the promotion of communal unity.

Fielding suggests that there are two other (flawed) models of school organisation (aspects of which can be identified in current forms of schooling) that he describes as schools as impersonal organisations and as sentimental communities. He argues that the former marginalises the personal, being mechanistic and efficient conceiving the development of relationships as irrelevant and destructive of outcomes. In this model the teacher is viewed as a technician, the controller of content. The sentimental community model values the development of the person at the total expense of the functional and is consequently ineffective. Such organisations become complacent and obstruct an active sense of learning. Fielding’s person-centred school leads into what I have termed the values-based school (Hawkes, 2010).

Values-based Education
Values-based Education is founded on, what I have termed, the philosophy of valuing -self, others and the environment. It implies that everything the school is and does, should be based on a community agreed set of positive human values. It has grown out of the philosophical roots of education, which this article has cited. It is based on a number of well-founded assumptions, which determine pedagogy: that the purpose of education is about the flourishing of humanity; that every child equally deserves the very best education, both at home and in formal institutions, such as schools; that this education should be founded on universal, positive human values (principles that guide behaviour such as respect, love, honesty and compassion), which promote an affirming relationship with self and others; values need to be understood, internalised and modelled by adults; time is given for silent reflection, to promote personal responsibility and internal harmony; lessons/activities are designed to give young people the opportunity to live the values; that the school’s wider community is actively involved in developing and nourishing all aspects of Values-based Education.

When these aspects have been fully internalised, within the pedagogy of the school’s community, then research demonstrates the interrelated impacts of Values-based Education. The research, based on the Australian Values in Action Project, (Education Services Australia, Ltd, 2010) shows five major impacts which support my assertion that; a systematic and planned approach to Values-based Education can improve students’ engagement with schooling and promote better learning outcomes, and enhance their social and emotional wellbeing. The research evidence conclusively shows how Values Education can transform classrooms, relationships and school environments, teacher professional practice and parents’ engagement in their children’s schooling. The Australian research has made a major contribution to the understanding of what good Values Education is and can achieve and thereby make a significant contribution to the whole purpose of schooling. The impacts can be summarised as follows:

Impact 1: Values consciousness
Deliberate and systematic Values Education enhances Values Consciousness. For instance, students, teachers and parents developed an increased consciousness about the meaning of values and the power of values education to transform learning and life. Such increased awareness was more than a superficial understanding of values but was related to a positive change in behaviour. Teachers thought more deeply about their teaching and the values that they modelled both in and outside of the classroom. Students reported on how a values consciousness had impacted on their actions, which had become more altruistic.

The establishment of communication about values between teachers, students and parents through newsletters, community forums and artistic performances, had very positive effects. For instance, giving time and space for teachers and parents to be involved in their children’s values education both enhanced relationships and afforded time for parents to reflect on their own values.

Impact 2: Wellbeing
Students’ wellbeing was enhanced through the application of values-focussed and student-centred pedagogies, which gave time for them to reflect deeply on the nature of values and what these mean to them and others. Such pedagogies included, silent sitting, reflective writing, multimedia production, drama performances and poetry writing. In thinking about, acting on and feeling values, students developed feeling of self-worth, empathy and responsible personal behaviour. Evidence from the data showed that values education had a very positive effect on the sense of self of students who are ‘at risk’, marginalised or disadvantaged.

Students developed a greater understanding of the impact of their actions on the wellbeing of others. Values Education helped students and teachers to look inside themselves and really work out what they value and who they are. There was compelling evidence that wellbeing impacts were experienced by teachers, parents and families, and in classroom and whole school environments.

Impact 3: Agency
Agency is the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make choices and act on them. The evidence showed that Values Education strengthened student agency when it involves various forms of giving, outreach and working in the community. For instance, through values action projects that allowed students to enact their values. Agency was developed through meaningful real-life experiential learning, such as in the engagement in community projects, when there was opportunity for the development of student voice, initiative and leadership; and an explicit focus on ethical, intercultural and social issues. Structured reflection on their experiences and learning was a central element in developing agency. Such activity generated a deep sense of ‘self’ and ‘others’. For values learning to take place activities have to be deeply personal, deeply real and deeply engaging. Relationships between students and teachers were enhanced through such activities. This research finding has wide implications for teacher agency and teacher education in terms of understanding appropriate pedagogy in the context of enquiry-based curriculum.

Impact 4: Connectedness
The research showed how Values Education builds positive and wide-ranging connections between teachers, students and parents. It supported student engagement in learning, improved parent engagement in their children’s learning and allowed teachers to develop new relationships with their students, each other and the parents and families in their school community. This was done through shared goals and practices in Values Education, which led to the development of mutual feelings of respect, trust and safety; and varied opportunities for collaboration. The research findings show that the values led to improved stronger relationships between teachers, students and parents e.g. more respectful behaviours in the classroom, school and home. Community engagement led to quality outcomes for teachers, students and parents.

5: Transformation
Change and transformation was at the heart of the values projects and was the result of teachers and students being urged to engage in continuous reflection on the actions they implemented in their schools. Key changes were in changes in professional practice as well as personal attitudes, behaviours, relationships and group dynamics. Transformations were experienced and observed by teachers, students and parents alike.

The data points to profound transformations in student learning. Students developed deeper understanding of complex issues e.g. how students can take on sophisticated concepts when they are explicitly taught and change their attitude and perception of a value. Students and parents experienced personal change and reported changes seen in others. For instance a student said how the class had positively evolved and that values had helped them to become more mature, adjusted kids. The research showed the profound professional and personal transformation that can result when the parent community is involved in students’ learning.

Around the world, countries, such as Singapore, are searching for ways to help schools to improve academic standards, positively affect student character and engage with parents and the community. Adopting the philosophy and practices of Values-based Education, as a whole school initiative, will, as the research shows, have a positive impact on all these elements.

The major theme running through this article, is the belief that education is about the moral process of helping students to be well educated - the best people that they can be - and by so being create a more civil, educated and sustainable society. Educational philosophers have sought, usually implicitly, to address the question, raised early in this article, about how young people can be educated about values and live them in their lives. This article has drawn on a selection of moral philosophers, in order to argue the case that the explicit philosophical and theoretical framework for Values-based Education, is in response to this moral imperative and that its rationale is rooted in a long tradition, which has considered the aim of education as being a moral one. Therefore, in my view, places of education (schools, colleges, the home) of the future must be values-based in order for humanity to flourish.

Neil Hawkes

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© Dr. Neil Hawkes 2013