Learning Through Values

exploring values through dialogue and learning

a community website supported by Lifeworlds Learning

last update: 02 Feb 2015

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Learning Through Values

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It may seem obvious that values are part of school life, but in many schools values can be hidden from day to day life, underdeveloped in the school curriculum and disconnected from school development and/or improvement.

By giving school communities and especially school leaders the space to explore how values work and interact with curriculum, campus and community, we have observed them place values centre stage and restructure their learning through values.

Is this for you and your school? - see conversation below or contact us to find out.


Practitioner Perspective

Building Values Literacy


This short perspective considers the role that real world connections play in building values literacy.


Why is a focus on values important for schools?

Does 'Learning Through Values' promote specific values?

Is this the same as 'character' and 'moral' education?

We don't have space for something else in the curriculum!

We already have school values so why would we need this?

Where can we find resources to support Learning Through Values?

Who is behind Learning Through Values? What is their agenda?

We are a faith school so we already have our values.

I'm not sure our parents will approve of us teaching values.

This is great, but we have to focus on improvement targets.

How does LTV fit with the curriculum?

My staff have enough pressures on them already.

Values inform who we are, what we believe, how we act, and how we see the world and those we share it with. As such they are the very core of our being and permeate all aspects of life, including our education and schooling.

There is significant evidence that where schools have developed a values approach to learning they show significant improvements in attainment, behaviour and curriculum. There is also considerable theoretical support from many leading educational innovators and writers including Sir Ken Robinson, Guy Claxton, Robin Alexander, Mick Waters, Sir John Jones and may others.

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This depends where you are and depends on how you view curriculum. A statutory curriculum with defined coverage by subject areas or themes may not explicitly reference teaching and learning about values, however the overarching aims and principles often reference this area of learning very strongly.

We have found that once teachers and school leaders engage in values and learning, they struggle to find anything in their curriculum that does not connect to values. Moreover they have found that a values lens on their curriculum makes it more motivating and relevant for teachers and learners.

In addition to the statutory curriculum, many authorities expect schools to develop aspects of their own curriculum (alongside the statutory requirement) suited to their own context or school vision. A values approach can provide a strong rationale and vehicle for this.

No. There are values education programmes/packages available that promote specific values and that have content to support this. LTV takes a different approach, creating the time and space within schools for the exploration of values through appropriate, real-life, and curriculum relevant stimuli.

LTV considers the dialogue around values and the development of values language and perspectives, as the most important element of this work.

We have found that where there is investment in a values process (as opposed to values content), school communities arrive at a set of shared values that are often very much in keeping with those they may have sought to deliver under a more content-driven approach. The significant difference is that the LTV process creates greater ownership and deeper understanding of values.

LTV is not an 'add on' that you need to find time and space for in your curriculum. It is, as some of the teachers who have engaged in it, say: 'a new way of seeing and teaching your existing curriculum, but going further at the same time'.

We often describe it as like wearing a pair of glasses and seeing the curriculum with new eyes. Teachers have spoken of being excited by teaching familiar topics in new ways and by extending and deepening learning through a values approach.

We are confident that you will quickly identify how LTV fits with the curriculum and brings added value, not added pressure to what you are already doing.

Rob Bowden of Lifeworlds was commissioned by a group of leading educational organisations in England to conduct research into why schools might engage in values. The result was 'Case for Change' which can be downloaded from the Leading Through Values project page here.

Link Resource

Teaching character or moral education is often in the news and is sometimes (we think mistakenly) used as a synonym for learning that is values-based. There are clearly connections between values, character and morals, but the latter tend to be more surface level and are informed by our more deeply negotiated values. It is in engaging with values that we believe the deeper, more meaningful, and potentially transformational learning really takes place.

We will be producing a position paper exploring this often-asked question in more depth, but for now please do contact us if you would like further discussion around how LTV differs from character and/or moral education.

Link Resource

Elena Blackmore, one of the authors of the Common Cause report that has informed our thinking on Learning Through Values, writes about our approach and its positive approach to creating a values dialogue.

Read her blog here.

Many schools have a set of stated values and indeed some, such as faith or co-operative schools may have a set of values that is integral to their structure. LTV is not a substitute for any such values position and neither does it seek to prescribe a set of values to a school.

What we have frequently discovered is that whilst schools may have a set of stated values, this does not mean the learning community is necessarily literate in these values, or indeed in a wider discourse around values. We would suggest that schools should be encouraging an explicit engagement with values in all aspects of the curriculum, campus and community.

As one HMI responded to our work on values in schools: you can simply feel a school that has engaged in this way from the moment you walk in to it.

Some forms of Values Education come packaged with resources and materials to help teach particular values through assemblies, displays and classroom activities. LTV takes a different approach. We believe that the omnipresence of values means that almost anything and everything becomes a resource to Learning Through Values.

We accept however that it may take time for busy teachers to recognise and make the most of this in their day to day practice and so we are teaming up with Shouting Ant Publications later in 2014 to begin producing activities and stimuli that will help to kickstart and develop this process. What we do know is that teachers who have engaged in LTV soon find it very hard not to find the values connection in almost everything they do. As one teacher commented 'it just sort of pops into your everyday classroom'.

Faith schools may be nervous of exploring beyond a given values set, but we have found faith leaders and heads that we have spoken and worked with, to be very welcoming of a wider dialogue. Indeed, it is through a debate around values, that many faiths find a renewed role for their engagement in schools and communities

Most faith groups have a values perspective on specific issues and engaging in alternative views, across faiths and cultures, can reveal an unrecognised common cause, but also support young people to identify, respect and accept points of divergence.

Learning Through Values is an idea and dialogue that has emerged from a group of educational practitioners who have spent many years working in a number of different educational sectors and phases. The core work of LTV is driven and managed by Lifeworlds Learning which as a Community Interest Company is legally bound to not represent any specific faith or political party.

We seek a robust and rigorous debate around values and learning, but within a safe space that respects the dignity, rights and privacy of others.

Explicit teaching around values has historically been absent in some school settings as there was a widely held belief that values were the remit of the home, the family and the community. Much research in recent years has suggested that this disconnect is both imagined and naive.

Our own work in this area shows that when parents and the community were consulted, they had remarkably similar perspectives on values and learning to both teachers and learners themselves. What is more, they indicated that the language of values as non-specialist or subject specific, opened up new spaces for school-community dialogue and collaboration.

Key to this point is the notion of 'teaching values'. LTV does not propose the teaching of specific values (which may incur adverse responses from parents/carers), but instead advocates approaches that encourage and build values literacy and empower young people to recognise and make values choices.

LTV was developed out of conflicting but overlapping approaches to school improvement and developed as an approach that places school improvement and development at the core. LTV is not another initiative to distract from school improvement targets, but a vital tool to support progress for all through dynamic, engaging and meaningful learning.

Schools that have engaged in LTV have all recorded marked improvements in behaviour, increased engagement of learners, and accelerated progress in areas such as speaking, listening, reading and writing.

We are very aware of the pressures on teachers and several of our practitioner team also teach part time and so keep us mindful of and grounded in these pressures.

We would advocate that the initial investment in LTV is more than rewarded through a re-invigorated and motivated staff. Participating teachers have spoken of a 'new lease of life', and of 'discovering new and exciting ways of teaching'. We believe that the LTV approach can actually help with the pressures of life in a busy school community.

Link Resource

When the CEO of Think Global, the umbrella body for global learning in the UK observed the work of LTV he was struck by its power to enthuse and motivate teachers. He asked Rob Bowden to explore this further in short Thinkpiece 'Motivating the Core' that is available to download from the resources pages.

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