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Values, beliefs and attitudes

People’s values, beliefs and attitudes are formed and bonded over time through the influences of family, friends, society and life experiences. So, by the time you’re an adult, you can hold very definite views on just about everything with a sense of “no one is going to change my mind”.

A diagram that shows 3 circles each one inside the other. The inner circle defines the word value: A person’s own set of principles which they consider of great importance. The middle circle defines the word belief: An idea that is accepted as true without any facts. The outer circle defines the word attitude: A way of thinking or feeling with regards to  someone or something.

Figure 1: Definitions of values, belief and attitude. ©University of Reading

The combination of your personal values, beliefs and attitudes are the moral principles that guide you in life and affect your behaviour. However, your views can wildly differ to others and in an institution such as a school, these beliefs may be counter to the values of the school, child development or indeed the law. Here are some examples:

Values that clash with child development.

You may hold the belief that children are vulnerable and need protecting by you. You care about the children you work with and you want them to stay safe, so they mustn’t face any risks. However, taking risks and facing challenges is a crucial component of childhood. Children need lots of experiences with taking risks to know what they can and can’t do. This includes experiencing failure and learning to persevere in order to be successful and ultimately discover their capabilities. Examples of taking risks might mean at age eleven – walking to school alone or with friends, at age three – doing woodwork in the nursery, or at age eight – building a fire as part of an outdoor experience. However, if you, the adult, feel uncomfortable about these activities because of your views, what do you do? Does your belief that children need to be protected outweigh the need for children to learn through experience? Or do you let go of your beliefs?

Values that clash with effective child management.

You think that graffiti is a terrible eyesore and it shouldn’t be allowed. You believe that it shows a lack of respect for other people’s things and it shows bad manners. If a child was caught defacing property you would issue a harsh punishment. You may also think that chalking on the ground or any marking on the ground would automatically lead to the child becoming a graffiti artist. This leads you to prevent children chalking on the ground, despite the fact the school provides the resources for children to be able to do this. Have you considered whether the punishment is appropriate? Where has the association of a child chalking on the ground to becoming a graffiti artist originate from? Why is there an issue if a child does want to be a graffiti artist? Here, you’re allowing your values to take over and punishing children who are exploring and playing.

Everyone has their own view about education and what it should involve, which can lead to healthy debates and ideas. However, it needs to be acknowledged that a personal view will remain just that – unless it’s supported by sound evidence.

When working in schools, you must be prepared to adjust your belief system to fit the education and school system. If you refer to the previous Step as an example, even though you may disagree with sex and relationships education for all ages – if it’s the law – you’ll have to teach and support the subject. It’s a bit like having a light switch – you have to turn your values off while in school. It can be hard but it isn’t fair on children if they are expected to be taught something, and it is then not taught, or taught badly. By following the rules and values of the school you are not compromising your own values and beliefs.

Can you think of a situation where your views have changed (either personally or professionally), from a previously definite view? What happened to change your view?

Our course tip

If you can, try and get involved with conversations that take place during the current week’s activities to enhance your learning experience and to get the most out of it.

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Supporting Successful Learning in Primary School

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