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How do values, beliefs and attitudes affect teaching methods?

Turn your values off in school; it isn’t fair on children if they are expected to be taught something and it is not taught, or taught badly

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’.

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.

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


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 walking to school alone or with friends at the age of 11; doing woodwork in the nursery at the age of three; building a fire as part of an outdoor experience at the age of eight.

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 originated 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.

Switching off your values

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. Even though you may disagree with sex and relationships education for all ages, you’ll have to teach and support the subject if it’s the law.

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.

© University of Reading
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