This is a blog by Bec Sanderson

Intelligence plus character, that is the goal of good education.
- Martin Luther King

What does good values-based education look like?

Last week we hosted a 2 day conference in cold and beautiful Edinburgh to discuss this question. With a hosting team from PIRC, Lifeworlds Learning, Character Scotland and Learning for Sustainability Scotland, and a room full of people working on or researching this topic, there was a lot of buzz and plenty of examples of good practice.

In a rather cruel Pecha Kucha session (which, if you’ve never done it, involves speaking for precisely 6.40 mins, following 20 slides on a strict timer of 20 seconds each), a number of brave speakers stepped up to the stage. We’re working on turning this into a short film, but to just give a couple of snippets - we heard how the Real World Network were using values and frames to guide their outdoor education, developing such frames as “This time we share, with the past and future” and “All taking requires giving back”; how the Woodcraft Folk’s focus on learning through co-operation and sharing was being integrated into Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence and how the John Muir Award scheme had been designed primarily to bring a little more AWE into the world (because awe’s great, isnt it?)

Conference panorama

My personal highlight was seeing the 10 strong team from the Bishopbriggs Community Action Group (aged 16 and 17) standing up to talk about their activism in local schools - encouraging participation in everything from human rights groups to games clubs and cycling.

We were also very lucky to have Anat Bardi and Anna Doering, two of the world experts on Schwartz values research in children, talking about how values change over time. ‘Slowly’ is the main conclusion, especially after single experiences,  but immersive education environments do shape us. We know, for example, that over the 3 year course of Law degrees, student values tend to shift more towards outward status and appearance than community service, and that school projects on environmental values have measurable effects on recycling behaviour in children.  (And we also know that watching the film ‘Into the Wild’ has a surprisingly strong effect on teenager’s values!)

In one of our sessions we ran a meditation, asking people to imagine a scenario in 50 years time, where intrinsic values were at the heart of the education system. We then turned this into a statement, painstakingly crafted and eventually agreed upon (broadly) by all of us in the room:

Good values-based education is…

One that helps us to foster respectful, caring relationships with other people, animals, nature and ourselves. This is achieved through compassion, reciprocity and the provision of opportunities that are risky and empowering; based on choice rather than coercion and collaboration rather than competition.

(Because no mission statement would be complete without multiple adjectives and complex sentence clauses.)

Where next?

Well, we sincerely hope that some of this sharing continues outside our conference walls. 60 or of or so are joining the community on Learning Through Values. If you want to join this network, please contact Rob Bowden. Rob has also recently been approached by the Global Learning Programme (GLP England), hosted by the Depts. for Education and International Development, to write a paper about values in education.  And our post-conference action planning is underway, you’ll be sure to hear more from us soon! We're #ValuesEd14 on twitter.

Thanks to everyone who came along. Let’s do it again next year.

The Public Interest Research Centre’s work on Education is headed by Bec Sanderson - contact her if you want to be involved!