»Values can be developed well if students learn themselves to understand the meaning of values.«

Prof. Dr. Heinz Mandl

Learning, living and feeling values

Working with cooperation partners Siemens Stiftung develops materials and methods designed to expose students to values-formulating questions during experiments. Dr. Heinz Mandl is professor emeritus for Education and Educational Psychology at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. In his work, he focuses on teaching and learning research in training and continuing education with media, knowledge management, values development and evaluation.

Professor Mandl, why do we need values?

Values and values development involve something that is critically important right now. Our society is undergoing far-reaching change, generated in part by digitalization, globalization and migration. As a result of this development, our society is much more diverse and offers many more opportunities than it once did. At the same time, though, these new challenges result in complexity. This, in turn, produces uncertainty and anxiety. Values create standards and criteria that offer orientation here. Values are also essential for our society’s future. The learning and spreading of fundamental democratic values – like freedom, equality and solidarity – as a shared values base are the first and foremost component of social cohesion.

In other words, values are essential for both the individual and society as a whole?

Yes, values will always differ on an individual and societal level. On an individual level, they primarily have two functions: an intentional role and an evaluative role. The intentional function is that values establish standards that people can largely use as the basis for their behavior. The evaluative function involves criteria that can be used to judge characteristics, attitudes, actions or events. In the context of the societal level, it is the job of values to maintain the structures of a social system because values represent generally accepted standards that form the foundation of society.

What is the best way to teach values without assuming a moralistic, know-it-all tone?

You cannot successfully teach values by moralizing or cramming them down people’s throats. People should learn and experience values through their own actions. They should also test them out and examine them in various situations. One particularly good way to develop values is when students themselves learn to understand the meaning of values.

At which age is it important to begin teaching values to children?

Given the importance of values for the individual and society as a whole, children should be encouraged from the very beginning to develop their own set of values. Even when they are very young, children internalize values and mores that will shape the course of their entire lives. The family plays a particularly important role in the development of values, and parents serve as central role models. Their attitudes and behavior shape the thinking and actions of their children. At the same time, children realize that they are valued and loved by their parents. In this way, they learn to respect and appreciate other people.

What role does school-based values development play in this context?

Values development is a component of the teaching and child-rearing mission of schools. The development of moral judgment and the formation of an individual’s own, socially responsible personality are the primary goals. In addition, every teacher embodies – either consciously or subconsciously – certain values. When it comes to such things as fairness in social interaction, openness to individual ideas and skills as well as discipline to encourage learning and academic development, teachers also serve as role models and represent certain values. The “Kinderwertemonitor Studie of 2014 (Children’s Values Monitor Study) found that teachers served as key role models for 80 percent of children.

Why should values be taught as part of science and technology education?

At a very early, children and young people are being confronted today by scientific and technical issues, some of which are also controversial. For a person to be able to grasp the importance of such topics, you need something more than a simple technical and theoretical study of them. Values underpin science and technology education. They enable individuals to form opinions about questions, make decisions, examine topics from various perspectives and reflect on and evaluate scientific and technological issues. At the same time, science and technology education creates the conditions that promote values development: Joint experimentation helps encourage such characteristics as a sense of responsibility, teamwork, soft skills and the ability to compromise and evaluate.

Which systematic methods support the process of values development during the international educational program Experimento?

Specific methodical components are used to didactically support values development. For the practical instruction aspect of Experimento I 8+, idea-suggestion techniques and the use of case studies involving dilemmas have been selected. The idea-suggestion techniques can be nonverbal, through the use of images and gestures, or verbal, through the use of declarations and requests. They are designed to encourage reflection and prompt students to express their own views and create topics for discussion in the process. The use of case studies involving dilemmas helps create awareness for values-related conflicts. Students learn to realize that decisions have certain consequences.

Students should learn, live and feel values.
© Siemens Stiftung/Freudenberg Stiftung

Siemens Stiftung and you jointly identified certain values for Experimento. Why should these values in particular be taught in classrooms?

These values reflect the needs of the 21st century, things like climate change and dwindling resources. The value of sustainability, for instance, involves taking economic, environmental and socially responsible developments into consideration for the benefit of all generations. Values like judgment and independence are essential characteristics for people, enabling them to resolutely find their way in a diverse, complex world and confidently make decisions. Values like candor, tolerance and solidarity are fundamental requirements when we talk about heterogeneity and integration.

Can service learning be used to more intensely convey certain values?

Values show their true colors in actions – from knowledge to behavior. This process is very intensely encouraged in service learning. This form of instruction combines the learning of a subject with social commitment and the assumption of responsibility in a school environment. The major benefit is that the values are actually experienced through their application and the practical experience that is gained in the process. Experience and reflection are thus the central elements of values development. Service learning can have a positive effect on the development of students’ social and personal skills.

Which values do you think are especially important in inclusive instruction?

Inclusive instruction involves bringing the principle of respect and recognition to life in instruction. We are talking about values on the individual level, things like candor. This means interest in the new without fear or prejudice. On the social level, we focus on values like team orientation, tolerance and dependability. Tolerance involves respectful interaction among students and the acceptance and recognition of differences.

June 2016


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