Mini Workshop Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Educating for values in the small group: What teachers do, how we do it, and who we are  (#131)

Althea J. Blakey 1
  1. University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

In this workshop, I draw on participants’ ideas about how they might cultivate values in the classroom, as well as introducing ideas from my recent research. This research draws on the ideas of Barnett (1997), in particular ‘critical action’. I found that to educate for values can depend on what we do (e.g. process) how we do it (action) and at times, who we are (our own values).

This workshop is aimed at smallgroup teachers. My work has been in medicine, but this workshop will be useful for anyone involved in facilitating discussion in which student values might come into question, e.g. ethics, or contexts where students might need to learn and take on particular values (e.g. medicine).

After a short icebreaker, I will gather ideas about what participants consider ‘values’, and those necessary in their own discipline. I will then offer two fictional scenarios about student values and ask the group to briefly discuss in small groups how they might approach the scenario in terms of teaching method. I will ask that participants consider in particular (1) what they might do (e.g. process), (2) how they might do it (action), and (3) any particular personal values (who they are as people) likely to influence the process by which students [re]consider their values.

I will ask group members to bring ideas back to the group and we will discuss each on their own merits, and against the current research.

My intentions are: (1) to offer participants opportunity to discuss difficult issues from teacher practice, seldom available as part of formal professional development. Participants are also likely to continue to think about these issues in relation to their own practice. (2) To stimulate thinking about ideas from my recent research in relation to teacher practice.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

To educate graduates to be responsive and adaptable professionals in the 21st century can, for many, require we specifically educate for this in the classroom. In medicine, and many other disciplines this means imbuing students with values considered necessary for them to grow into excellent professionals, as well as the knowledge and skills to carry out their work. For example, if we require our students to be adaptable, we need to educate for this.

However, to educate for values can be difficult, because the spaces for this are growing more scarce, and also because, as my recent research in small group settings indicates, students consider their values a ‘part of them’. Because of this, a teacher’s attempts to ‘change’ a student’s values might be interpreted as a personal challenge or ‘slight’. In turn, such challenge might result in student disengagement, or a challenge to the teacher. To negotiate such reactions and successfully educate for values requires the time to do so, but significant teacher skill in process, how it is carried out, and at times can be dependent on the possession of particular values themselves.