There seems to be a lot of confusion in our schools about values, what they are, their place in a curriculum, their role in the life of a school and how to implement this aspect in a manner that is realistic, powerful and also manageable.
To gain an understanding of a plural it helps to first understand the singular. : "Relative worth, merit, or importance" : "The importance or worth of something for someone" "The quality (positive or negative) that renders something desirable or valuable"

The word value is in this context basically treated as a verb. It is variously defined as 'the level of importance we attach to something'. The something could be an attitude, behaviour, person, relationship, object or concept.

Once we understand what a value is then we need to place that understanding within its context, and the base context is ourselves as an individual being.

The diagram below (world view diagram) outlines a number of aspects that combine to make us the individuals we are and explains the links between the factors that define our individuality, our strengths, weaknesses and quirks.
World View

World View: Each one of us has a world view. This is how we see ourselves and the world around us as well as our role and place within that world. World view is formed and shaped by our experiences, culture, knowledge and understanding.
Beliefs and Opinions: These are driven shaped and founded by our world view.
· beliefs are deeply held convictions
· opinions are lightly held beliefs.
To alter belief or opinion requires a change in my world view.

Values: A value is the level of importance we attach to something. What we value and the level of importance we attach to it is driven by our individual and corporate beliefs and opinions.
To alter one or more of my values requires a shift in belief and opinion.

Attitudes: Attitudes are a chooseable state of mind. And are determined by what I decide to value in any given situation. Ultimately attitudes are driven from what I value.

Behaviour: Behaviours are driven by my attitudes. My skills are evidenced through behaviour and actions. My skill and behaviour is the end result of all the above coming together. I act with integrity when there is a direct correlation between my beliefs, opinions, values, attitudes and behavior.

The diagram becomes a powerful tool to use with students in exploring what people value, why they value those things and how those values impact through to attitudes and behaviour. In fact this diagram is also a powerful tool that fits very closely with the VALUES section of the New Zealand Curriculum (Page 10).

A point of disagreement
The New Zealand curriculum states on page 10 “Values are deeply held beliefs about what is important”. Based on my understanding and the relationship between beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviour I would argue with this statement. A value is not a belief, rather a person will value certain ideas, concepts, objects and relationships at different levels based on their opinions and beliefs.

Determining School values

The curriculum supplies a list of values that “enjoy widespread support” however goes on to say that these are “neither exhaustive nor exclusive” which allows schools to clarify what it is that they value.

• "excellence, by aiming high and by persevering in the face of difficulties;
innovation, inquiry, and curiosity, by thinking critically, creatively, and reflectively;
diversity, as found in our different cultures, languages, and heritages;
equity, through fairness and social justice;
community and participation for the common good;
ecological sustainability, which includes care for the environment;
integrity, which involves being honest, responsible, and accountable and acting ethically;"


A challenge I would pose is for schools to consider three factors as they determine what they value.
  • Firstly the school is a community so they will need to value a number of things that are central to the sound functioning of a community.
  • Secondly that the school is specific type of community, a learning community, so they will need to ensure that they incorporate a number of things that are central to learning and the facilitation of learning.
  • Do not overburden yourself with a huge collection of values, choose a small finite set that will lay the foundations for an effective community of learners.

Implementing Values
Having determined what you value at your school you will need to establish how you will address these values. The New Zealand curriculum has (p 10) some powerful suggestions that are enclosed within two sets of bullet points.

Implementing values P10

In a number of schools these bullet points have been reworded to fit with the World view diagram, and as such provide a simple outline of how students will be supported to identify what they value, empathetically explore what others value as well as examine the links between beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviours.

The following is a sample, provided by Tinopai School, of their documentation that outlines their approach to values. It is simple and has the potential to be a powerful way of supporting students to understand themselves and others.

"Values at Tinopai School
Values are not seen here as ‘deeply held beliefs’ (P 10, 2007 NZ National Curriculum) rather they are seen as the level of importance that is attached to different things based on our beliefs and opinions.
At Tinopai School exploration and understanding of what people value will be an integral part of the interactions that occur within our classrooms. The World View diagram will be utilised to as a tool to allow students to explore what people value and the links between belief, value, attitude and behaviour."

P10, New Zealand Curriculum (revised based on our understanding of the meaning of the word ‘value’)
Through their learning experiences, students will learn about:
• what they and others value;
• the different things we can value, such as attitudes, behaviours, concepts, people, relationships and objects.
• the things that are valued by New Zealand’s culture, institutions and groups.
• what other groups and cultures value.

Through their learning experiences, we will support and facilitate our students to develop their ability to:
• identify and express what they value;
• explore, with empathy, what others value;
• critically analyse what people value and the resultant actions;
• discuss disagreements that arise from differences in what people value and negotiate solutions;
• make ethical decisions and act on them ensuring their behaviours and actions have integrity in terms of what they value.

Following this they list a set of seven things they value that would support an effective learning community.