Objective 10

POD —IDEA Center
Learning Notes
S e p t e m b e r
2 0 0 6
Michael Theall, Youngstown State University, Series Editor
IDEA Learning Objective #10:
“Developing a clearer understanding of, and
commitment to, personal values”
Victoria Bhavsar, University of Kentucky, [email protected]
Jeff King, Kaplan University, [email protected]
Karen Becker, Youngstown State University, [email protected]
“Value theory” in philosophy and psychology
literature explores the development, articulation,
and manifestation of values at the individual and
social level. This IDEA Note describes the
pedagogical importance of dealing with personal
and societal values in the classroom. We also
suggest ways for instructors to help students to
consider their own values with rigorous critical
thinking and to communicate about those values.
One of the ideal purposes of a college education is
to educate the whole person (1). To be wholly
educated, students must define, understand, refine,
and commit to their own personal values. One
definition of values (2) makes clear why clarification
of, and commitment to, personal values serves
students and the educational process:
Once a value is internalized it
becomes, consciously or
unconsciously, a standard or criterion
for guiding action, for developing and
maintaining attitudes toward relevant
objects and situations, for justifying
one’s own and others’ actions and
attitudes, for morally judging self and
others, and for comparing self with
others (p. 160).
While students should not forego thinking in favor of
emotional attachment, emotions are part of brain
function and are very much connected to learning
(3). Discussing values engages students’ emotions
and uses different parts of their brains beyond those
employed in memorization or even problem solving.
Using more of the brain thus leads to deeper
learning and to the development of a wider range of
academic skills.
Different disciplines lend themselves to different
values. For example, although surgery and
psychiatry are both helping professions,
practitioners approach these professions differently
and value different things. These disciplines must
be learned differently and require students to learn
different skills: surgeons value manual dexterity and
precise surgical skills while psychiatrists value the
ability to empathize with clients and deal with their
emotions objectively. Individual differences can lead
students to choose one career or the other and
sometimes to succeed or fail based on the match
between the individual and the demands and values
of the field (4).
Percentages of faculty in different disciplines
choosing IDEA Objective 10 as “Essential” or
”Important” vary (5), but instructors in all disciplines
facilitate student thinking about personal and
professional values at some level. Even in
disciplines with a relatively small numbers of
courses emphasizing Objective 10 values, such
consideration is important, (for example,
Biology/Life Science, as recent stem cell research
controversies indicate). Dealing with values and
learning styles together can help students choose
likely disciplines for success, or help them find ways
to investigate the professions to which they aspire.
Without guidance in developing values and
choosing disciplines, students may become
discouraged, perceiving a mismatch between their
dreams and their ability to learn.
Learning about their own values and the source of
their values may help students to develop tolerance
for different values, increasing their capacity for
collegiality and civility in the workplace and in
community life. Johnson and Johnson write, “There
are three types of social interdependence:
cooperation, competition, and neutrality.
Each…teaches an inherent set of values. These
values influence whether diversity results in positive
or negative outcomes” (6).
Learning implies progress in cognitive and moral
developmental stages. Values and emotions are
closely linked, especially at the less mature
developmental stages (7, 8). At their least mature,
people make decisions based on what feels good.
At higher levels of moral and cognitive development
we make decisions based on abstract reasoning
and principles beyond our own self-interest. This
requires both content knowledge (to operationalize
abstract reasoning) and a value system (as a
structure for making decisions consistent with
personal and societal values).
Deliberately measuring personal values against
peers’ values can be challenging for college
students. Antonio (9) points out that college
students’ norms, or values, can “change under the
pressure of direct approval (or disapproval) of
valued, trusted peers” (p. 448). Peer pressure can
be mediated by interpersonal interactions – friends
strongly affect students’ values. Students can
benefit from information and teaching which helps
them sort through peer pressure issues and make
more mature decisions beyond immediate
Values fall along a continuum from personal
preferences (morning classes, apples vs. oranges)
to criterion-based choices (robust experimental
design, high-quality fruit vs. low quality fruit) to
choices based on universal principles generalizable
across situations, such as fairness, justice, and
respect (10). Effective teaching can help students
figure out which are which.
Helpful Hints
Help students make connections between content
and their own value systems. Fink’s Taxonomy of
Significant Learning (11) presents three types of
learning outcomes directly related to values: Caring,
Human Dimension, and Learning How to Learn.
Fink says that learning is more effective when
learning activities address more than one outcome
at a time. When foundational content knowledge is
carefully and appropriately applied to issues of
personal importance, it is learned more deeply.
Demonstrating this relevance is also a useful
motivational tool (12). A model for information
processing will illustrate this point. Moving
information from short-term to long-term memory
happens in three primary ways: rehearsal,
organization, and creating meaningful connections.
Even older students enter college thinking that the
primary and most efficient way to learn is to commit
concepts to memory (13). When students
meaningfully connect content with topics they care
about or have prior knowledge about, rehearsal
(repetition and memorization) and organization
(pattern seeking) become more compelling and
useful. Students realizing this can move beyond the
idea that “learning = memorizing,” and gain
understanding that leads to “meta-valuing,” that is,
valuing the process of learning itself rather than
simply valuing the memorization of information.
(See also POD-IDEA Center Note #6: Made it clear
how each topic fit into the course.)
Introduce stimulating ideas about the topic (see
POD-IDEA Center Notes #8 and #13). Many
traditional-age college students are at a
developmental stage in which they are concerned
about themselves; they are trying to figure out their
own place in the world and who they are (7).
Consequently, addressing values engages
students’ interest. Carefully designed learning
activities involving values can focus students’
learning on content and sharpen critical thinking
skills. Students who become familiar with this
deeper learning find learning more rewarding – and
possibly easier.
Relate course material to real-life situations (see
POD-IDEA Center Note #11). Students must think
carefully and rationally about exactly what they
believe and find valuable. They must identify and
analyze the information or influences upon which
they base their beliefs and values, describe how
their beliefs and values operate in their lives, and
begin to take responsible steps when their actions
are not congruent with their beliefs and values.
Dealing with values can help students learn to make
complex decisions in other areas.
Examine student learning styles and use a variety
of learning exercises to address different learning
styles. Teachers can help students become aware
of differences in learning styles – and teaching
styles. Teachers can deliberately explain how they
themselves learn and offer suggestions if students’
styles or preferences differ. Creating opportunities
to verbalize their thinking processes – describing
different but appropriate paths that can lead to the
same answer – allows students to explore a variety
of “right ways” to work through a problem and
access information. As students become familiar
with their own learning preferences, they can
develop a better understanding of their own choices
ranging from study techniques to career decisions.
Finally, students can come to find value not only in
how they process and learn information, but in the
preferred styles of their peers and superiors – a
necessary mindset for career success.
Ask students to share ideas with others (see PODIDEA Center Notes #16 and #18). IDEA research
has found that IDEA method #16 – Sharing ideas
with those holding differing backgrounds and
viewpoints – is most important to Objective 10.
Hearing others describe their perspectives and
views helps students to grasp complex issues and
to better understand themselves, and this weighing
of ideas promotes deeper learning and makes it
more engaging. Structuring group work in which
students engage with those holding different values
is beneficial for students’ values development. As
with any group work exercise, carefully designed
rubrics are necessary (14). In this case, you must
ensure that your groups define values-difference
issues that may affect the group’s ability to work
effectively and thus, the quality of the work output.
Explore and be aware of your own disciplinary and
course values.
Be “up front” about the values you hold in the
discipline. Do you expect rigor, creativity,
standardized methods, or self-expression?
Research indicates that students prefer
teachers who know and clearly communicate
their own values, yet who also can express
differences between personally held values and
values held by others (15). You can explicitly
identify the discipline’s values (course content
related to process of inquiry, for example) as
well as implicitly transfer those values (modeling
and acting congruently with the values).
Figure out what hidden values you are teaching.
One law school, for example, tried to reduce
grade inflation by grading on a strict bell curve.
Rampant cheating resulted – because the
grading scheme taught competitive values.
Take care that your own values do not bias you
against a student whose values do not match
your own, outside of disciplinary requirements.
For example, if good writing is the disciplinary
value, it is wrong to downgrade a student whose
excellent writing is put to the service of a
distasteful value. Open discussion, though,
might be fully appropriate.
Use critical thinking assignments. Well-constructed
critical thinking exercises often require students to
identify and compare their values with the values of
others. Good instructional strategies for critical
thinking assignments are to “teach cognitive
strategies, stimulate specific values as part of the
pedagogical task, and still show respect for
students’ own opinions” (16).
Be available through office hours and other means
as possible. Values discussions need not arise
solely in class. IDEA research has shown that
method #1 – Displayed a personal interest in
students and their learning – is important to this
objective (see POD-IDEA Center Note #1).
Additionally, interacting with students to help them
find “ways to answer their own questions” is
important (see POD-IDEA Center Note #2).
Additional specific techniques. There are several
techniques for bringing values issues into your
teaching. These generally include strategies such
as critical thinking exercises; case studies; service
learning; and the use of ethical dilemmas.
• An interesting example of a values exercise
based on William James’ essay, “The Will to
Believe,” is described in the Journal of College
and Character (17).
• Journaling – double-entry journals are
particularly effective (18). Students’ first entry
notes any concept they find meaningful or
controversial; the second entry notes the
personal significance of any changes in values.
• Formal debates with rules, followed by selfreflective writing.
• In large classes, the use of remote response
systems (“clickers”) that allow you to receive
immediate feedback about student opinions on
a given topic and gauge how to proceed with
the class.
• Choice of assignments, with a minor part of the
assignment being to describe why the
assignment was chosen.
Learning style inventories that help students
identify their best learning strategies (e.g.,
Right-brain/Left-brain preferences,
Visual/Auditory/Kinesthetic, Gregorc Style
Delineator, etc.; see Additional Resources).
Type surveys such as the Myers Briggs Type
Indicator (MBTI) or the Multiple Intelligences
survey, that help students get perspective on
their modes of thinking (see Additional
Assessment Issues
Assessment is most necessary, and most readily
incorporated, when learning about values is
explicitly stated as a desired outcome of the course.
Instruments such as knowledge-skills-values
surveys are available. Rubrics are another good
way to make grading standards explicit while
controlling for personal bias on the part of the
grader (14).
One measurement of student achievement in this
affective domain can be made by gauging how well
students adopt and integrate the values of the
profession (19). For example, students could be
required to define acceptable courses of action
within case study scenarios, defending their choices
within the parameters of professional expectations.
While there may be a debate about whether the
college classroom should be a place to teach
specific values, teaching students the tools and
processes that can be used to examine their own
values is far less controversial. As you assess your
effectiveness in helping students know how to
examine, select, and live congruently with their
values, remember that student self-reporting is
qualitative assessment that can be highly
informative for your teaching practice as well as for
determining your success in assisting students to
develop this important skill.
References and Resources
(1) Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and Education.
New York: The MacMillan Company. Chapter
24: Philosophy of Education. Retrieved
September 20, 2006, from
(2) Rokeach, M. (1968). Beliefs, attitudes and
values: A theory of organization and change.
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
(3) Zull, J. E. (2002). The Art of Changing the Brain.
Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.
Smart, J. C., Feldman, K. A., & Ethington, C.
A. (2000). Academic disciplines: Holland’s
theory and the study of college students and
faculty. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University
The IDEA Center (2002). Disciplinary selection
of learning objectives: Percent of classes
selecting objectives as essential or important.
Retrieved September 20, 2006 from
Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. (1989).
Cooperation and competition: Theory and
research. Interactive Book Company. Edina,
Perry, W. G. (1970). Forms of intellectual and
ethical development in the college years: A
scheme. New York: Holt, Rinehart and
Crain, W. C. (1985). Kohlberg’s stages of
moral development, In Heffner, C. L.
(Ed.) Theories of development. Chapter 7,
(pp. 118-136). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: PrenticeHall.
Antonio, A. L. (2004). The influence of
friendship groups on intellectual selfconfidence and educational aspirations in
college. Journal of Higher Education, 75 (4),
Schrader, D. E., & Millman, J. (1997). Three
perspectives on teaching moral values.
College Teaching 39, 72-75.
Fink, L. D. (2003). Creating significant learning
experiences: An integrated approach to
designing college courses. San Francisco:
Theall, M. (1999). What have we learned? A
synthesis and some guidelines for effective
motivation in higher education. In M. Theall
(Ed.) "Motivation from within: Encouraging
faculty and students to excel." New Directions
for Teaching and Learning # 78. San
Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Becker, K. A. (1993). The development of
learning for non-traditional adult students: An
investigation of personal meaning-making in a
community college reading and study skills
course. The Ohio State University. UMI
For a rubrics guide, see:
rubrics.htm Retrieved September 20, 2006.
Veugelers, W. (2000). Different ways of
teaching values. Educational Review 52, 3746.
(16) Veugelers, W. (1996). Teaching values and
critical thinking. Paper presented at the 76th
Annual Meeting of the American Educational
Research Association. New York: April 12.
(17) Frieden, G. L., & Pawelski, J. (2003). Affective
development in college students: Strategies
that promote ethical decision-making and
compassionate choice. Journal of College and
Character, 2. Online journal available at:
Retrieved September 20, 2006.
(18) Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993).
Classroom assessment techniques: a
handbook for college teachers. San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass. See pages 263-266.
(19) Cullen, C. L. (1990). Defining and assessing
affective outcomes in undergraduate pediatric
dentistry. Journal of Dental Education, 53 (3),
Related POD-IDEA Center Notes
IDEA Item #1 "Displayed a personal interest in
students and their learning," Virginia S. Lee
IDEA Item #2 "Found ways to help students answer
their own questions," Nancy McClure
IDEA Item #6 “Made it clear how each topic fit into
the course," Michael Theall
IDEA Item #8 “Stimulated students to intellectual
effort beyond that required by most courses,” Nancy
IDEA Item #11 "Related course material to real life
situations," Michael Theall
IDEA Item #13 "Introduced stimulating ideas about
the subject," Michael Theall
IDEA Item #15 "Inspired students to set and
achieve goals which really challenged them," Todd
IDEA Item #16 "Asked students to share ideas and
experiences with others whose backgrounds and
viewpoints differ from their own," Jeff King
IDEA Item #18 "Asked students to help each other
understand ideas or concepts," Jeff King
Additional Resources
IDEA Paper No. 37: Helping Your Students Develop
Critical Thinking Skills, Lynch and Wolcott
IDEA Paper No. 39: Establishing Rapport: Personal
Interaction and Learning, Fleming
IDEA Paper No. 41: Student Goal Orientation,
Motivation, and Learning, Svinicki
IDEA Paper No. 42: Integrated Course Design, Fink
IDEA Paper No. 43: The Technology Literate
Professorate: Are We There Yet? Madigan
Learning Styles
Claxton, C.S., & Murrell, P.H. (1987). Learning
styles: Implications for improving educational
practice. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No.
4. Washington, DC: George Washington University.
Hemispheric Dominance Learning Style Survey
from Middle Tennessee State Univ site:
Institute of Learning Styles Research (multiple
university researchers):
Index of Learning Styles Questionnaire, Solomon
and Felder:
Learning Style Survey developed at Diablo Valley
Marion, T. (2002). Translating learning style theory
into university teaching practices: An article based
on Kolb’s experiential learning model. Journal of
College Reading and Learning, 32(2), 154–176.
Learning Styles & Multiple Intelligences
Excellent overview site providing many resources
for Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences:
©2006 The IDEA Center
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