Understanding Learners' Self-Expressed and Self-Professed Core Personal Values for Effective Teaching and Learning

Understanding Learners' Self-Expressed and Self-Professed Core Personal Values for Effective Teaching and Learning

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1573-0.ch001
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Adult learners, beyond being practical in their learning focus (based on andragogy), tend to use values (core and peripheral) to guide their attitudes, learning pursuits and behaviors, and other aspects. One approach to profiling learners may be based on learners' self-professed core personal values as those that cannot be contravened without causing offense and negative learner reactions. The professing of core values is not only by spoken/written/shared expressions (which can be “cheap talk”) but also by actions. Observing the actions of learners, one may infer underlying values (albeit in a noisy way). For effective teaching and learning, instructor and curricular alignments with learner core values may be integral to the success of the teaching and learning efforts. This work provides a literature review of learner values and learning and explores the implications of considering such values in instructional design and teaching and learning.
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“Values” define what people see as important based on micro-to macro senses of fundamental truths or principles. Milton Rokeach (1973) suggests that values are the “core concept across all the social sciences” and is a “main dependent variable in the study of culture, society, and personality, and the main independent variable in the study of social attitudes and behavior” in his book. Values are “desirable transsituational goals, varying in importance” and serve as guiding principles (S. Schwartz 1994:21) (Hitlin, June 2003, p. 119). Values address five main issues:

(1) they are concepts or beliefs, (2) they pertain to desirable end states or behaviors, (3) they transcend specific situations, (4) they guide selection or evaluation of behavior and events, and (5) they are ordered by relative importance (S. Schwartz 1992; Schwartz and Bilsky 1987, as cited in Hitlin, June 2003, p. 119).

Values are “mental structures existing at a higher level of abstraction than attitudes” (Howard 1995; Rokeach 1973; Schuman 1995; S. Schwartz 1992, 1994; Williams 1979)” (Hitlin, June 2003, p. 120). Values inform people’s beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors at various scales, from individual (micro) to group (meso) to mass-scale social or even universal scale (macro), depending on the unit of analysis. The sources of individual and social values are thought to come from various cultural influences and to evolve based on individual experiences and personal growth, social interactions, education, work life, and other aspects. Individuals, who have somewhat coherent identities, may have sets of values that also generally align and are not contradictory. Having a value system enables professionals to decide between competing values (Rest & Narváez, 1994, p. ix), each with positive aspects but which may not be practically achievable or potentially mutually exclusive.

One common categorization of human values is from the Rokeach Values Survey (1973), with 18 “terminal” values and 18 “instrumental” ones. Terminal ones are desirable “end-states” of human existence, and instrumental ones are “preferable modes of behavior” (“Rokeach Value Survey,” Apr. 12, 2019). The terminal ones include “True Friendship, Mature Love, Self-Respect, Happiness, Inner Harmony, Equality, Freedom, Pleasure, Social Recognition, Wisdom, Salvation, Family Security, National Security, A Sense of Accomplishment, A World of Beauty, A World at Peace, A Comfortable Life, (and) An Exciting Life” (“Rokeach Value Survey,” Apr. 12, 2019). The instrumental ones include “Cheerfulness, Ambition, Love, Cleanliness, Self-Control, Capability, Courage, Politeness, Honesty, Imagination, Independence, Intellect, Broad-Mindedness, Logic, Obedience, Helpfulness, Responsibility, (and) Forgiveness” (“Rokeach Value Survey,” Apr. 12, 2019). This instrument has been critiqued for potential lack of comprehensiveness and measure validity (Gibbins & Walker, Dec. 1993). Another categorization of human values as relates to personal identity is to think of values as different arrays, such as whether for “self-enhancement” or “self-transcendence” towards forming a target role identity (Hitlin, June 2003, p. 118).

Based on life histories, understood cultural influences, actions taken (and apparent choices made), and personality-based patterns, it may be possible to indirectly infer something of values, even if somewhat inexactly. Based on people’s statements, it may be possible to directly understand individual-professed values, but these are inexact as well depending on how self-aware people are, how aspirational their values are, and other factors. How people behave is considered more accurate signaling than just professed values. Values are not random, and values do not occur serendipitously although people’s behaviors around values may be influenced by in-world events. However, people may not have a fully defined value sets in their lived lives either. Decisions can be made subconsciously. Without reflection and self-understanding, much of people’s values stay below the surface of consciousness. Without the ability to articulate their values, much of this will stay internalized and unexpressed in the outer world.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Andragogy: Study of adult learning methodology, adult education.

Ethics: Moral principles.

Professional Ethics: Business/corporate and domain-based standards of behaviors and attitudes and values.

Elicitation: Invitation for others to share information, data collection.

Values: What is seen as important or relevant in life based on fundamental truths or principles, informed by culture, personality, and other sources (and understood as relevant at individual to mass-scale levels or micro/meso/macro-scale).

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