Going to the heart of modern education

Rosemary Dewan

Rosemary Dewan is the CEO of the Human Values Foundation which promotes the importance of teaching human values in schools. Since 1995 it has been providing practical, cross-curricular programmes for personal development and behaviour management, integrating SMSC, PSHE education, Citizenship, PLTS and SEAL.

Follow @HVF_Values

Website: www.humanvaluesfoundation.com Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Image credit: Pixabay Image credit: Pixabay

With so much emphasis on academic outcomes and the growing concerns about the mental and physical wellbeing of many students today (as well as some teachers and parents), how can we give young children and adolescents a rich, fully rounded, holistic education that enables them to fulfil their true potential and prepares them well for life as informed, active and dynamic global citizens?

High-quality professional development of teaching staff is a complex task but can have huge benefits, including retention of talented staff and raised attainment for their students, so here are a few balls that teachers and others guiding and mentoring learners might like to start rolling!

  • Combining a growth mindset with a focus on personal development and lifelong learning - by both teachers and their students – can promote progressive growth that deepens understanding and builds confidence to better manage and shape all aspects of life. This strategy, aiming for excellence, is particularly inspiring and enlightening when all thinking, decision-making and behaviour is intentionally guided by shared school values and well-considered personal values.

  • Embracing personal development as an integral part of teachers’ CPD and the school curriculum is ideal for a raising-standards agenda and improving teaching, as well as educational experiences and outcomes. It encourages participants to be visionary and achieve goals, all the while constantly utilising the motivational qualities and the life skills being gained.

  • Learning to be still, reflective and mindful helps with tapping into empowering, innate wisdom that can give meaning and direction to life. This practice of engaging with oneself enhances wellbeing and a sense of authenticity as participants consciously align what feels right within with how they choose to conduct their lives externally.

  • Incorporating even short times of quiet reflection into teachers’ practices and the school curriculum is ideal, not only for participants to feel connected inside with their best self but also for consistent, quality teaching and learners excelling at academics. Developing this habit enables people to reach their full potential and expand their thinking horizons so as to connect effectively with the outside world.

  • Integrated education nurtures mastery of thoughts, feelings and behaviour so that individuals acquire tools and techniques that enable them to harmonise these human dimensions and flourish. Change and uncertainty are inevitable factors of life. This experiential learning builds up confidence and capability allowing students of all ages to grasp opportunities and thrive.

  • The explicit and systematic exploration, practice and utilisation of values develops life-enriching emotional and social skills and other qualities that enable individuals to live fully each day and do justice to all their talents, abilities and passions. Schools are ideally placed to give learners the safe, supportive environments they need in which to discuss informatively, issues, concerns and matters of value and importance to themselves and others.

  • Assessments provide pointers to improvements and further progress. Authoritative global research shows that good, systematic values education is:
    • essential to effective schooling,
    • positively impacts all the important educational measures,
    • is a worldwide, contemporary phenomenon,
    • fits well with updated brain and pedagogical research, and
    • is a means to holistic student and teacher wellbeing.

  • Values Education is a dynamic, cross-curricular ingredient that engenders a stimulating culture with a constant buzz that excites the entire school community, including parents.

  • An extensive variety of skills are needed for success in life. With the growing global movement of those who support the visionary teaching of character, values and wellbeing, increasingly greater emphasis is being placed on fostering in young citizens, essential life skills such as love, empathy, compassion, resilience and team working. Such qualities are being ever more actively modelled and taught both in classrooms and at home, and are appreciated when the beneficiaries move into the world of work.

  • Whole-person education can be brought about using a framework of “SPIES” – agents of excellence and transformative change for five domains of personal growth:
    • Spiritual – People sense a deeper affinity with their true selves.
    • Physical – Looking after and treasuring one’s body and the environment leads to an extensive range of uplifting benefits.
    • Intellectual – A positive attitude, a growth mindset and strength of character heighten academic and other achievements.
    • Emotional – Competencies gained generate feel-good factors that enable people to function well, be happy and move their lives forward in fulfilling directions.
    • Social - Individuals flourish as their capacities to engage actively and effectively with others, communities and life deepen.

  • What is deemed success varies with each person. Some achievements may involve timescales, be visible and part of external life while others relate to internal life (eg emotional wellbeing). The measures depend upon what is valued.

  • A paradigm shift is taking place in modern education, with the increasing awareness of how the core building materials for human wellbeing (such as purpose, positive emotions, engagement, trust, health and quality relationships) are critical to young people’s accomplishments and ultimately, the future of communities, countries and humanity.

  • Values literacy enables individuals and groups to select values so that they constantly strive to think, make choices and behave in ways that energise themselves and others to live authentically. It enables them to shape their futures in accordance with what they believe can make tangible, enriching differences, not just to their own lives, but also to the happiness and wellbeing of all living things and the long-term beauty and sustainability of our planet.

Do you embrace holistic education? Let us know below.


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