Teaching Values: an Experiential Approach

Hugh M. Cannon, James N. Cannon, Bryon C. Geddes, Andrew Hale Feinstein

Abstract


Teaching values provides a particularly difficult challenge, relative to teaching concepts. We define concepts as the knowledge structures and thought processes by which students classify elements of a situation and identify the patterns of cause and effect. Values are defined as the relative importance students place on their interests and objectives. While it is relatively easy for a teacher to illustrate the importance of concepts to students’ interests and objectives, it is much more difficult for teachers to influence the interests and objectives themselves. While concepts are attempts to objectively represent reality, interests and objectives tend to be seen as subjective expressions of each student’s unique personality. However, students’ interests and objectives can be influenced by education, and some interests and objectives are more desirable than others from the perspective of society, employers, and the students’ own well-being. This paper addresses the problem of teaching values from the perspective of motivational theory and Kolb’s experiential learning theory. Kolb’s theory suggests that the degree of involvement in an experiential exercise will determine the degree to which students internalize the consequences of their decisions, and hence, are motivated to reassess their values.

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