Research Proposal

Case Study of the Approaches Adopted to Address Values Education in a NSW Public Primary School: Research Proposal 

Purpose and Justification of Research:  
This study is designed to explore how one NSW public school has implemented the National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools (DEST, 2005), and whether or not they have integrated this policy with the existing Values in NSW Public Schools policy (NSW DET, 2004). The study also aims to investigate the strategies that have been adopted by this school to engage in community consultation about values education.  

Since 2002, the Australian Federal Government has funded a series of research projects to investigate the practices of Australian schools in promoting values education. These studies include the Values Education Study (Curriculum Corporation, 2003) which was used as the basis for designing the National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools (DEST, 2005), and the Values Education Good Practice Schools Project (Curriculum Corporation, 2006 and 2008) which funded selected schools to demonstrate good practice in implementing the National Framework.  

Although NSW public primary schools were involved in all of these research projects, very little attention was drawn to the existing policies for values education which were already in place in these schools, namely, The Values We Teach (NSW DET, 1988) which was revised as Values in NSW Public Schools (NSW DET, 2004). In addition, research has been conducted which demonstrates the potential for integrating values into the existing curriculum through links with civics and citizenship education, and studies of Human Society and Its Environment (HSIE) (Print, 2000, p. 27, 29-30). However, recent research has failed to identify the potentially strong links between the core values of the National Framework and the values which are explicitly outlined in the NSW HSIE K-6 Syllabus (BOS NSW, 1998, p. 13). 

Furthermore, research conducted for the Values Education Good Practice Schools Project (Curriculum Corporation, 2008) has highlighted the importance of developing values education programs in cooperation with the whole school community. Explained by Lovat and Clement (2008, p. 277), alignment between family and school values results in the development of a stable community where values are consistently embedded in “policy decisions, classroom climate...and [the school] ethos”. 

Therefore, it is possible to identify the need for research which aims to explore how NSW public primary schools have implemented the National Framework, with a specific focus on investigating whether or not the National Framework has been integrated with the existing Values in NSW Public Schools policy as well as the NSW HSIE K-6 Syllabus. Additionally, it is important to investigate the strategies that schools have used to engage in whole school community consultation and whether or not this has lead to a negotiated values education program being implemented in the school.

Literature Review:  
As a result of the Federal government’s funding of research into values education, large amounts of literature have been produced related to the implementation of the National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools (DEST, 2005). However, the research conducted in NSW public primary schools as part of these Federally-funded research projects has failed to present a complete picture of the policies and syllabus in place in these schools.  There also exists a field of research which draws symbiotic links between values education and quality teaching as a means of arguing the necessity of effective values education in schools. A review of this literature is outlined below.

The Values Education Study was commissioned in 2002 by the Federal Government with the purpose of investigating what schools were doing to address values in their schools, and the aim of developing a set of common values and principles to improve values education in Australian schools (Curriculum Corporation, 2003). The study adopted a three-fold methodology; a review of literature, an online survey of students’, parents’ and teachers’ attitudes and understandings about values education, and finally case studies of 50 schools or school clusters. This study was subsequently used as the basis for the development of the National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools (DEST, 2005) which outlined core values to be taught in all Australian schools, as well as principles to guide their implementation.

Both the Values Education Study and the National Framework provided a clarification of the meaning of values and values education, which subsequently facilitated an increase in conversations about values education from a school level right through to a national level (Brown, 2007, p. 225). Halstead and Taylor’s (2000, p. 169) definition of values as “the principles and fundamental convictions which act as general guides to behaviour, the standards by which particular actions are judged as good or desirable” was adopted, a definition which is now widely utilised throughout values education literature (see Principe & Helwig, 2002; Tudball, 2007; Reynolds, 2009). Similarly, a myriad of definitions for what constitutes values education were consolidated through the definition that values education is “any explicit and/or implicit school-based activity to promote student understanding and knowledge of values, and to inculcate the skills and dispositions of students so they can enact particular values as individuals and as members of the wider community.” (Curriculum Corporation, 2003, p. 2).

However, the Values Education Study failed to draw attention to the existing curriculum for values which was in place in NSW primary schools. Within the HSIE K-6 syllabus, values of “social justice, intercultural understanding, ecological sustainability and democratic processes” are outlined (BOS NSW, 1998, p. 13). It is expected that teachers will explicitly teach each of these values, as well as integrate them within HSIE learning experiences, that is, values in HSIE are both “an object of the study” and “an approach to the study” (Reynolds, 2009, p. 65).  

NSW government schools have also had an explicit policy for values education in place since 1988, in the form of The Values We Teach (NSW DET, 1988). However, this document had not received “significant implementation support” (Gore, 2006, p. 8). Therefore, it was reported in the Values Education Study that “very few schools had made any effort to translate this policy into practice” (Lovat, Schofield, Morrison and O’Neill, 2002, cited in Curriculum Corporation, 2003, p. 187).   However, in 2004, the NSW DET published a revised statement, Values in NSW Public Schools, which was more widely implemented in public schools across NSW. 

During the quadrennium between 2004 and 2008, the Federal Government funded schools and school clusters to develop projects which demonstrated good practice in implementing the National Framework as part of the Values Education Good Practice Schools Project (Curriculum Corporation, 2006; 2008). This project was conducted in two stages; 166 schools comprising 26 clusters participated in Stage 1, with many schools continuing their work in Stage 2, which involved 143 schools across 25 clusters (Curriculum Corporation, 2008, p. 6). Previously, the National Framework and the Values in NSW Public Schools had both advocated the need for communication between parents, staff and students, that is, the whole-school community, in order to develop an effective values education program. However, it was through the Values Education Good Practice Schools Project that qualitative school-level data was reported which demonstrated the importance of applying this principle. Summarised  in the report of one school cluster; “developing a shared set of values between home and the school helps reinforce positive values in the school community and ensure that real community concerns and needs are met” (Curriculum Corporation, 2006, p. 201).

Even so, the VEGPSP was limited in the scope of its research. Although NSW public primary schools participated in both stages of this study, research conducted in these clusters failed to address how these schools integrated the National Framework with the Values in NSW Public Schools policy (NSW DET, 2004). One school cluster talked about informing “students, staff and parents about the links and connections between the Values in NSW Public Schools policy [and the] National Framework” (VEGPSP, Curriculum Corporation, 2008, p. 61), however, what they identified as the links were not explained. Furthermore, the process the school engaged in to develop their school values approach in alignment with both of these policies was not addressed in the research report. Additionally, the potential of HSIE as an area in which successful integration of values education can occur (Print, 2000, p. 29; Reynolds, 2009, p. 65) was not investigated.

A strong justification for developing strategies which ensure the effectiveness of values education programs is highlighted by the research of Lovat and Clement (2008). This research identifies the power of the teacher to engage in effective pedagogies and practices, that is, quality teaching, in order to improve the effectiveness of student learning. It is also asserted that a symbiotic link exists between values education and quality teaching (Lovat and Clement, 2008). Values education is highlighted as a vehicle for improving quality teaching through the development of a shared understanding of values between students and teacher, which is demonstrated to optimise student learning (Lovat & Clement, 2008, p. 277). Conversely, studies conducted for the Values Education Good Practice in Schools Project (Curriculum Corporation, 2006, cited by Lovat and Clement, 2008, p. 278), have demonstrated that through the adoption of quality teaching principles, such as intellectual quality and reflection, values education delivery is optimised.

Therefore it can be argued that further research is necessary to determine whether or not Federal and State policies are being effectively integrated with each other, and with the findings of community consultation, to develop values education programs which are relevant to each school’s educational context, in order to optimize the outcomes of schooling for all students in NSW public primary schools.  

Research Questions

·         What is the school’s approach toward values education?
·         Has the National Framework been integrated with the existing Values in NSW Public Schools policy as well as the NSW HSIE K-6 Syllabus?
·         What strategies has the school engaged in to consult with the school community about their perceptions of values education? Has this community consultation led to a negotiated approach to values education? 

Procedures/Methodology and Ethical Considerations:
To achieve the research aims, the study will primarily rely on qualitative data gathered from a detailed case study investigation of one culturally diverse inner-city government primary school. Detailed “human-scale data” will be collected through semi-structured interviews with the principal, one classroom teacher, two students and two parents, to explore the impact of “macro-political decision making” (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2007, p. 255), that is, the development of the National Framework, upon the school’s  approach towards values education. A copy of the proposed interview schedule is attached as an appendix. By interviewing different key stakeholders in the school community, an assessment can be made about the quality of alignment between family and school values. Furthermore, it is hoped that through investigation of a culturally diverse school, the research will demonstrate strategies that the school has adopted to implement values education programmes which are reflective of the diverse backgrounds of the students and the school community at large. This is important, as Brown (2007, p. 213) has argued that values education has become a means for promoting “national social cohesion” through shared understanding of cultural norms.   

The choice to use semi-structured interviews reflects the aims of the research to explore stakeholders’ perceptions, therefore requiring a structure which allows the participants to inform the researcher (Burns, 2000, p. 476), rather than simply respond to provided questions. The researcher acknowledges that by conducting a face-to-face interview, complete objectivity cannot be achieved as judgements are made both in terms of questions asked and in terms of responses highlighted as interesting to report on. However, care will be taken to guide the interviews, and analyse the results, as objectively as possible.

In addition to the interview method, analysis will be conducted on any values education related documents such as discipline policies or reports collated from community consultation, that the staff can provide as evidence of their values education programme development. This analysis will determine if the documents produced by the school corroborate or contradict the viewpoints presented by stakeholders during the interview process (Burns, 2000, p. 476).

Whilst the principal of the school will be approached directly, all other participants will be invited to volunteer to participate on the basis of advice from the principal. The researchers will however suggest that any classroom teacher who has been at the school during the period of the National Framework implementation, that is, since or before 2005, would be ideal. Similarly, students who are in the upper primary years (Years 4-6) would be more suitable for participation in the study as they have spent longer in the school and therefore would have more experience on which to reflect. It is assumed that the parents who are likely to be suggested, and likely to volunteer their time, are those which are actively involved in the school in some way, for example, the parent representative of the school council or president of the P&C.

As the research will involve interviewing students, particular ethical considerations are necessary. These have been addressed through thoughtful design of the types of questions to be asked in the interview. Interview topics will also be approved by the school principal. Procedures, including participant information statements and consent forms, as well as face-to-face discussions will be utilised to ensure that both the student and their parents understand the nature of the study and provide fully informed consent to participate in the study.

As the scale of the study is very small and focused, the results will only be generalisable within the context of the specific school studied (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2007, p. 254). However, it is hoped that suggestions can be made for schools in similar contexts, about approaches designed towards developing negotiated, context-relevant school values education programmes.

-          USYD HREC Ethics Submitted
-          DET SERAP Ethics to be submitted by end of month 

June/ Early July
-          Drafts of Introduction, Literature Review and Methodology Chapters 

Late July/Early August
-          Conduct interviews
-          Gather documents August
-          Analyse data collected
-          Draft Results and Discussion Chapters 

-          Edit Drafts of All Chapters 

-          Submit Thesis


Board of Studies NSW. (1998). Human society and its environment K-6 syllabus. Sydney: Author.

Brown, D.H. (2007). A vision splendid? The national initiative in values education for Australian schooling. In D.N. Aspin & J.D. Chapman (Eds.), Values education and lifelong learning: Principles, policies programmes (pp. 211-237). Dordrecht: Springer.

Burns, R.B. (2000). Introduction to research methods. Frenchs Forest: Longman.

Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2007). Research methods in educaton. New York: Routledge.

Curriculum Corporation. (2003). Values education study: Final report. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

Curriculum Corporation. (2006). Implementing the National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools: Report of the Values Education Good Practice Schools Project – Stage 1.

Curriculum Corporation. (2008). At the heart of what we do: Values education at the centre of schooling – The final report of the values education good practice schools project – Stage 2. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

Department of Education, Science and Training. (DEST). (2005). National framework for values education in Australian schools. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

Gore, J. (2006). Teaching values. Curriculum support for primary teachers, 11(1), 8-10.

Halstead, J. M., & Talyor, M. J. (2000). Learning and Teaching about values: A review of recent research. Cambridge Journal of Education, 30(2), 169-202.

Lovat, T.J., & Clement, N. D. (2008). The pedagogical imperative of values education. Journal of Beliefs & Values, 29(3), 273-285.

NSW Department of Education and Training (DET). (1988). The Values We Teach. Sydney: Author.

NSW Department  of Education and Training (DET). (2004). Values in NSW Public Schools. Sydney: Author.  

Prencipe, A., & Helwig, C. (2002). The development of reasoning about the teaching of values in school and family contexts. Child Development, 73(3), 841-856.

Print, M. (2000).Curriculum policy, values and changes in civics education in Australia. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 20(1), 21-35.

Reynolds, R. (2009). Teaching studies of society and environment in the primary classroom. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Tudball, L. (2007). Whole-school approaches to values education: Models of practice in Australian schools. In D.N. Aspin & J.D. Chapman (Eds.), Values education and lifelong learning: Principles, policies programmes (pp. 395-410). Dordrecht: Springer.