Values Education in the Two-Year Colleges. ERIC
by Lee, Jenny
Most of today's colleges convey goals of citizenship education and the
preparation of future leaders as prominent aims, but such ideals are often
left unsupported in the curriculum and in the classroom. Postsecondary
institutions continue to offer some courses in morals and ethics, although
often in the form of electives from an exhaustive list of unrelated courses
labeled "humanities" or "humanistic inquiry". Such elective courses tend
to enroll only a small fraction of students, particularly at community
colleges. Moreover, even among the limited ethics courses available, it
has been argued that many such courses fail to teach values as effectively
as they tend to teach facts, concepts, and theories (Thomas, 1993).
According to the National Council of Instructional Administrators (1992),
successful students are defined as follows: "Successful students are successful
learners who identify, commit to, and attain their educational goals. They
acquire and demonstrate the skills, knowledge, and attitudes and self-direction
needed to perform ethically and productively in society, to adapt to change,
to appreciate diversity, and to make a reasoned commitment on issues of
importance" (p. 1). This position, which has been adopted by the American
Association of Community Colleges, clearly demonstrates the continuing
importance of ethics and moral development in contemporary higher education.
Based upon both theoretical approaches and contemporary examples, this
Digest offers possible approaches and examples of morals and values education
in both the classroom and the curriculum.
DOES VALUES EDUCATION BELONG IN THE COMMUNITY COLLEGE?
In practice, values education is often peripheral to the core of the
college curriculum and instruction in values is often perceived as inappropriate
for community colleges. One challenge is how to acknowledge multiple values,
particularly given the diverse composition of today's community college
students. The precarious nature of values education in the curriculum is
also due to a concern that any possible indoctrination of values by a faculty
member would be an invasion of privacy and a retreat to in loco parentis.
However, it can also be argued that all higher education institutions ought
to prepare future leaders and citizens not only by testing concepts and
theories, but also by developing critical thinking skills through making
moral judgements. That is, colleges should consider how to develop the
necessary ethical reasoning that is required of all leaders and all professions.
This can be accomplished by examining the classic approaches that integrate
values and moral thinking into the classroom.
CLASSIC APPROACHES TO VALUES EDUCATION IN THE COMMUNITY COLLEGE CLASSROOM
Smith and Martin (1979) offer three possible conceptual frameworks for
incorporating values education. First, the Values Clarification Approach
(Raths et. al., 1966) is widely practiced in public schools. According
to this approach, students clarify their values without using a standard
measure. The objective is to encourage students to consider their values
and to reflect upon them. Here the focus is on the process of valuing,
more than the actual content. The three basic dimensions are described
as prizing one's beliefs and behaviors, choosing one's beliefs and behaviors,
and acting on one's beliefs
The Cognitive Development Approach to moral education utilizes Kohlberg's
theory of moral development. According to his view, by confronting moral
issues, students can develop higher levels of moral thinking. These stages
(1) Preconventional Level-student is responsive to rules dictating what
is good and bad, but the student interprets these rules according to the
consequences or the power of those who enforce the rules.
(2) Conventional Level-the student perceives expectations apart from
the consequences. In this level, students are loyal to the group and identify
with those involved.
(3) Postconventional Level-the student makes a clear effort to define
moral values and principles apart from the persons holding these principles.
The Development Approach utilizes Perry's theory of personality evolution.
Like Kohlberg's moral development approach, Perry's theory is also explained
in a series of stages. Perry's study showed the wide range of ways that
students construe the origin of values and the nature of knowledge.
These three approaches can serve as models for values education in the
classroom. In addition, Bok (1982) suggests that instructors take greater
responsibility in promoting more rigorous class discussion that will engage
students in confronting and resolving ethical dilemmas. Regardless of the
discipline, Bok encourages instructors to consider the practical implications
of how the course content relates to concrete cases in human affairs and
the consequences of one course of action over another.
CURRENT EXAMPLES OF VALUES CURRICULUM
Beyond the classroom, ways to emphasize values in the curriculum require
consensual institutional commitment. Community college missions and curricula
vary, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to present a theoretical
values approach that will encompass all institutions. However, observing
curriculum examples in practice will provide some insight into ways institutions
can incorporate values education.
Broome Community College (New York)
This institution established seven minimum requirements for the Associate
of Arts degree. These include Communicating Effectively, Acting Civically,
Thinking Globally and Cross-Culturally, Thinking Critically, Reasoning
Ethically, Understanding and Using Math, Science, and Technology, and Maintaining
Good Health and Fitness. The six core courses that teach Reasoning Ethically
explore public policy issues relating to justice. Evaluation of student
progress in moral reasoning is primarily based on classroom participation.
One particular course, Communicating About Ideas and Values, requires students
to engage in moral discourse on selected readings.
Community College of Aurora (Colorado)
Instructors at this college developed a program entitled Integrating
the Teaching of Ethics in the Community College Curriculum. Eighty-four
faculty members participated in a seminar on integrating ethics into the
curriculum, which was then implemented into various courses, affecting
approximately 1,700 students. Outcomes included:
* An increased awareness of ethical issues
* Better interaction among students and instructors
* Faculty and students ability to better clarify their own values, integrate,
understand, and apply the practical and theoretical aspects of their discipline
* More principled, moral reasoning
The curricular integration of ethics remains a permanent part of the
St. Vincent's College (Connecticut)
As a means to clarify how students of this college were meeting the
stated goals of its general education program, a task force developed the
following educational outcomes: basic communication skills, basic mathematical
skills, basic research skills, critical thinking skills, an appreciation
for the humanities and society, knowledge of scientific principles, and
ethics and values. In measuring development in ethics and values, students
were expected to be able to:
* Examine, articulate and apply own ethical views
* Understand and apply core concepts
* Analyze and reflect on the ethical dimensions of legal, social, and
* Identify personal values and then employ them in ethical decision-making
Through surveys, syllabi review, and other methods, the task force ascertained
that competency-based learning experiences are being provided across the
Values education is an important, yet sometimes neglected subject area
in today's classrooms and curriculum. Despite explicit statements demonstrating
community colleges' positions on values development among students, the
precarious nature of the topic makes values education difficult to implement.
However, as this Digest seeks to demonstrate, values education can be adequately
addressed in both the classroom and college curriculum. Particularly with
an increasingly diverse composition of students and faculty, recognizing,
developing, and communicating personal values, ethics, and morals cannot
be ignored. In sum, understanding both classic and contemporary approaches
are essential in creating a community that both acknowledges and appreciates
diverse values and beliefs.
Bok, D. (1982). Beyond the University: Social Responsibilities of the
Modern University. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Lisman, C.D. (1992). Integrating the Teaching of Ethics in the Community
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McCain, A.K., Hine, T., & Wolfertz, J. (1998). Educational Outcomes
and Competencies across the Curriculum. (ED 421 184)
Romano, R.M. (1995). General Education at Broome Community College:
Coherence and Purpose. In Higginbottom, G. & Romano, R.M. (Ed.), Curriculum
Models for General Education. (pp. 11-20). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
(ED 388 361)
Smith A., & Martin, J.M. (1979). Developing a Values Curriculum.
In A.M. Cohen (Ed.), Shaping the Curriculum. (pp. 81-91). San Francisco:
Jossey-Bass Publishers. (ED 354 958)
Thomas, R.M (1993). Teaching Values Through General Education. In N.A.
Raisman (Ed.), Directing General Education Outcomes (pp. 41-50). San Francisco:
Jossey-Bass Publishers. (ED 354 958)
American Association of Community and Junior Colleges. (1992). Promoting
Success in the Community College: An NCIA Position Statement. (ED 345 765)