Policy Updates

Values: Understanding the Foundations of Our Beliefs and Behaviors

Values are the guiding principles that inform our beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. They are the core beliefs that we hold about what is important in life and what makes life worth living. Our values shape our perception of the world around us, influence our decisions, and determine our priorities.

In this article, we’ll explore what values are, why they matter, and how they are formed. We’ll also examine the role of values in education, research, and society as a whole.

What are Values?

Values can be defined as the ideals, principles, or standards that we hold as important or desirable. They are deeply held beliefs that guide our actions and decisions, often without us even realizing it.

Values can be personal or collective, individual or cultural. Personal values are those that are shaped by our unique experiences and perspectives, while collective values are shared by groups of people who share common beliefs or interests.

Some common values include honesty, integrity, respect, compassion, and responsibility. These values are often seen as universal and timeless, and are considered essential for building strong relationships, creating a just society, and leading a fulfilling life.

Why are Values Important?

Values play a crucial role in shaping our attitudes and behaviors. They help us make sense of the world around us, and provide a framework for understanding our experiences and relationships. They also help us set goals and priorities, and make decisions that align with our beliefs and aspirations.

In education, values are important for shaping the curriculum, creating a positive learning environment, and promoting ethical behavior among students. Teachers who embody and promote positive values can inspire their students to adopt these values and live them out in their own lives.

In research, values guide the selection of research questions, methods, and outcomes. Researchers who prioritize values such as social justice, diversity, and transparency can ensure that their work is ethical, relevant, and impactful.

In society, values shape our laws, policies, and institutions. They help us define what is right and wrong, and guide us in creating a more just and equitable world. Values such as democracy, freedom, and equality are the foundation of many modern societies, and are essential for promoting social cohesion and human flourishing.

How are Values Formed?

Values are shaped by a wide range of factors, including our family, culture, religion, education, and life experiences. They are often formed in childhood and adolescence, and may be influenced by the attitudes and behaviors of those around us.

Family is one of the primary sources of values formation. Children learn values from their parents and caregivers, who model and reinforce positive behaviors and attitudes. Culture and religion also play a major role in shaping values, as they provide a framework for understanding the world and our place in it.

Education is another important factor in values formation. Schools and universities have a responsibility to promote positive values such as respect, responsibility, and compassion, and to create an environment that supports these values.

Life experiences can also shape our values. Traumatic events, such as natural disasters, war, or personal loss, can challenge our existing values and lead to a reevaluation of our beliefs and priorities. Positive experiences, such as volunteering, travel, or personal achievements, can also help us develop new values and perspectives.


Values are the foundation of our beliefs and behaviors, and play a crucial role in shaping our lives and the world around us. Understanding our values, and the values of others, is essential for building strong relationships, creating a just society, and promoting human flourishing.

As teachers, students, and researchers, it is our responsibility to promote positive values, and to create an environment that supports ethical behavior and social justice. By prioritizing

values such as respect, responsibility, and compassion, we can create a world that is more just, equitable, and sustainable.


  • Rokeach, M. (1973). The nature of human values. Free Press.
  • Schwartz, S. H. (1994). Are there universal aspects in the structure and contents of human values?. Journal of social issues, 50(4), 19-45.
  • Kohlberg, L. (1981). Essays on moral development: The philosophy of moral development (Vol. 1). Harper & Row.
  • Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Harvard University Press.
  • Halstead, J. M., & Taylor, M. J. (1996). Values in education and education in values. Routledge.

Additional Resources:

  • The Values Project: A collaborative effort by educators to promote positive values in schools and communities. https://www.valuesproject.org/
  • The Center for Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology: An interdisciplinary research center focused on the ethical and social dimensions of technology and science. https://valuesinmedicine.org/
  • The Journal of Moral Education: A peer-reviewed journal focused on research and theory in moral and values education. https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cjme20

As we strive to live out our values in our personal and professional lives, let us remember that our actions have the power to make a difference. By living according to our values and promoting positive values in our communities, we can create a better world for ourselves and future generations.