Rutherford McCowan Building in Dumfries

The Values to Virtues Project

Information for Schools

The Values to Virtues project comprises an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Glasgow, Liverpool Hope University and Sapienza University of Rome interested in moral development in young people. Our goal is to understand the role values play in young people’s lives, and the effect shared school values have on students. The sharing of values may be explicit, for example, in the ways in which schools teach citizenship, values education or PSHE, or implicit in the ways in which staff work with students to communicate and instil a school ethos. We want to understand the relationship between these broader initiatives, personal interactions, and the values espoused by students in their everyday lives.   

We had hoped to meet our project goals by observing lessons, assemblies and school events and talking to staff and young people face-to-face, but the coronavirus pandemic necessitated a shift to online methods. We think that the current situation makes it even more important to capture the, often-unnoticed work, on values that takes place in the everyday life of your school and, now, in its online persona.  

We’ve made getting involved as easy as possible. The project requires very little commitment from staff and there is no disruption to the normal flow of teaching. We have designed a range of online activities (detailed below), some of which require little more than promotion of the activity and the forwarding of a weblink to students. All the student focused activities take place outside of school hours and, for the tasks requiring more sustained engagement, we compensate young people for their time. Staff may be approached to take part in an interview with our researchers, this is of course optional and entirely dependent on the staff member’s availability.  

This project has already generated interest from government, the inspectorate, and some of the charities and other organisations which help support schools in the provision of values and ethos. Our final report will include recommendations to support schools in providing high quality values education.

The project also aims to help keep those important PSHE/Personal development questions in students minds during the pandemic because much of the material that they will be asked to engage with relates to issues introduced in the PSHE curriculum.

We have developed five main methods to help produce a snapshot of values development:

  • Daily Diaries - Short answer questions in response to simple prompts about values.
  • Rapid Surveys - Likert type (1-5, Strongly Agree- Strongly Disagree) questions structured around routine daily activities.
  • Online Focus Groups - Open discussions related to how participant’s see values reflected in their environment.
  • Young Person’s Writing Prize - An essay competition designed to help young people express their opinion on national values.
  • Staff Interviews – Open discussion on school and individual staff approaches to values.

More details can be found on each of these approaches in the information for participants pages.

We feel that, rather than forming a secondary concern, our approach to shared values should be debated alongside the myriad of other vital issues affecting us in the pandemic. If you’re interested in keeping the conversation going, then please contact us using the link in the sidebar to get your school involved in the Values to Virtues Project.

Benefits to Schools

This project will help schools to demonstrate the impact of their work in supporting the personal development of their pupils. This can be particularly challenging during the pandemic, when the normal routines and practices that contribute to a school's ethos and identity are disrupted. Each school will receive an anonymised summary of the analysed data from pupils, to help guide your planning for the future, and participating schools will be invited to join us for a digital workshop at the end of the project, bringing together practitioners and academics to interpret our results.

Benefits to Society/Knowledge

The pace and breadth of change in schooling and society provides us with an unique opportunity to reflect on the ways we prepare young people with the values and capacities they need to reflect on the kind of society they would like to live in, and act to change the world for the better. This project will develop tools which all schools can use to better understand the values of their pupils, and to guide them in implementing a strategy to enhance pupils' personal development.

Contact Us

We hope these pages go some way in describing our research and that you’re interested in connecting with us. The work we do is, by design, collaborative, non-judgmental and is predicated on listening to and understanding the dilemmas and challenges that staff and pupils negotiate on a daily basis. 

For queries or to register your interest in the project please email: