Zhu, Chuanyan (2011) Students’ Understanding of Values Diversity: An Examination of the Process and Outcomes of Values Communication in English Lessons in a High School in Mainland China. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The recent transformations in Chinese society are creating a society with diverse values where individuals suffer values conflict and values confusion generally. The socialist core values system is still consistently promoted by the government, and transmitting these core values to students is the main goal of moral education in schools. In the recent curriculum reform, this goal has again been stressed. These values are built into all the academic subjects and extra curricular activities and the implementation of values education has been advocated through every element in schools. However, Confucian values are also deeply engrained in Chinese society, while at the same time increased economic activity is generating a greater openness to the influence of western values. Against such a social backdrop, this study explores what values are communicated in the English lessons in a class in a senior high school in Beijing and how the students understand values.

The processes and outcomes of the communication of values in the English lessons are examined from a symbolic interactionist perspective. The focus of this examination is the discourses of the students and the English teacher, through which the values in their communications and their personal values are manifested. Observation and interviews are used to collect the discourses of the students and the English teacher. The values communicated in the English lessons and the personal values of the students and teachers are analyzed through comparisons with the values promoted through the educational system, with those communicated in the English lessons in three other classes and with the personal values of their counterparts. The analysis reveals that: a) the English teachers do convey the values which they are expected to transmit to the students through the English curriculum, while they also subconsciously convey the values which they take for granted as commonsense; b) the students do understand the values communicated through the curriculum and the hidden curriculum in the English lessons, while their understanding reflects the individual differences in their personal values systems and the diverse values in society.

A constructivist lens is used to examine further the process of understanding and to clarify the relationship between students’ understanding of values and the processes and outcomes of the values communication, and the relationship between students’ understanding of values and their cognitive background, moral judgement, moral decision making, and moral development. Based on the analysis and interpretation, a new approach to assessing moral development is discussed and suggestions for moral education in schools are given in the conclusion.

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