Document Type : Research Paper

Authors

Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Foreign Languages, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

10.22054/ilt.2023.73052.760

Abstract

Despite the widely recognized significance of values education in a rapidly changing world and teachers’ education-related beliefs, little research has investigated how English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers navigate values in their classrooms. The study reported in this paper explored in-service EFL teachers’ perceptions of values education and their conceptions of their moral roles, aiming to develop an instrument related to values education. To this end, this exploratory sequential mixed-methods study recruited 10 EFL teachers selected through maximum variation sampling. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the teacher participants and the data were analyzed inductively through thematic analysis. Furthermore, the existing literature and the insights gleaned from the initial phase of the study led to the development of a questionnaire, which was administered to 332 EFL teachers in the quantitative phase of the study. Six overarching themes were identified through thematic analysis of the interview data, namely relational values, personal growth, academic excellence, regulatory values, teachers’ personal standards and global values with teachers prioritizing students’ motivation and wellbeing over other value types. In addition, confirmatory factor analysis of the developed questionnaire verified a five-factor structure. Only 23 items out of 53 initial items were retained in the final version of the questionnaire. Overall, the results revealed that master obligation of teachers, associated with nurturing students’ dignity was prioritized over teachers’ prima facie obligation which promotes students’ learning and intellectual growth. After a detailed discussion, implications and suggestions for future research are presented in the end.

Keywords

Main Subjects

INTRODUCTION

There is a general recognition that any kind of teaching is moral in nature, meaning that the primary objective of education is to change human beings, arguably, for the better (Johnston & Buzzelli, 2008). As such, educational enterprises in general and classroom teachers in particular should explore every possible avenue to deliver high-quality life-shaping education, bringing to the fore the concepts of civics, citizenship, character, values and moral education both in mainstream education (Bosio, 2021; Hedayati, Kuusisto, Gholami, & Tirri, 2019; Lovat, 2019) and in the field of language teaching (Akbari & Tajik, 2012; 2019; Soleimani & Lovat, 2019; Wu, 2020; Xu & Knijnik, 2021). The growing body of research in this direction provides solid evidence for the centrality of these matters in global educational landscape as reinforced by UNESCO’s sponsored Living Values Education Program in eighty-four countries and the contributions this values-based pedagogy makes to students’ well-being and academic performance (Lovat & Toomey, 2009; Lovat, Toomey, & Clement, 2010).

In order to enact values education (VEd), which ensures an academically challenging yet encouraging learning atmosphere, teachers as the most important catalyst for change (Hattie, 2003, 2005) are entrusted with the task of decision-making within the classroom. In other words, much of what happens in classrooms depends on teachers’ beliefs about right and wrong (Hall, 2017; Johnston & Buzzelli, 2008). It is well-established that teachers bring with them certain beliefs and values to the classroom and can change these beliefs and their identity along their career trajectory (Beijaard, Meijer, & Verloop, 2004; Olsen, 2016). Teacher cognition is also mediated by teacher emotion and evolves in social context and in interaction with others (Johnson & Golombek, 2016). Despite the importance of values education, the existing body of research, mainly from mainstream education, indicates that teachers are not equipped with the professional knowledge about values education and communication (Thornberg, 2008; Thornberg & Oğuz, 2013). Values education is particularly important in language classrooms where national, social, cultural, and political values intersect (Johnston & Buzzelli, 2008; Pennycook, 1994), and every decision that language teachers make are imbued with values (Menard-Warwick, Mori, Reznik, & Moglen, 2016). From the foregoing argument, it is understood that language teachers’ cognitions about values education should receive further scholarly attention.

The purpose of the present mixed methods study is to provide a more nuanced understanding of values education within Iran’s sociocultural and religious context, which in turn raises teachers’ awareness of their own frame of reference and affords them the opportunity for reflection, dialogue and critical thinking (Lin, 2010; Sunley & Locke, 2012). In the present study, teachers as the backbone of educational centers have shared their understanding and ideas with us, which are not necessarily aligned with the mandates of Fundamental Reform Document of Education (FRDC). In Iran, National Curriculum is informed by religious values, which might influence teachers’ attitudes toward learning and teaching, especially in state-run teacher training universities where such mandates gain more importance and relevance (Hasani, 2015, 2016; Hedayati et al., 2019). This National Curriculum is an attempt to address all dimensions of students’ lives, pursuing what is known as “Hayat Tayebbah” (the ideal Islamic life) with an emphasis on religious education. Criticism has been levelled against the concept of Hayat Tayebbah on the grounds that it is not clear whether it is a goal or a process and whether this is in line with character education or inculcation approach to moral education and thus compulsory for everyone or in line with values clarification and action learning, making it more optional. Even though private-run centers are operating in accordance with Islamic principles set by official organizations, teacher recruitment process is remotely similar to that of public sector. For this reason, delving deeper into teachers’ mental lives promises to be an important contribution to the existing literature since teachers’ prior experience as learners and the current states of affair in the country can mediate their understanding of their careers and in-classroom decisions (Barnard & Burns, 2012; Lortie, 1975).

LITERATURE REVIEW

Values Education and Its Significance

Values Education has long been the focus of attention among both philosophers and educationalists across the globe including the ancient Persians, Arabs, Greeks, and great Muslim thinkers such as al-Ghazali and al-Farabi, to name just a few (Lovat, 2019, 2020). Ancient and contemporary – both Eastern and Western – contributions to this line of inquiry are testimony to the all-pervasive nature of this concept. Even though the concept of values in education is slippery and means differently to different people (Pring, 2010), its pervasive role in virtually all aspects of teaching is widely acknowledged. According to Halstead and Taylor (2005), both the theory of education and the practical activities in schools are informed by values. On a similar note, Tal and Yinon (2009) argued that the decisions and practices of educational organizations and teachers are inevitably value-laden and thus influence the lives of students. As Gardner (2009) puts it, education plays an important role in shaping what he calls “five minds for the future” including disciplined, synthesizing, creating, respectful, and ethical minds. This holistic view of education is a reminder of Dewey’s (1903, 1916) stance against instrumentalist approach to education with an over-reliance on subject knowledge at the cost of students’ and teachers’ capacity for reflectivity and moral sensitivity. Dewey insisted that schools should be more humanistic and school curriculum should be based on students’ lived experiences and make them good citizens. It is clear that values education has been an age-old debate and continues to be at the heart of educational discourse and practice due to its instrumental role in students’ personal and academic lives.

The revived interest in values education over the past years in light of a trend towards globalization and rapidly changing needs of global citizens reflects the nexus between intellectual growth on the one hand and personal wellbeing on the other (Pring, 2010). The educational approach is very likely to affect students’ wellbeing. For example, if not used judiciously, Freire’s so-called banking model of education – transmission of knowledge mainly through lecturing or direct instruction – which is devoid of imagination can deal a severe blow to students’ personal growth and wellbeing. Dewey (1903) contended that “The dictation, in theory at least, of the subject-matter to be taught . . . meant nothing more than the deliberate restriction of intelligence, the imprisonment of the spirit” (p. 196).

Tirri and Toom (2020) rightly argue that the goal of education is to enrich all dimensions of students’ lives rather than focusing exclusively on their cognitive domains. Similarly, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2018) advocates what is referred to as inclusive growth whereby people’s well-being is promoted. This means that education should help students grow into well-adjusted adults and meet such living standards as “health, civic engagement, social connections, education, security, life satisfaction and the environment” (p. 4). As such, Althof and Berkowitz (2006) emphasize the key role of schools in developing citizenship skills and fostering moral citizens. They further argue that there is some degree of overlap between citizenship education, moral education and character education. According to Wright (1993), civic education is values education, inasmuch as the former is inherently value-driven. If one espouses a cause or celebrates virtues such as obeying authorities or tidiness at work or at home, then they must attach some sort of value or importance to them. Because of this, attention should be given to what learners and teachers may find of prime importance.

Drawing on neo-Aristotelians and Dunne (2005), Gholami (2011) brought to light the concept of teaching as praxis, which is characterized as inherently good and is guided by phronesis (prudence or judgment), meaning that teachers may have to decide based on the particularity of the teaching context. At the heart of teachers’ reasoning lies the construct of care which, according to Gholami (2011), divides further into moral care and caring pedagogy. The former deals with students’ overall character growth, good citizenship skills and good feelings, underpinned by teachers’ fairness and respectfulness, whereas the latter has to do with intellectual growth fostered through active engagement, pedagogical excellence promoting higher-order thinking, and pedagogical accommodation. Furthermore, Gholami and Tirri’s (2012) study on teachers’ perceptions of caring teaching revealed that this construct is broadly divided into personal care and academic care (Figure 1), reinforcing the notion that education should be holistic and nurture both learners’ characters and their academic or intellectual growth.

 

Values in Language Teaching

It is widely acknowledged that teaching is characterized by moral considerations and is an inherently values-infused undertaking (Hansen, 1993; Lovat, 2019; Narvaez & Lapsley, 2008), and this is particularly true for language teaching (Hall, 2021; Johnston, 2003; Johnston & Buzzelli, 2008; Menard-Warwick, 2016; Zahler, 2013). Tom’s metaphor of teaching as a moral craft (1980, 1984) and Noddings’ ethic of caring (1984, 1988) have been instrumental in the philosophy of education and have laid the foundation for further contributions regarding the moral landscape of teaching in general education.

However, Johnston’s (2003) book and his other seminal works have been particularly important in mapping the “moral contours” (p. 15) of English Language Teaching (ELT) classroom. Building on Edge’s (1996a) paradoxes of ELT, Johnston (2003) elaborates on moral dilemmas in three major categories: “Pedagogy, Teacher-Student Relations, Beliefs and Values” (p. 116). Examples falling under the first category include teachers’ efforts to strike a balance between meaningful content and focus on language forms, teachers’ attention to students’ right to speak or to be silent, and teachers’ justification of teaching and evaluation methods in the absence of conclusive research-driven evidence. The second group of dilemmas concerns teacher-student relations. In this area, teachers should strike a balance between their “authority” and “solidarity” (p. 116) with students as well as their role as an individual teacher and a representative of the institution where they work. In addition, teachers should decide on how they can encourage students to assume responsibility for their own leaning and also on the extent to which they can leverage their authority in the classroom. Last but not the least, the category of beliefs and values is reflected in the fact that language teaching cannot be divorced from politics and the ideas of “liberation and domination” (p. 17, Edge, 1996), nor can it be devoid of teachers’ underlying “religious and spiritual beliefs” (p. 116, Johnston, 2003).

As can be seen from the existing literature, values are woven into the whole fabric of language teaching at both micro level (i.e. classroom) and macro level (i.e. broader educational and social context) (Zahler, 2013). Framed within a social justice perspective, Hafernik, Messerschmitt, and Vandrick’s (2002) book, addressed as wide a spectrum of ethical concerns as possible in educational arenas such as classroom management, evaluation, cheating and plagiarism, student counseling and safety, curriculum design and so many other related phenomena inside and outside the ESL classroom and within the broader context. Furthermore, it is axiomatic that published textbooks can promote universal values or provide a culturally and politically biased view of the world. Using (critical) discourse analysis, semiotic approach and other methodically appropriate approaches, researchers from a range of countries such as Ethiopia (Gebregeorgis, 2017), Indonesia (Setyono & Widodo, 2019 ), Iran (Hosseinzadeh, Heidari, & Choubsaz, 2022), Hungary (Weninger & Kiss, 2013), and Turkey (Kirkgöz, 2019) conducted textbook analyses, providing support for the important role that textbooks and other materials play in delivering (inter)cultural, social and emotional, civic and peace or even ideological values. The ever-growing body of research on EFL teachers’ beliefs and attitudes about intercultural communicative competence and global citizenship is proof positive of teachers’ pivotal role with respect to values education.

 

 

Figure 1: Moral nature of teaching practice

Note. From “Caring Teaching as a Moral Practice: An Exploratory Study on Perceived Dimensions of Caring Teaching,” by K. Gholami and K. Tirri, 2012, Education Research International, 2012, p. 6 (https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/954274). Copyright 2012 by Hindawi Company.

 

Values Education in Teacher Education

Teaching is a moral undertaking, and teachers’ awareness of ethical considerations and potential impacts on their students is of prime importance (Carr, 2010, 2011; Sanger & Osguthorpe, 2005). Given the pronounced role of education in students’ lives, the broad scope of teachers’ roles includes “nurturing many aspects of children’s welfare (such as independence, respect, decency, and trust), transmitting culture, preparing for civic life, and providing meanings to life, all of which involve ethical issues and dilemmas” (Sabbagh, 2009, p. 687).  As Kumaravadivelu (2012) puts it, teachers cannot fulfill their pedagogic obligations unless they feel committed to their social obligations. The decisions that teachers make and their classroom behaviors are inevitably informed by external influences such as school policies as well as teachers’ “beliefs, knowledge, feelings, perceptions, attitudes and thoughts” (Borg, 2019, p. 1150). These personal unseen influences, known as teacher cognition, can directly and profoundly affect teachers’ classroom interaction, lesson planning and approach to teaching (Li & Walsh, 2011; Pajares, 1992). For example, Rissanen, Kuusisto, Hanhimäki, and Tirri (2018) conducted a qualitative case study with four Finnish teachers to examine the effect of implicit theories in teaching morally and teaching morality and how implicit beliefs such as growth mindset and fixed mindset are communicated to students. Similarly, Brownlee et al. (2012) conducted case studies in two early year classrooms in elementary schools in Australia. The analysis of the data collected through teachers’ and children’s interviews and the examination of school context and policy revealed a nexus between personal epistemologies for moral education and the pedagogies within each school.      

In one study, Akbari and Tajik (2012) examined 40 EFL teachers’ pedagogical and moral knowledge base through stimulated recalls. The findings revealed that practicing teachers recalled more pedagogical thought units than moral ones. The study also showed that experience and gender can influence the frequency and order of the moral thoughts that the teachers recalled. In another study, Soleimani and Lovat (2019) explored 30 EFL teachers’ perception of morality, the conflicts they faced, and the strategies they used to resolve those conflicts. The two overarching themes reported by teachers were (1) teachers’ instructional behavior concerning punctuality, teaching goals and individual characteristics and (2) teachers’ management behavior promoting respect for cultural backgrounds and religious beliefs and creating a pleasant learning atmosphere. The findings of the study indicated that teachers relied on their own family backgrounds and religious teachings to justify their moral decisions.

According to Sabbagh (2009), teachers’ ethical values can be influenced by the dominant culture or the institutional settings in which teaching occurs. For example, Thornberg and Oğuz (2016) conducted a cross-cultural survey study on Swedish and Turkish student teachers’ moral educational and citizenship educational goals. Questionnaires were filled out by 198 Swedish and 190 Turkish student teachers. The results indicated that Turkish student teachers showed more inclination toward moral educational values and traditional-conservative goals whereas Swedish student teachers displayed pure critical-progressive goal preferences. Another determining factor in teachers’ morality and their reaction to moral dilemmas is their religion as an established worldview (Shaaban, 2005; Van der Kooij, de Ruyter, & Miedema, 2013).

The existing body of research reveals that teacher education programs are primarily concerned with subject specific content and technical aspects of teaching (Lapsley & Woodbury, 2016; Orchard, 2021; Sanderse & Cooke, 2021). Teachers generally lack a moral vocabulary and, when dealing with dilemmas, fall back on their own personal conceptions, emotions, experiences and knowledge gained over time and in interactions with others or the institutional norms (Akbari & Tajik, 2019; Soleimani & Lovat, 2019; Thornberg, 2008). Given the multifaceted and slippery nature of values education and the nexus of this construct and teacher cognition, raising teachers’ awareness is of overriding importance.

 

PURPOSE OF THE STUDY

Given the importance of values in all aspects of teaching and teachers’ decision-making process, this exploratory sequential design aims to first qualitatively explore with a small sample and then to determine if the qualitative findings can be generalized to a larger sample of the population. In other words, the researcher uses the findings from the qualitative phase to develop a new instrument which can be further tested in the quantitative phase (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2017). To the researchers’ best of knowledge, there is no values education questionnaire in the field of education in general and the area of language teaching in particular, making the selected design perfectly suitable for the purpose of the study (Creswell, 2014). The present study seeks answers to the following research questions:

 

  1. What are in-service EFL teachers’ beliefs about values education?
  2. How valid and reliable is the Values Education Questionnaire?

 

METHOD

Participants

As for the qualitative phase of the study, maximum variation sampling, being one of the most frequently used purposeful sampling designs (Sandelowski, 1995), was used to recruit 10 informants. In this method, a wide range of individuals, groups, or settings is purposively selected for the inquiry. This allows for multiple perspectives of individuals to be presented that exemplify the complexity of the world (Creswell, 2012). In the present study, a wide range of teaches in terms of years of experience, academic degrees, fields of study, gender, and teaching context were invited to maximize the diversity of perspectives, making it possible to look at values education from different angles. As shown in Table 1, the sample consisted of two Ph.D. holders in Applied Linguistics and six master holders - one of whom had done research on values education (T6) and two also got their Cambridge Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) degrees (T3 & T4). In addition, two participants were BA holders. The last two participants had less than three years of teaching experience.

 

 

 

 

Table 1: Participants of the qualitative phase

Teacher

Gender

Age

Experience

(Year)

Degree

Field of Study

T1

Male

31

10

PhD

ELT

T2

Female

30

8

PhD

ELT

T3

Female

39

5

MA

MBA/CELTA

T4

Male

34

7

MA

ELT/CELTA

T5

Female

28

5

MA

ELT

T6

Female

26

4

MA

ELT

T7

Male

25

4

MA

Computer Science

T8

Female

27

5

MA

ELT

T9

Female

38

2

BA

Biology

T10

Male

22

1

BA

ELT

 

For the second phase of the study, 332 participants completed the online questionnaire produced via Google Forms. The sample consisted of 169 males and 163 females, ranging from 19 to 62 years old (93% of the teachers were between 19 and 42). Table 2 shows the demographic information of the participants in the quantitative phase. In this study, Applied Linguistics, TEFL and ELT are used interchangeably.

 

Table 2: Participants of the quantitative phase

________________               n              %

______________________________________

Gender

    Female                             163         49

    Male                                169         51

Degree

    BA                                   137         41

    MA                                  144         43

    PhD                                 51           16

Field of Study

    Applied Linguistics           255         77

    Pure Linguistics                  10             3

    Translation Studies           19             6

    English Literature             29             9

    Other                               19             5

Experience

    1-3                                   158         48

    4-6                                   48           14

    7-9                                   33           10

    10+                                  93           28

______________________________________

Total                                      332         100                     

Instrumentation

The present exploratory sequential study utilized semi-structured interviews and a questionnaire which was developed by the researchers. Each instrument is elaborated below.

 

Semi-Structed Interviews

For the initial qualitative phase of the study, 10 in-service EFL teachers were selected for in-depth semi-structured interviews. After reviewing the literature, 7 interview questions were developed by the researchers and the items were reexamined by two language experts and two content teachers to ensure the appropriateness of their content and language. The interviews were conducted in English and the participants were assured of anonymity and confidentiality. All the interview data were recorded and transcribed for data analysis.

 

Values Education Questionnaire

For the quantitative phase of the study, a questionnaire was developed to identify the factors contributing to values education. It goes without saying that questionnaire development is no mean feat and is a result of an iterative process whereby initial items are refined several times so that ambiguous or biased items are discarded. Dörnyei (2007) posited that developing a standard questionnaire involved three stages including initial item development, initial piloting of the items, and final piloting and item analysis. The majority of the items resulted from the qualitative phase of the study. As Creswell (2014) pointed out, “the development of an instrument can proceed by using the quotes to write items for an instrument, the codes to develop variables that group the items, and themes that that group the codes into scales” (p. 363). Moreover, the researchers consulted the existing literature in the fields of philosophy, psychology, mainstream education to ensure comprehensiveness of the item pool. Eventually, over 100 items were developed for the questionnaire. These items were derived from the analysis of the qualitative data. Even though the insights from the literature contributed to the discussion section and raised our awareness in terms of item wording, no item was borrowed from the literature. All items were based on a five-point Likert scale, in which the teacher participants had to indicate the extent to which they agreed with each statement using (1) strongly disagree, (2) disagree, (3) undecided, (4) agree, (5) strongly agree.

The researchers agreed upon a 53-item questionnaire, which then underwent a pilot-study and expert validation by one researcher in values education and three experts in the field of language teacher education to ensure the creditability of the questions and wording of the items. After merging the overlapping items and making the necessary modifications, 44 items were retained. In the final stage, the questionnaire with 44 items was administered via Google Forms and was completed by 332 teachers with a wide range of backgrounds as evidenced in the demographic section at the beginning of the questionnaire. The final pilot-testing and item analyses were run, the results of which are presented in the following sections.

 

Data Collection Procedure

This mixed-methods study utilized an exploratory sequential design. This approach is particularly useful when the researchers’ objective is to develop a refined instrument (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2017) in an attempt to shed light on EFL teachers’ perceptions of values education, which is also a step toward generalizing the exploratory findings on a larger scale (Mertler, 2021). The study was conducted in two consecutive phases. First, in the early questionnaire development stage, qualitative data were collected and analyzed. This phase informed the second quantitative phase in which the questionnaire was developed and implemented for the purpose of validation. These two data collection methods, although providing an incomplete image, are among the most common data collection strategies used in teacher cognition studies (Borg, 2012).

In the qualitative phase of the study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with the participants. Based on extensive literature reviews, interview questions elicited interviewees’ opinion on various aspects of the issue. To ensure credibility of the questions, two experienced and active researchers in the field of language teacher education examined the lists with regards to the content and wording of the questions. The results gained from the expert judgment phase guided us through the process of modifying and revising the interview questions. Of the 10 interviews that were conducted, 6 were undertaken face-to-face and the remaining were administered via voice or video chats. Each interview lasted for an average of 45 minutes. All the interviews were conducted in English. To prevent any kind of data loss, we used three devices to record each interview (i.e., a sound recorder, a smart phone, and a tablet—using a sound recording application). All interviewees were assured of anonymity and confidentiality, and informed consent was obtained from all participants before audio recording the interview.

For the quantitative phase of the study, the researchers used Google Forms to administer the questionnaire. In order to reach a larger number of EFL teachers in Iran, we shared a link with EFL teachers in ELT-focused Telegram groups, in professional forums and on LinkedIn. Participants provided their demographic information in the first section of online forms and answered close-ended questions on 5-point Likert scales, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Some items had to be discarded upon experts’ recommendation so that the questionnaire would not be too long. For example, “I ask my students if I can call them by their first names”, “I show my students that I’m affectively connected to them”, “It is important for students and teachers to discuss patriotism and prosperity of the country from different aspects” or “Students should be encouraged to think about how their actions impact on others”. Such items were considered too long or somewhat ambiguous, thus being dismissed by experts, head teachers and supervisors as less relevant even though teacher participants had already mentioned them in their interviews. Scale reliabilities and factorial structure were examined based on data collected from 332 in-service EFL teachers. The item analysis also led to the deletion of some items due to low factor loading simply because of the fact that they lacked clarity or had poor discriminatory power. Some of the items that remained to be used (a total of 23 items) include “Respect for other cultural or religious beliefs should be discussed in the classroom”, “Teachers should encourage students to believe in themselves and their abilities”, “Teachers should encourage students to take risks even if they make mistakes” or “It is important for teachers to maintain their authority and space even if they are friendly toward students”.   

 

Data Analysis

The interview audio files were transcribed verbatim. Braun and Clark’s (2006) thematic analysis method was used as a common approach to qualitative data analysis. This involves six stages including familiarization with data, generation of codes, combining codes into themes, reviewing potential themes, defining and naming themes and writing the report. In the initial coding stage, we read through the text to get a general overview of the data before engaging in inductive analysis. We then delved deeper into the data to (re)organize the codes. As a result, a number of themes were subsumed under the more general ones. Appropriate measures were taken to ensure trustworthiness of this phase of the study in terms of credibility, dependability and confirmability. It is worth mentioning that data collection for this study (which is part of a PhD thesis) has taken over a year.

The researchers have had the opportunity to benefit from two outsiders’ critical comments, who have immeasurably helped us as peer reviewers. They were also PhD candidates working on their own theses related to language teacher education. In addition, researchers’ memos, journals and examples of coding process and the rationale for combining codes to form themes were shared and investigated with an external audit. As Mertler (2021) argues, one way to ensure validity of qualitative data is external audit whereby the final report is reviewed by an outsider (in our case, the expert in the field of teacher education and mixed methods research). Furthermore, member checking was employed to ensure accuracy of the researchers’ interpretations of interview transcripts (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2007). We returned the results to the participants to check for accuracy. Moreover, we considered theoretical credibility by reexamining most of the themes emerging from the interview transcripts in light of the relevant literature. To gain more exact results, the analysis was conducted again after an appropriate time interval (i.e., one month) elapsed. Finally, to ensure the inter-coder reliability, we asked a Ph.D. candidate of applied linguistics, working on her dissertation on social justice in teacher education programs at the time of the present study, to code a portion of the data independently. The Cohen’s Kappa value was .71 which is relatively satisfactory.

SPSS Statistics was used for principal component analysis (PCA) of the data. Prior to performing PCA, the suitability of the data for exploratory factor analysis was assessed and the assumptions were met. The rotation approach fitting the purpose of this study was Varimax, categorized under orthogonal method of rotation. Next, to validate the internal structure of the survey, we used SPSS AMOS version 23 to analyze the data through Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA).

 

RESULTS

During the interviews, teachers were asked to verbalize the values which they considered important for students to develop in the classroom. All teachers but one described themselves as role models and maintained that all aspects of teaching are characterized by values. They stated that values can be taught both implicitly and explicitly. Overall, six overarching themes emerged from teachers’ interviews as follows:

 

Relational Values

Student-teacher relations were reported to be the most important consideration since all decisions of teachers affect students one way or another. All four teachers highlighted the importance of the friendly atmosphere that teachers can create to facilitate the learning process. For example, a teacher commented that “teachers should establish a good rapport with students so that everyone feels relaxed. Teachers should be kind and approachable and have a good sense of humor. I try to be as understanding as possible because I’m a mother myself. This way, students can share and care” (T9).

The close relationship between teachers and learners can motivate students and lower the affective filter when students engage in learning. As teachers pointed out, students should not be afraid of their teachers. Teachers’ implicit and explicit behaviors can affect students.

 

Personal Growth

The second most common value articulated by teachers was concerned with students’ overall feelings. This is the kind of value which paves the way for students to develop a sense of autonomy, take responsibility for their own learning and feel encouraged and motivated because they are valued members of the class who are not constantly criticized, as can be seen in the following excerpt:

T1: Students come to class with different backgrounds. If I criticize them all the time, they will lose their self-confidence. I, as a teacher, should care more about their good feelings and encourage them when they do the tasks well and try to participate more and more.

When teachers give praise and positive feedback on students’ performance, students are more likely to feel self-confident and can grow as individuals. 

 

Academic Excellence

Under this category, teachers encouraged critical thinking and challenged their learners by taking into consideration students’ needs and abilities and adapted their instruction accordingly. This can be seen in a teacher’s emphasis on “challenging tasks to ensure student efforts” (T5).

In this sense, education should not be limited to teaching basic skills such as literacy and numeracy. According to the participants, education should go beyond rote learning, focusing instead on fostering critical thinking.

 

Personal Standards

Another theme less frequently mentioned was related to teachers’ principles. This pertains to teachers’ personal goals and standards. Two teachers emphasized their own personal goals of life. A teacher reported that “I constantly try to improve my own language knowledge, communication skills and organizational skills. For example, I develop a lesson plan and after class reflect on how I performed and whether I was able to advance my own goals and fulfill my duties and apply my principles” (T4)

 

Even though these standards and values were reported to be personal, they are sure to have some effects on students since teachers’ planning, reflection, and communication skills can be picked up by students as teachers are generally considered to be role models.

 

Regulatory Values

Several teachers stated that it is teachers’ responsibility to regulate classroom activities and behaviors. Even though teachers believe that they should be caring and approachable, this should not mislead us into believing that teachers set no boundaries at all. A teacher cautioned that:

T3: Even though teachers should be kind and caring, they should not be overfriendly; otherwise, students may not take classes or their homework seriously. Especially, in young learners’ classrooms, inappropriate behavior should be controlled. However, due to students’, parents’ and supervisors’ attitude towards me, I should follow the institutional norms, and compromise my principles, which bothers me. Parents may refuse to accept the fact that their kids are rebellious. Supervisors and other officials do not like to lose their students or customers. They only expect TEACHERS (emphasis in original) to be kind, patient, and caring.

As another teacher argued, learner-centered education does not mean that learners can break the rules, be late for class, or skip their homework simply because this has become a trend or because “they are studying in private-run centers, and not for free” (T3).

 

Global Values

A less common theme was that of global values. In this category, a few teachers voiced their concerns over environmental issues, animal rights, cultural and religious matters as well as students’ life purposes and future competences. A teacher remarked that “students should have the opportunity to discuss, think about and contribute to global and social values.” (T2)

Global values, even though very important in the literature, has not received the attention it deserves. As two teachers mentioned, they do not have enough time to cover all these – “if students do their homework, we’ll be more than happy, let alone very serious issues” (T3).

In the case of T2, religious issues can be discussed freely “with little imposition of ideas on my side”; however, she tries to “keep things under control; sometimes, I have to change the channel or stop students if I feel they may offend each other. On the other hand, T10 maintained that

I say I try to understand social values in my country and these social values are sometimes related to norms and sometimes they are related to my religion and I think that they are very important and students at different levels should know them and should observe them and they should understand them”.

According to T10, religious values should be learned and followed by students and apparently everyone in society. This teacher voiced his religious beliefs, while others did not make any direct comment in this regard. Even though teachers reported that they can act as role models, two teachers expressed reservations about their efficacy. One teacher (T6) argued that “parents, peers and media play very important roles in students’ beliefs and values. Sometimes, I think that whatever I say, even based on evidence, does not affect students, especially when they are adults and they have more fixed values”. It was also revealed that some teachers are aware of their own classroom behaviors; however, they try to be fun, keep students engaged and maintain their popularity with learners, parents and supervisors. One teacher (T7) mentioned that “I know that my examples in class are related to beauty and money. For example, he is richer – she is more beautiful, etc. I think many teachers give such examples because they are more interesting for everyone”. Overall, it can be understood that teachers care more about morality of teaching as evidenced in their words and deeds rather than teaching morality explicitly or through lecturing.

As for the quantitative phase of the study, the questionnaire developed by the researchers of the present study was piloted with a group of 304 participants. In order to check if the number of participants for pilot-testing (N = 304) was satisfactory enough, a KMO and Bartlett's Test was run. The results are shown in Table 3. The number of participants was found to be satisfactory enough (KMO = .896). The KMO index studied the subtle correlation among the variance of the variables, revealing that the variance of the items of the questionnaire had Not been affected by the common variance of hidden variables. Moreover, the revealed Bartlett index (Sig. = .00) rejected the hypothesis of correlation matrix convergence. These indicated that the number of 332 participants in this study was an appropriate number for the factors to be explored.

 

Table 3: KMO and Bartlett’s test

Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin Measure of Sampling Adequacy.

.896

Bartlett's Test of Sphericity

Approx. Chi-Square

4777.51

Df

946

Sig.

.00

 

In the next step of exploratory factor analysis, the total variances of the factors in relation to the underlying items were explored. Principal component analysis was utilized as the method of extraction. As Table 4 reveals, eleven factors were explored having indices more than 1 in the total column. This was high enough to let them remain and be considered as reliable factors in the next stages of data analysis. Moreover, the cumulative variance of the extraction loadings indicated that these factors could explain the variance of the variables to 57.057 percent.

 

 

Table 4: Total variance explained

Component

Initial Eigenvalues

Extraction Sums of Squared Loadings

Rotation Sums of Squared Loadings

Total

% of Variance

Cumulative %

Total

% of Variance

Cumulative %

Total

% of Variance

Cumulative %

1

10.447

23.744

23.744

10.447

23.744

23.744

3.313

7.529

7.529

2

3.057

6.948

30.692

3.057

6.948

30.692

2.993

6.802

14.330

3

1.685

3.830

34.522

1.685

3.830

34.522

2.767

6.289

20.619

4

1.545

3.512

38.034

1.545

3.512

38.034

2.615

5.943

26.562

5

1.459

3.315

41.349

1.459

3.315

41.349

2.540

5.773

32.334

6

1.289

2.929

44.278

1.289

2.929

44.278

2.411

5.479

37.814

7

1.220

2.772

47.050

1.220

2.772

47.050

2.100

4.773

42.587

8

1.153

2.620

49.670

1.153

2.620

49.670

1.920

4.365

46.952

9

1.123

2.553

52.223

1.123

2.553

52.223

1.672

3.801

50.752

10

1.096

2.490

54.713

1.096

2.490

54.713

1.406

3.196

53.948

11

1.031

2.344

57.057

1.031

2.344

57.057

1.368

3.109

57.057

12

.963

2.190

59.246

 

 

 

 

 

 

13

.947

2.152

61.399

 

 

 

 

 

 

14

.911

2.070

63.469

 

 

 

 

 

 

15

.861

1.956

65.425

 

 

 

 

 

 

16

.839

1.906

67.331

 

 

 

 

 

 

17

.813

1.848

69.179

 

 

 

 

 

 

18

.786

1.786

70.964

 

 

 

 

 

 

19

.772

1.754

72.718

 

 

 

 

 

 

20

.705

1.603

74.320

 

 

 

 

 

 

21

.696

1.581

75.902

 

 

 

 

 

 

22

.679

1.543

77.444

 

 

 

 

 

 

23

.664

1.509

78.953

 

 

 

 

 

 

24

.649

1.474

80.428

 

 

 

 

 

 

25

.633

1.439

81.866

 

 

 

 

 

 

26

.600

1.363

83.229

 

 

 

 

 

 

27

.588

1.337

84.566

 

 

 

 

 

 

28

.548

1.246

85.812

 

 

 

 

 

 

29

.533

1.211

87.023

 

 

 

 

 

 

30

.498

1.131

88.155

 

 

 

 

 

 

31

.486

1.104

89.259

 

 

 

 

 

 

32

.482

1.095

90.354

 

 

 

 

 

 

33

.461

1.047

91.401

 

 

 

 

 

 

34

.442

1.006

92.406

 

 

 

 

 

 

35

.415

.943

93.350

 

 

 

 

 

 

36

.407

.925

94.275

 

 

 

 

 

 

37

.386

.878

95.152

 

 

 

 

 

 

38

.383

.871

96.023

 

 

 

 

 

 

39

.347

.788

96.811

 

 

 

 

 

 

40

.322

.732

97.543

 

 

 

 

 

 

41

.314

.713

98.256

 

 

 

 

 

 

42

.274

.623

98.879

 

 

 

 

 

 

43

.270

.613

99.492

 

 

 

 

 

 

44

.224

.508

100.000

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extraction Method: Principal Component Analysis.

 

The scree plot (Figure 2) shows that the first eleven factors account for most of the total variability in data (given by the eigenvalues). The eigenvalues for the first eleven factors are all greater than 1. The remaining factors account for a very small proportion of the variability and are likely unimportant. Based on the rotated component matrix through Varimax with Kaiser Normalization, the basis for classifying questions into factors is confirmed based on the theoretical model of the questionnaire, and 38 questions (observed variables) in their respective factor (structure or latent variable) are correctly categorized. Six items were not classified under the extracted factors which were discarded from the proposed questionnaire.

 

 

Figure 2: Scree plot of the factors (eigenvalues greater than 1)

 

Furthermore, confirmatory factor analysis was utilized to provide evidence for the underlying structure of the designed questionnaire used in this study by using Amos software. As explained in the EFA section, 38 items were retained in the analysis. Considering the least number of items for any factor as three, six factors with lower than three items were also discarded; consequently, the final proposed model for CFA consisted of five components with satisfactory number of items and strong correlation indices accompanied with 23 items. As the model illustrates (Figure 3), the designed questionnaire includes five main components: namely, 1) Global values including items: (8, 10, 22, 33, 36, 44); 2) Students’ Personal Growth Values including items: (2, 4, 5, 13, 26); 3), Teachers’ Personal Values including items: (15, 19, 24, 29, 35); 4) Academic Excellence Values including items: (30, 39, 40, 41); 5) Self- & Other-Regulatory Values including items number: (17, 31, 32). Loadings of FACTOR 1 range from .59 to .74, for FACTOR 2 range from .54 to .76, for FACTOR 3 range from .44 to .76, for FACTOR 4 range from .48 to .76, and for FACTOR 5 range from .44 to .76. Table 5 provides an overview of the renamed components, relevant items and their corresponding factor loadings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 3: Proposed model for the extracted components and retained items

 

 

 

Table 5: Components and their corresponding items

Component

Questionnaire Items

Factor Loading

 

04.

Teachers should boost students’ self-esteem through encouragement and positive feedback.

.68

Personal Growth       05.

Teachers should encourage students to believe in themselves and their abilities.

.74

                                   26.                     

Students’ efforts should be appreciated in the classroom.

.45

30.

Teachers should create opportunities for discussion to foster critical thinking among students.

.43

 Academic                 39.                         

Teachers should provide challenging tasks for students to ensure students’ efforts.

.51

 Excellence                40.          

Teachers should encourage students to take risks even if they make mistakes.

.66

                                  19.

It is important for me to plan a lesson with clear objectives before the session.

.49

Teachers’ Personal    24.

I constantly try to improve my language and teaching skills

.57

 Values                35.

I constantly try to improve my social and interactional skills.

.58

08.

Teachers should encourage students to talk about their life purposes in the classroom.

.49

 Global Values           33.    

Respect for other cultural or religious beliefs should be discussed in the classroom.

.58

                                   36.                 

Students in the classroom should be encouraged to have presentations regarding global values (e.g. environmental problems, social responsibility, honesty, etc.)

.74

17.

Teachers should regulate and control students’ inappropriate classroom behaviors (e.g., bullying, ridicule, use of unacceptable language).

.71

Regulatory Values     31.  

Students deserve to fail the course if they avoid responsibility for their own learning and active participation (e.g., taking exams, doing homework, etc.).

.44

                                   32.

It is important for teachers to maintain their authority and space even if they are friendly toward students.

.55

           

 

To check the model fit, goodness of fit indices were used. Goodness of fit indices can be seen in Appendix V. In this study, χ2/df, GFI, CFI, and RMSEA were used. To have a fit model, χ2/df should be less than 3, GFI and TLI should be above .90, and RMSEA should be less than .08. All the goodness of fit indices are within the acceptable range after modification (Table 6). Therefore, the questionnaire enjoyed acceptable validity with 23 items. There are positive and significant relationships among five components of the questionnaire (sig. = .00).

 

Table 6: Goodness of fit indices for 23-item questionnaire

 

X2/df

GFI

CFI

RMSEA

Acceptable fit

<3

>.90

>.90

<.08

Model

1.73

.91

.91

.04

 

Moreover, there are strong positive and significant relationships among the components and the total scores of the questionnaire (Table 7).

 

Table 7: Inter factor correlations

 

F1

F2

F3

F4

F5

Total

F1

Pearson Correlation

1

 

 

 

 

 

Sig. (2-tailed)

 

 

 

 

 

 

F2

Pearson Correlation

.446**

1

 

 

 

 

F3

Pearson Correlation

.433**

.621**

1

 

 

 

F4

Pearson Correlation

.526**

.522**

.498**

1

 

 

F5

Pearson Correlation

.279**

.405**

.430**

.431**

1

 

Total

Pearson Correlation

.773**

.795**

.788**

.771**

.618**

1

N

332

332

332

332

332

332

**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

 

 

Table 8 shows the reliability indices for each component and the reliability index of the whole questionnaire (a = .88).

 

Table 8: Reliability of the components

No

Domain

Number of Items

Alpha Level

1

Global values

6

.77

2

Students’ Personal Growth Values  

5

.76

3

Teachers’ Personal Values

5

.68

4

Academic Excellence Values

4

.65

5

Self- & Other-Regulatory Values

3

.56

Total

Values Questionnaire

23

.88

 

DISCUSSION

By utilizing an exploratory sequential design, this study sought to explore teachers’ perceptions about values education. It is widely acknowledged that the concept of values education can be construed differently by different teachers, rendering it a fuzzy concept and thus open to interpretation (Pring, 2010). Having said that, the participating teachers in the present study highlighted a number of values which are deemed most important in classroom context. Special emphasis was placed on relational values. It is well-established in the literature that student-teacher relationship is at the forefront (Ibrahim & Wafaa, 2020). The second most important theme was related to students’ personal growth. These findings are consistent with previous studies (Gholami & Tirri, 2012; Soleimani & Lovat, 2019; Thornberg & Oğuz, 2013), indicating the centrality of student-teacher relations and good feelings or enjoyment that students can experience in classrooms. This tendency among our participants stems largely from the latest trends in language teaching such as holistic learning, interaction-based activities and meaningful learning as espoused by Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) and Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT). Teachers in our study have gained familiarity, at least in theory, with such trends in light of their educational backgrounds in TEFL or the TTC programs they attended even if they do not put into practice all tenets of CLT (Kardoust & Saeedian, 2021). Furthermore, teachers attached importance to academic excellence of their students. This reflects Gholami’s (2011) findings, showing that teachers’ prima facie obligation is to boost intellectual aspects of students through pedagogical inclusion and accommodation.

Only a few teachers in this study showed tendency for regulatory values and classroom rules when reporting about adult classrooms in language centers. However, some of our teachers who had experience of teaching in different contexts and with different students such as young learners, school boys or girls and university students reported that they adopted different strategies depending on the peculiarities of their learners and teaching contexts. This is somewhat inconsistent with the results of the existing studies (Thornberg, 2008; Thornberg & Oğuz, 2013) in which teachers were mainly preoccupied with classroom rules, norms and character education. This inconsistency is most probably because of the difference in teaching context. In our study, teachers were mostly working with older students in private-run language centers rather than in elementary schools. Another possible explanation could be the primacy of good feelings and meaningful learning favored by constructivist or progressive approaches to language teaching. In addition, this might, at least in part, be explained by misinterpretation of learner-centeredness as well as a trend towards educational marketization in schools and private-run language centers (Halstead & Taylor, 2005; Yuan, 2019) where rules and regulations receive less attention as students’ satisfaction is a top priority.

In addition, global values were mentioned by a few teachers. These include political, cultural, religious, social and environmental concerns. Teachers and students may focus on these whenever it is possible. In line with Soleimani and Lovat (2019), avoiding cultural stereotyping is one of these concerns, also found in our study. In the existing literature in mainstream education, these values can realize in the form of discussing students’ life purposes so that they can develop a sense of orientation fostered in classrooms (Hedayati et al., 2017). Additionally, teaching students about globalization, democracy and multiculturalism should be integrated into school curricula (Zajda & Daun, 2009). Even though most of the teachers made critical comments in their views, due largely to their educational background in TEFL, they tended to err on the conservative side in their classrooms. This is also reflected in Thornberg and Oğuz’s (2016) cross-cultural study, indicating that Turkish student teachers were reported to express a stronger preference for traditional-conservative goals compared to Swedish student teachers, a finding which is in line with ours as Iran and Turkey have somewhat similar cultural and religious backgrounds. This fact is also echoed in Sahragard et al.’s (2014) study, indicating that despite language teachers’ awareness of critical pedagogy and their agreement with the underpinnings of critical pedagogy, they rarely implement this methodology in their teaching. They discovered that the top-down educational system, classroom size, teacher-related issues such as burn-out, time constraints and teachers’ limited familiarity with learners’ background and learning styles can stand in the way of teaching higher-order concerns.

Moreover, almost all teachers described themselves as role models, confirming the views of candidate teachers in Osguthorpe and Sanger (2013). Furthermore, unlike Milson’s (2003) 930 teachers who reported high levels of self-efficacy for serving as role models, some teachers in this study expressed doubts about their own decisive and trend-setting roles as models. They stated that the effects of media, peers, and parents have overshadowed their roles in making a real change. The fact that some teachers had reservations about their influential roles and that one teacher dismissed the whole idea of role modelling can be attributed, in part, to teachers’ initial motivation for becoming a teacher and sense of self-efficacy, which can also be a source of identity tensions among teachers (Mifsud, 2018). This can be further exacerbated in the absence of a common frame of reference among teachers when it comes to values education. Even though important, values education was found to be a small part of what constitutes teachers’ knowledge base. As Akbari and Tajik (2012) pointed out, teachers in their study reported fewer moral thought units in comparison to other components of teachers’ pedagogical knowledge. As found in our study and also reflected in previous research (Keijzer et al., 2020; Thornberg, 2008), many teachers refer to their own experience as learners and members of their families as well as the bigger society and have to fall back on their own personal interpretations when dealing with moral decisions. This emphasizes the need for a moral vocabulary shared by all (e.g., in the form of a guideline or a questionnaire). More research is required in both quantitative and qualitative strands to map out a path for teachers to follow.

This mixed methods study was, to the researchers’ best of knowledge, the first attempt to develop a Values Education Questionnaire in the field of language teaching in general and in Iranian English language teaching context in particular. The existing literature, primarily theoretical or qualitative in nature, emphasizes the importance of values in education (Lovat, 2019). Similarly, the 23 items of the questionnaire which were based on teachers’ perceptions highlight the significance of this construct among EFL teachers. Confirmatory factor analysis of the developed questionnaire revealed five components which accounted for just under 60% of variation. Even though such a slippery construct as values education is too broad to be condensed in a single questionnaire and thus eludes a reductionistic approach, the six themes emerging from qualitative data were somewhat corroborated by the quantitative approach. The available questionnaires, such as Valued Living Questionnaire, have been developed by scientists working on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Similarly, Schwartz’s theory of basic human values looks beyond educational concerns. Even those questionnaires which are somewhat related to values focus on specific issues such as Caring Teaching (Gholami, 2011; Gholami & Tirri, 2012), teachers’ verbal and non-verbal immediacy (Kalat, Yazdi, & Ghanizadeh, 2018; Mehrabian, 1969) or social justice in classroom (Estaji & Zhaleh, 2021). This suggests that a holistic approach to values education from a quantitative lens can be hard to adopt. Since quantitative approach provides an incomplete picture of values and values education, further research is needed to corroborate the results and present a more refined version of the questionnaire to be used in a variety of contexts. However, qualitative inquiries along with this quantitative research can provide a more nuanced understanding of this multifaceted construct in line with critical approaches to values education rather than traditional approaches such as character education (Thornberg, 2008).

 

CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS

The purpose of the present study was to explore EFL teachers’ perceptions of values education in language classrooms. The findings revealed that teachers expressed strong preference for relational values followed by student’s personal growth values. Teachers’ familiarity with the latest trends in education such as holistic teaching, communicative language teaching and personalized learning might have made teachers more sensitive to interpersonal and interactional skills and meaningful learning. In addition, they attached a reasonable amount of importance to academic excellence. These findings are further corroborated by Gholami (2011) and Gholami and Tirri (2012) wherein teachers’ prima facie obligation - to bring about learning and improve the intellectual properties of students - is reported to be outweighed by master obligation - to create happiness for students and eliminate pain. A few teachers, however, believed that students’ learning should receive equal, if not more, attention by teachers. The teaching context ranging from elementary schools to higher education, either government-run or private-run, as well as students’ level of English seemed to be a driving force behind possible variations. Teachers’ personal goals and values, regulatory values and global values have received less significance. This suggests that certain values from Schwartz’s (1992) model such as achievement, self-direction, stimulation, hedonism and power carry more weight than such values as conformity, benevolence, universalism, and tradition. Furthermore, teachers tend to rely on their own personal experiences, emotions, and interpretations when it comes to values education, reinforcing the fact that a lack of moral vocabulary and frame of reference among teachers can lead to confusion, doubts about their self-efficacy and identity tension (Beijaard et al., 2004; Thornberg, 2008).

In the absence of any instrument investigating teachers’ perceptions of values education, it has been hard to quantify this construct in its operational terms. Thus, the present study was conducted to design and validate an instrument unique to EFL context, which points researchers in the right direction. It is noteworthy to mention that the confirmatory factor analysis of the developed questionnaire led to the retention of five out of six factors which emerged from the qualitative phase of the study. Even though further research must be conducted to refine this questionnaire, it can still be used in professional development programs, holding promise for future inquiries.

This study can have a number of implications for researchers and practitioners. The insights gleaned from EFL teachers in an Iranian context can add to the existing literature, making it possible to track and compare teacher beliefs across a wider range of contexts and cultures (Sanger, 2017). Teacher educators, furthermore, can incorporate values education into their course syllabi so that teachers can deepen their knowledge of values education, making it possible for them to reflect on their beliefs and decisions. Teachers’ awareness of and sensitivity to values-laden aspects of teaching whether it be in student-teacher relations, testing and evaluation, hidden curriculum or explicit discussions may facilitate the teaching process and mitigate the effects of moral conflicts they may face. In cases where teachers doubt their own roles, as reported by teachers in this study, teacher educators can empower teachers to deal with high nervous tensions by boosting teacher immunity (Dobakhti, Zohrabi, & Masoudi, 2022).

Similarly, material developers can integrate a wider range of values into course books in addition to already existing neoliberal tenets such as wealth and celebrities, market, consumerism, and superficial and non-critical multiculturalism (Babaii & Sheikhi; 2018; Farsani & Rahimi, 2022). Likewise, policy-makers and curriculum developers should keep everything in perspective and make a more judicious decision with regard to values education as life values tend to be eclipsed by exam-driven education and accountability issues lying at the heart of national curricula such as Konkour in Iran, similar to No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in the US, and National Assessment Plan: Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) in Australia (Lovat, 2019).

Some notes of caution, however, need to sounded regarding the findings of this study. As with any other self-reported study, participants may have a general tendency toward social desirability, which can bias the responses they provide. In addition, the limited sample size in the qualitative phase means limited transferability as this phase is primarily concerned with rich data. We believe that this paper was innovative and ambitious in its approach to bringing a wide range of educational concerns under an umbrella term, i.e. values education. notably in an Iranian context with its cultural and religious peculiarities. Even though Values Education Questionnaire developed by the researchers in this study is limited in scope and thus fails to be all-encompassing for feasibility and ease of administration purposes, this significantly contributes to the existing body of research and proposes a promising conceptual framework to further qualitative and particularly quantitative reflection on the moral aspect of teaching. Future cross-cultural studies can shed further light on the findings of the present study. In addition, use of a wider range of data collection and data analysis methods such as observation protocols, conversation analysis, or triangulation can add to the richness of data, providing further insights into what teachers believe and do in their teaching contexts.

 

 

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

 

 

ORCID

Abbas Ali Rezaee

http://orcid.org/0000-0003-4311-8394     

Mojtaba Esfandyari

http://orcid.org/0000-0002-1964-811X  

 

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