"Do you really want us to tell you the truth?"
: An Exploration of School Values Using Personal Construct Theory

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis analyses the concept of values in education and character education from the perspective of primary school children, aged between eight and nine years old. The work adopts a Constructivist approach and ethos. The underlying theory and the methodological approach are based on Kelly’s (1991) Personal Construct Theory (PCT). The research focused on the views of children in two parallel Year 4 classes in a Church of England primary school. This is a participatory study with all children in both classes participating at some level with the research, but the report deals only with the 41 children who wanted to contribute and who had parental consent. The research process took place over the course of one school year. The data were gathered using Self-Characterisations and Repertory Grid Techniques alongside a strategy devised using dyadic opposites and drawing (Kelly, 1991). The findings demonstrated the children’s abilities to express their own values and to critique the school
values through the various PCT methods used. PCT offered all children the opportunity to be involved and the insights they shared were as a result of their active engagement. The findings raised questions around the discourse surrounding character education, suggesting that values clarification is a more effective approach in enabling children to articulate and understand the values they hold, rather than the more traditional values transmission model. This thesis, therefore, calls into question the pedagogical methods of teaching about morals and values using a didactic and authoritarian approach. The findings demonstrated the importance held by children of active participation in learning, and their desire for a supportive and democratic learning environment offering opportunities for autonomy and personal agency.
Date of Award7 Jul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester
SupervisorBridget Egan (Supervisor) & Victoria Randall (Supervisor)


  • Values education
  • Resilience
  • Democracy
  • Personal Construct Theory
  • Children's perspectives

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