Discovering Democratic Values: Teaching and Learning Civic Values

Professional Development Activities

Discovering Democratic Values: Teaching and learning civic values is a professional development video that allows teachers and schools to examine a variety of perspectives in civic values education. It provides models and ideas as a stimulus for schools to reflect on their own practices and consider opportunities for implementing civic values education relevant to their own school communities.

The video is divided into a number of segments. The approximate running times for each segment are provided.

Approximate running time
The big picture4.55
Democratic values through pedagogy – St Ives North Public School, NSW4.30
Whole school values education – Salisbury High School, SA4.55
Service Learning – Matthew Hogan High School, NSW5.15
Democratic values and secondary school curriculum from the students2.00
Democratic values in a whole school values program and CCE curriculum – Point Lonsdale Primary School, Vic6.10
Congruence: home and school, policies and practice – Modbury School, SA6.35


Reference materials

The Adelaide Declaration on National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty-First Century (1999)

Values Education

National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools (Australian Government, Department of Education, Science and Training, 2005)

Civics and Citizenship Education

Values education and Discovering Democracy

Using the Discovering Democracy resources to teach about civic values

Discovering Democracy Units

Discovering Democracy resources

Professional development activities

As a professional development resource, the video may be used in its entirety or teachers may like to choose particular segments and reflect on them in relation to their own school practices.

There is a range of professional development activities to choose from. In some contexts, such as a whole staff meeting, the video may be used to focus on broad considerations, for example the school’s mission statement, ethos and policy documents.

In other contexts, teachers may choose to focus on classroom teaching and learning. The activities are designed for group discussion.

Activity 1: The case studies

Activity 2: Values in education

Activity 3: The school community

Activity 4: Community research and active citizenship

Activity 5: Classroom teaching and learning

Activity 1: The case studies

The following Guiding Principles for Values Education are part of the National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools.

Effective values education:

  1. helps students understand and be able to apply values such as care and compassion; doing your best; fair go; freedom; honesty and trustworthiness; integrity; respect; responsibility and understanding, tolerance and inclusion;
  2.  is an explicit goal of schooling that promotes Australia’s democratic way of life and values the diversity in Australian schools;
  3. articulates the values of the school community and applies these consistently in the practices of the school;
  4. occurs in partnership with students, staff, families and the school community as part of a whole-school approach to educating students, enabling them to exercise responsibility and strengthening their resilience;
  5. is presented in a safe and supportive learning environment in which students are encouraged to explore their own, their school’s and their communities’ values;
  6. is delivered by trained and resourced teachers able to use a variety of different models, modes and strategies;
  7. includes the provision of curriculum that meets the individual needs of students; and
  8. regularly reviews the approaches used to check that they are meeting the intended outcomes

This activity will allow you to consider some of these principles as they are addressed in Discovering Democratic Values.

Consider the five case studies presented on the video and ask the following questions about each school.

  • What democratic values are important to the school?
  • How does the school make its values explicit?
  • What process has the school used to define its values?
  • How have students, parents and teachers been involved in the process?
  • What approaches (pedagogy and content) are taken in classroom teaching and learning?
  • What opportunities are provided for students to work with the community?

Use the spreadsheet to record your ideas as you view the video. Please note that not all of the areas apply in every school case study.

Discussion questions and activities

  • Share your spreadsheet findings with the rest of the group.
  • What common messages about educating for democratic values emerge from the case studies? What unique messages are there?
  • How do case study schools approach teaching and learning? How are democratic values taught and learnt? What pedagogy is used in each case? How is curriculum content dealt with?
  • In what ways are parents and the wider community linked to the school? What benefits has this brought for parents, the community and the school?
  • What ideas about the teaching and learning of democratic values might be applied in your school?  

Activity 2: Values in education

  • What values underpin or are explicit in your school’s mission or vision statement? How do these values compare with the values you see operating on a day-to-day basis?
  • How do your school’s values compare with the values in one or more case studies on the video?
  • Look at the following documents and consider the following question: How do our school documents compare with these documents?

Document 1: Nine Values for Australian Schooling (from the National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools)

Document  2: Values and attitudes from Introducing Discovering Democracy: School Materials Project

  • What steps could you make in your school to ensure that civic values are made explicit to the whole school community and that there is congruence between policy and practice, home and school?

Activity 3: The school community

  • What strategies does your school currently employ to encourage teachers, students and parents to contribute to the school’s policy-making process?
  • What opportunities do you see for improving school community contributions to school policy after watching Discovering Democratic Values?

Activity 4: Community research/active citizenship

  • What do students and teachers on the video appreciate about active citizenship and community links?
  • What contemporary issues are your students interested in and passionate about?
  • What local issues might interest your students?
  • How could you harvest student interest to develop a short unit of work where students define and undertake their own research investigations?
  • Look at Taking issue’ from Discovering Democracy through Research, (Curriculum Corporation, 2000) pages 21–34, available as a PDF download. How might this research investigation be adapted to your school curriculum and your local community? See Whose Democracy?

Activity 5: Classroom teaching and learning

What teaching and learning activities in your school currently allow students to learn about democratic values?

Using Document 3: Using the Discovering Democracy resources to teach about civic values and your school copies of the Discovering Democracy resources, choose a unit from the Discovering Democracy Units or a selection of extracts from the Australian Readers that is relevant to a year level you teach.

Read the unit or reader extracts in your group. What values are covered in the resources you have chosen? Discuss and then develop in your group one or more activities that would make these values explicit for students and allow them to reflect on how they might be practised and relevant in their everyday lives, in their families, in the classroom and in the community.