Values and Virtues

Virtue is an ancient concept and the development of virtues of all kinds – personal, social, intellectual – is as vital in the education of young people as it is in adult life.

Many schools promote the language of values, rather than virtues, but there is no single, comprehensive list of values that everyone agrees on.  The chances of young people living out their own values are considerably enhanced if they can link them to a personal virtue. Anyone might claim, for example, to be in favour of fairness, but to be a fair-minded person, you need to have the virtue of fair-mindedness.

Listing, let alone nurturing, such qualities is not simple; and it is all the more challenging to include mental qualities, such as flexibility and clarity of thought, or ambition to learn. Roger Sutcliffe has created three lists of key virtues.  One group is Personal Virtues, but they could equally well be labelled as Character strengths.  The second group is Social Virtues, which could equally well be called Collaborative strengths.  The third group is Intellectual Virtues or Cognitive strengths.


We acknowledge the influence of classical philosophers such as Socrates and Aristotle and of pioneers in 20th and 21st century psychological and educational fields. Matthew Lipman and Ann Margaret Sharp, the founders and drivers of P4C, have been the strongest influences.  They were building on the great philosopher-educator John Dewey, who said:

“If we are willing to conceive education as the process of forming fundamental dispositions, intellectual and emotional, toward nature and fellow men, philosophy may even be defined as the general theory of education”.

We also acknowledge Art Costa, developer of the ‘Habits of Mind’ approach.  He inspired Thinking Moves, the meta-cognitive framework which runs through the whole of DialogueWorks’ practice – and which forms a central element of our training programs.