Values are the building blocks of social, political, religious and cultural life; they are the principles that guide individual and group behavior. While beliefs, practices and rituals differ across religious and cultural systems, there are core values that unite them. Accepting these values does not mean changing your practices or losing your beliefs, rather it means making a commitment to acknowledge everyone as equal and work towards creating fairness and harmony for all.

Today, values education is needed more than ever in countries across the world. Increased religious and cultural diversity is creating a richness of experience helping to make the world a better place; however, in such an environment, when positive values are not practiced there is a lack of understanding that causes tensions and conflict. We all need to learn how to live together peacefully by developing guiding values and applying them ourselves, in our families and our communities.

This values module is the outcome of collaboration with Sri Lankan community leaders including; youth, teachers, principals and representatives from different religious, ethnic and cultural groups. It approaches the issue of values education from the perspective that everyone has the potential to express positive values and wants to live in a society where behavior is guided by these values; only we all need help in learning how to apply them.

Following the notion that: ‘experience is the greatest teacher’, this module offers guidance for facilitators on how to model positive values and introduces a range of practical values activities to develop behavior based on positive values.

The objectives of the module are:

  • To provide youth leaders or other facilitators with practical tools to conduct activities which strengthen the practice of shared values important for creating peace and harmony in Sri Lanka.
  • To develop community understanding of, and ability to practice the following values: peace, respect, compassion, tolerance, sincerity/honesty and cooperation.
  • To develop an understanding that these values are equally important for people of all backgrounds and that people of all backgrounds have the right to experience them.
  • To empower people to engage in dialogue – to listen and to talk – as a way of creating greater sensitivity to differences and an understanding of others.
  • To inspire young people to aspire to positive involvement in society where they see themselves as agents of peace, respect, tolerance, compassion, sincerity/honesty and cooperation.
  • To enable young people to respond peacefully and respectfully to problems in their communities.

This module has been developed for use in different contexts and can be used by anyone with an interest in encouraging commitment to positive values. The purpose is for the module to be used with groups of young people across youth clubs throughout the country, but it is flexible enough that it can be used in other contexts, such as schools. The material is adaptable and can be altered to reflect examples from the participants’ local area or made appropriate for different age groups.

This module consists of two sections:
  • Values based facilitation methods which are particularly important for facilitators (See toolbox for facilitators)
  • Activities for promoting values: peace, respect, compassion, tolerance, honesty and sincerity, and cooperation

The first section of the module on values based facilitation methods is intended for use by individuals preparing themselves to become facilitators of values education sessions. Facilitators will then use the exercises listed under Active Listening and activities in the subsequent sections looking at six values: peace, respect, compassion, tolerance, honesty/sincerity and cooperation/working together. These contain the core content that facilitators can use to develop commitment among youth to these particular values. The values activity encourages reflection and they are experiential to help participants apply local values and change behaviors.


Each section begins with reflection points which help participants to understand the personal and local relevance of the value being discussed in that section.

  • Reflection helps us to understand how values are relevant to each of us as individuals and communities.
  • Reflection is a means to appreciating both the diversity of ways in which values can be understood and practiced, and the commonality of values across different faiths, ethnic groups and cultures.

The activities are mostly experiential to create connections between values and behaviors. Through experiencing values based behavior, participants will learn that when they act or respond to a situation, their behavior is always based on a particular set of values. By realizing this, participants learn to determine how they can choose positive values to inform their actions and responses. For example, participants can say they understand the concept of tolerance but this does not necessarily translate to demonstrating tolerance in their behavior. It is only when they have gone through a process of reflection, experience and discussion, that they can begin to consistently practice tolerance in their daily lives.

It is important to begin values education work by first doing the activities on Active Listening with your group. Active listening is a foundational skill on which to build awareness of positive values. Once participants understand the importance of listening, they will be able to engage more effectively in the rest of the values activities.

Reflection points can then be used as examples when introducing activities, to provide context for the activities and trigger discussion. It can also be woven into activities to support and guide discussion and learning. And, of course, the facilitator may come up with other creative ways of using it.

Following the reflection points, there are a series of activities to support participants’ understanding and capacity to practice each value. The activities take varying amounts of time and you should consider how long it will take to complete each activity in your environment before beginning the session and allow adequate time to carry out the activity from start to finish.

The first activity in each section is usually designed to trigger discussion about participants’ personal experience with each value. By doing this, the participants become the ‘teachers’ or the resource people, and the facilitator’s role is just to draw information out of them. This is an important first activity because it engages each participant right from the beginning and they all feel that they can contribute and that they know something about the topic. Approaching values education in this way also boosts participants’ confidence as they realize that they have a lot of experience that they can offer. When participants feel worthy and confident about their abilities, they are also more likely to be able to practice positive values; self-compassion and self-respect lead to compassion and respect for others.

Many of the activities suggest the exact words you can use when conducting the activities. For example, you will often see the words ‘Ask:’ or ‘Say:’ followed by specific questions or statements. This is done to make things easier for you as a facilitator. Feel free to use your own words but it is a good idea to note the specific meaning of each word.

This module is intended as a guide to help and inspire facilitators to develop values awareness. The activities are flexible enough to be modified to suit different groups. By using the activities in this module it is hoped that facilitators will be inspired to invent their own activities to add to this module.


The sections in this module are structured in a way to allow facilitators to guide participants towards their own understanding of values. For participants to begin adopting positive values, facilitators are advised to follow the intent of the module, that is, to guide participants to come to their own understanding of values through interactive discussion and activities, and to avoid lecturing on values. The reason for this is that participants learn to adopt positives values as part of their everyday behavior when they are given the opportunity to describe the value in their own words and truly experience the meaning of each value for themselves.

Facilitators as Role Models

In order to effectively encourage support for positive values, teachers and facilitators need to become role models and demonstrate these values through their teaching/facilitation method and style, and through their interactions with people. Thus, the methodology for teaching values is just as important as the content. As an example, when teaching about peace the facilitator needs to emulate peace in their language and actions. To teach about peace while yelling angrily at participants would defeat the purpose of the lesson.

Related to this, when people feel valued, understood and respected in an environment where positive values such as compassion, cooperation and peace are consistently demonstrated, they are more likely to internalize values. When a person feels confident and good about themselves, they are more likely to be guided by positive values in their interactions with others. As such, values need to be taught in a values-based environment that supports the emotional, cognitive and spiritual dimensions of a person.

Positive values will begin to guide behavior not only when they are understood intellectually, but when they are experienced. It is therefore important that participants are encouraged to reflect on their experiences of values or the lack of certain values in their lives, and share these reflections with the group. With this approach, participants will realize that they already know a lot about values and have extensive experience with values. Then from here, it is easier for them to see the relevance of values education to their own lives and the ways they can begin to demonstrate positive values in their daily lives.

Based on this understanding of how values are learned, the facilitator is encouraged to avoid lecturing and giving long explanations of values. Rather, they should allow the participants to do most of the talking. The role of the facilitator is to trigger values awareness through asking questions and listening to answers. Activities in the following sections provide good examples of how to do this and the guidance on compassionate and active listening below will be a useful support to successfully implement these activities.


In a participant centered approach, if a participant asks the facilitator a question the facilitator can respond by saying: ‘What do you think the answer is?’ Most of the time the person asking the question will have some idea of an answer and they just need encouragement to express it. If the participant can voice the answer in their own words they are more likely to internalize the knowledge.

Compassionate and active listening is a key tool for a values facilitator. This method of listening has multiple impacts, including:
  • To improve understanding between people, and ultimately reduce conflict;
  • To inspire confidence and a sense of self-worth in the participants which enables them to practice values;
  • To identify sustainable solutions to problems.
What is active listening?

Active listening is a method of listening that involves demonstrating to the speaker that you have heard and understood what they are saying and how they are feeling. It is about being attentive and open, reflecting content and reflecting feeling.

Often when people ‘listen’ to another person, and while that person is speaking, they are already thinking about how they are going to respond. In doing so they are not really listening to the person who is talking or understanding the other person’s point of view or problem. In this way, they are not able to empathize with the person talking because they are too busy thinking about how whatever is being said relates to them. In addition to this, instead of listening, a common response is to interrupt, criticize, judge or offer solutions before understanding the nature of the problem.

The following is an example of a simple problem that could escalate into a bigger conflict:

If a person says ‘I hate Anishka. He always leaves his bike right in the middle of the path’

Some people might respond by saying ‘What’s the big deal? You can just walk another way!’ In this response you have ignored the person’s feelings and dismissed their problem as unimportant.

Alternatively, you could say ‘Do you feel angry with Anishka for leaving his bike there?’ In this response you are doing active listening. By reflecting what the person has said you are demonstrating that you have heard what she is saying and you are encouraging her to keep telling the story. For example, she might then say ‘Yes, it is so frustrating, the office manager has just stopped opening the front door in the mornings and now I have to enter through the back entrance and every day I am late for work because his bike is in the way and I have to move it.’ The listener might then say ‘You feel frustrated. The office manager wants you to use the back door but the bike is in the way.’ To this the speaker might say ‘Yes. I need to explain to Anishka that we have to use the back door to enter the office now.’Through a process of being actively listened to, the speaker has had an opportunity to express their feelings and calm down and then identify their own solution.

What are the key steps to listening actively and compassionately?
1 If you really do not have time to listen when someone comes to you and begins to tell a story, you can say ‘I really want to hear what you have to say but, I’m sorry, right now I don’t have the time, can we arrange a time to talk later?’ This is important because you won’t be able to follow the following steps of actively listening if you are distracted by the fact that you are late or should be doing something else.
2 Ensure that your body language demonstrates that you are focused on the speaker. Turn to face the speaker and even make eye contact (if this is appropriate). You may also like to sit next to someone, or if it is a small child bend down so you are at their level. Do what you have to do so that you are physically showing the speaker that you are listening. Looking away while the speaker talks or not paying attention in another way (for example glancing at your notes or looking out the window) signals to the speaker that you are not interested and it models the value of disrespect.
3 At a few intervals while the speaker is talking, repeat or paraphrase their words. Use some of their words and summarize the content. Remember that listening attentively is not just about listening to the words but it is also hearing how people feel. In doing this you will accurately understand what the person is saying and avoid them feeling frustrated or sad that they are not understood.

By repeating or paraphrasing their words you not only show that you have heard, but you encourage the person to continue talking which allows them to fully express how they are feeling and this helps them to make sense of their problem.

By using the speaker’s own words back at them, you are helping them to feel that what they have to say is understood and valid, thus inspiring self-confidence.
4 Always thank the speaker for sharing their story.
What to avoid?

Avoid judgment or criticism

If someone comes to you with a problem, avoid saying something like ‘Why did you do that? That was a silly thing to do?’ or ‘You are always attracting trouble.’ By actively listening, you will help the other person realize their own mistakes (if they have made any) and they will be more inclined to take responsibility for these mistakes if they recognize them themselves. If you judge and criticize them right from the beginning, the person is going to be defensive and less able to self-reflect. Judgment and criticism are especially unhelpful before you have heard the full story.

Avoid interruption

Allow the person to speak freely and tell the story in their own time. Avoid interrupting with questions like ‘How…?’ or ‘Why is that…?’

Avoid telling your own story

Very often conversations between two people look like monologues, where one person talks about themselves or what they are interested in, and then the other person responds by talking about themselves and what they are interested in. In this situation, nobody is ever properly listened to and this can lead to misunderstanding. When actively listening, your job is to listen and encourage the other person to speak. There will be an appropriate time in another conversation for you to be listened to.

Avoid giving too much sympathy

Avoid saying things like ‘Poor you…’ or ‘You are so unlucky that happens to you all the time.’ Comments like these make the person dwell on their weakness and feel less confident.

Avoid offering solutions

When someone comes to us to share a problem we often want to help by offering a solution. Most often, we do this before we really understand the problem. By following the above steps and actively listening, you are actually leading the speaker to find their own solution.

Like learning values, the best way to learn how to do active listening is to experience it. Before you start teaching active listening and using the activities with your group, practice your active listening skills with the next person who talks to you. Notice the ways in which the conversation is different to usual.

Respectful conflict resolution is another important tool for creating an environment where positive values can flourish. With respectful conflict resolutions skills, individuals can become socially responsible and promote harmony in their communities.

Conflict resolution skills need to become second nature to children and adults, if not the consequences are reflected by violence in the community and domestic violence; and small conflicts can escalate into widespread conflict with devastating impacts.

Assisting people to handle conflict involves helping them to identify their emotions and control how they express and act on their emotions. In addition to this they need to learn how to interpret other people’s emotions which involves being sensitive to others and acknowledging different points of view.

Active listening is a crucial component of conflict resolution processes. When conflicting parties are given the opportunity to voice their concerns and be listened to, they are more likely to calm down and put aside anger and aggression which fuels the conflict. Usually emotions, like anger, are only the surface layer of emotion that manifests during conflict. Beneath anger, there are core emotions such as fear, sadness or loneliness. If a person is able to express their core emotions through a process of active listening—where they feel understood and respected, their aggression, anger and urge to pursue the conflict, will often dissipate.

By facilitating active listening between conflicting parties, you can help each side to feel respected and understood and come to a mutually agreeable resolution while showing tolerance for one another. The following is a list of the stages and the steps you can take to mediate conflict whether it be a minor dispute or long standing bigger conflict.

Steps to Resolve Conflict

Stages of conflict resolution:

  • 01
    Listening to each other’s side of the story
  • 02
    Recognizing other persons feelings
  • 03
    Identify what each party wants
  • 04
    Making a commitment
During the process of conflict resolution, facilitators can go through the following:

Ask each party to the conflict if they want help to solve the conflict. If they both agree, begin the following 10 steps. Sit exactly in the middle of each party, avoid sitting closer to one party than the other.

Listening to each other’s side of the story
  • 1. Ask party A if they can explain what happened.
  • 2. Ask party B to repeat what party A just said.
  • 3. Ask party B if they can explain what happened.
  • 4. Ask party A to repeat what party B just said.
Recognizing the other person’s feelings
  • 5. Ask party A how they feel when that happened?
  • 6. Ask party B to repeat what party A just said?
  • 7. Ask party B how they feel when that happened?
  • 8. Ask party A to repeat what party B just said?
Identify what each party wants
  • 9. Ask party B what it is that he/she wants to happen.
  • 10. Ask party A to repeat what party B just said.
  • 11. Ask party B what it is that he/she wants to happen.
  • 12. Ask party B to repeat what party A just said.
Making a commitment
  • 13. Ask party A if it is possible to follow what party
    B says he/she wants or doesn’t want to happen?
  • 14. Ask party B if it is possible to follow what party
    A says he/she wants or doesn’t want to happen?
  • 15. Ask both parties if they can commit to the agreement.

If they say no, ask each party to think of something else they can do to solve the problem – remember the solution will be effective if it comes from the people involved in the conflict!

Collaborative rule making is a powerful tool where the participants come up with rules that they would like to see applied in the group. The whole group agrees on what rules will be included in a list that is posted on the wall for everyone to see. When participants identify the rules themselves, they are more likely to follow them.

Some steps for Collaborative and Values Based Rule Making

1. Encourage the participants to use positive language when setting the rules, for example rather than a rule expressed as ‘don’t talk while others are talking’ you could include ‘listen attentively when other people are speaking’. If a participant comes up with a rule using a negative sentence help them to create a positive way of saying what they want included in the list of rules.

2. The facilitator should also adhere to all the rules. For example, if one of the rules is ‘to finish on time,’ the facilitator should be a role model, end the meeting on time and also point out that he/she is following the group rules.

3. When the group comes up with the rules, they should also identify consequences if the rules are not followed. Please encourage them to think of positive consequences, such as ‘if you break the rules, you have to sing a song for the group.’

If during the sessions participants do not follow the rules, you can always ask them to refer to the list of rules posted on the wall.

Learning Log

If you do decide to use the module systematically from start to finish, it is a good idea to have participants develop a learning log. After each activity or after they have done a few activities in one section, ask them to spend a short amount of time filling out the log or writing in a diary (see an example of a learning log). Writing assists participants to reflect on and makes sense of what they have learned. It is also a way for them to retain the learning. If participants are willing to share, facilitators can read the writing logs as a means to monitor participants’ progress, evaluate what approaches work best and make any adjustments to the approach.


When participants are given the time to write freely they begin to make sense of complex reality and understand the different ways that values guide our behavior. It is also a means to express feeling, have new ideas and improve problem solving skills. Consider introducing journaling into any of the other activities in this book. You can take 10 minutes or more for journaling at the beginning or end of the session. A journal is not necessarily something that the facilitators reviews. Use your own judgment on what is appropriate.


You might know of films or documentaries related to values. Visual media can help deepen participants understanding of values and how they relate to themselves and the community. Remember to always engage the participants in discussion about the films or documentary, and have them write their reflections in a journal or short essay.


Stories play a strong role in communicating subtle messages about values. A good story is one that is engaging and also able to convey messages about values. Begin collecting stories that you can read to your group or use in other activities. If you enjoy writing you could also write your own stories to share with the group.


If you know of songs that relate to any of the values in this section it is a good idea to play them to the group at the beginning of the section. Songs create an atmosphere where people can reflect and really experience values. Listening to a song before having a discussion is also a way to get the group focused on the topic.