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Understanding Values in Context

Submitted by Lori Britt

This activity highlights how the ordering of values can change according to context. Often, discussion groups are not in conflict over the existence of specific values, but they are in tension about how these values are ordered differently for different discussants.

average rating is 5 out of 5, based on 3 votes, rating(s)
Peace sign formed with candles

Learning Goals

  • Understand how we rank and order values based on the context or issue.

  • Understand that we sometimes have very different interpretations of a value.


Set Up: Prepare for the Activity

As the facilitator, select approximately ten values. Each value will be written on a slip of paper. Provide each participant with a set of common values written on small slips of paper. Sample values include: Security, Community, Prosperity, Responsibility, Inclusion, Equality, Tradition, Opportunity, Justice, Freedom, Innovation.

The facilitator should select values that are relevant for the discussion group.

Begin by introducing the learning goals of this activity.

Step One: Individually Identify and Rank Top 5 Values (5 min)

Distribute the sets of values to each participant. Ask them to rank these values by moving around the slips of paper. Their most important values should be at the top.

Ask them to identify their top five values. They will use these five slips of paper for the next steps of this activity.

Step Two: Share and Define Values (10 min)

Ask volunteers to name their top values. Once a few participants have shared their top values and some common themes emerge, invite participants to discuss how they defined these values. This can be done in small groups, if needed. The goal is to acknowledge that common values are often interrupted differently.

Step Three: Rank and Define Values in Response to Particular Issues (20 min)

The facilitator will Introduce a series of issues, such as: Gun Legislation, Loan Forgiveness, Vaccination, the Death Penalty.

For each topic, ask participants to re-sort their values. Discuss:

  • Did your top values shift? When? Why?

  • Did you reinterpret what any of the values meant in the context of a particular issue?

Step Four: Debrief as as Full Group (10 min)


  • How can understanding that many people share similar values but prioritize them differently help us work together in groups?

  • How might collaborative groups explore and find common values?





Introduction to Collaborative Discussion

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average rating is 5 out of 5

August 30, 2023 at 3:29:22 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

Shannon Wheatley Hartman

December 7, 2022 at 6:43:42 PM

This activity and the previous (1.5 Understanding Values) are great for difficult conversations. I would use this as the prep work before diving into potentially tricky conversations. It helps participants to look for the values that inform opinions (and not just dismiss ideas that they don't like).

average rating is 5 out of 5


November 29, 2022 at 1:41:05 AM

Activity 1.6 is very innovative. It helps demonstrate how the prioritization of different values we hold changes according to context.

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