Personal Values in Postgraduate University Student Engagement

Personal Values in Postgraduate University Student Engagement: a Creative Participatory Action Research Project

School:  Health in Social Science

Team Members: Susannah Johnston, Mark Hoelterhoff, Heema Ajeet Gokani (RA), Rea Michalopoulou (RA), Emma Leyland (RA)


Our personal values are guiding principles for our behaviour; they represent how we want to engage with the world and the types of strengths and qualities we hope to develop. Previous literature suggests students who adopt a values-based approach to education have improved grade point averages and elevated commitment to projects when faced with adversity.   Furthermore, when values are paired with mastery and performance, we see improved academic performance and reduced performance avoidance.

This project will support students to relate to their education in a personally meaningful manner by inspiring a values-based approach. An initial event will support students to identify, clarify, and prioritise their values. Students will then be recruited to participate in a photovoice study, capturing images that connect their personal values with their education experience. At a weekend retreat, participants will then: (1) create personal photographic narratives that speak to the research themes; (2) reflect on the project’s impact on their prioritisation of personal values, engagement with values in the educational setting, and personal transformation across the study; and (3) design a curricular resource to enable other students to benefit from a similar values-based programme within the university context. The proposed curricular resource will be developed by postgraduate research assistants for use across the university.

Finally, in a dedicated dissemination event, a photo exhibition will showcase the creative student narratives and the student-developed resource, providing an opportunity for critical dialogue about the role of personal values in education and at the University of Edinburgh. 

Final project report

Download the final project report (PDF)