A Comprehensive Approach to Character Development

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A Comprehensive Approach to Character Development[edit]

Strategies for Character Development[edit]

In order to develop character in cognitive, emotional and behavior dimensions, schools need a comprehensive approach. A comprehensive approach challenges schools to: (a) identify the character development opportunities present in every phase of classroom and school life and (b) plan deliberate ways to use those opportunities to foster character development and to minimize school practices that are antithetical to good character.


Lickona in his theory defines a comprehensive approach in terms of twelve mutually supportive strategies, nine that are classroom-based and three that are schoolwide.


These methods value and include the following:

  • Direct approaches (e.g., explaining the virtues, modeling them leading student in the study of virtues, and encouraging them to practice the virtues.
  • Indirect approaches (e.g., providing real moral experiences such as cooperative learning, conflict resolution, and service learning that help students understand and practice the virtues).
  • Adult authority and student responsibility
  • Passing on a legacy of moral wisdom and developing critical thinking
  • Helping students practice doing the right thing in clear cases
  • Help students figure out integrative solutions to moral problems where virtues conflict.


Classroom Strategies[edit]

Below are the nine classroom strategies with a brief description.


1. The Teacher as Caregiver, Moral Model, and Moral Mentor

In classrooms, as in families, our moral impact on children depends greatly on the quality of our relationship with them. In their relationships with their students, teachers can exert positive moral influence in three ways: respecting and caring about their students, setting a good example, and providing directive moral guidance.


2. Creating a Caring Classroom Community

Children need caring attachments to adults, but they also need caring attachments to each other. When their own needs for belonging and affirmation are met, they are more likely to care about others.
At any grade level, teachers can take steps to cerate a caring classroom community by helping students to: (a) know each other as persons; (b) respect, care about, and affirm each other; and (c) feel a valued membership in the group.


3. Moral Discipline

Discipline, if it is to serve character development, must help students develop moral reasoning, self-discipline, and respect for others. Rules should be established in a way that enables students to see the moral standards (e.g. courtesy and caring) behind the rules. The emphasis should not be on extrinsic rewards and punishment but on following the rules because it’s the right thing to do: because it respects the rights and needs of others.


4. Creating a Democratic Classroom Environment

This means involving students, on a regular basis, in shared decision-making that increases their responsibility for making the class a good place to be and to learn. The chief means of creating a democratic classroom is the class meeting.


5. Teaching Virtues Through the Curriculum

Teachers should look at their curriculum and ask, “What are the moral questions and character lessons already present in the subject I teach? How can I make those questions and lessons salient for my students?” All teachers can engage students in the study of men and women who have achieved moral or intellectual distinction in their fields.


6. Cooperative Learning

Cooperative learning gives students regular practice in developing important social and moral competencies, such as the habit of considering the perspectives of others, the ability to work as part of a team, and the capacity to appreciate others, at the same time that they are learning academic material. Cooperative learning also contributes to the development of a cohesive and caring classroom community by breaking down ethnic, racial, and other social barriers and by integrating every student into the small social structure of the cooperative group.
Cooperative learning, in order to be effective as an academic and character-building strategy must be designed to include both interdependence and individual accountability.


7. The Conscience of Craft

Our personal character often affects the lives of others through the quality of the work we do. When we do our work well, other people benefit; when we do it poorly, other suffer. One of the most important “voice” of conscience therefore is the conscience of craft, the voice that says: “Do a good job.” It is a mark of people’s character when they take care to perform their jobs and other tasks well.
A student’s schoolwork affords the opportunity to develop this conscience of craft and the work-related qualities of character: (a) self-discipline, including the ability to delay gratification to pursue future goals; (b) persistence in the face of discouragement; (c) dependability, including a public sense of work as affecting the lives of others; (d) diligence; and (e) responsibility (including making the most of one’s education). Teachers help students develop these work-related character qualities when they set a good example of responsible work through their own teaching (e.g., being well prepared and on time, returning student work promptly with appropriate feedback, and giving extra help where needed), combine high expectations and high support, provide a curriculum that engages all learners, and assign regular and meaningful homework.


8. Ethical Reflection

This strategy focuses on developing the various qualities that constitute the cognitive side of character. Especially important is teaching students what the virtues are, how their habitual practice will lead to a more fulfilling life, and how each of us must take reasonability for developing our own character.


9. Teaching Conflict Resolution

Teaching students how to resolve conflicts without force or intimidation is a vitally important part of character education for two reasons: (a) conflicts not settled fairly will prevent or erode a moral community in the classroom; and (b) without conflict resolution skills, students will be morally handicapped in their interpersonal relationships now and later in life and may end up contributing to violence in school and society.


Schoolwide Strategies[edit]

Below are the three schoolwide strategies with a brief description.


1. Caring Beyond the Classroom

Character education must extend students’ caring beyond the classroom into larger and larger spheres. Students can be helped to develop their awareness of the needs of others, their desire to help, and the skills of helping through exposure to altruistic role models and through continuing opportunities for service in their schools and communities. Service opportunities with potential develop character are those that involve students in face-to-face helping relationships so that they experience the fulfillment of touching another’s life.


2. Creating a Positive Moral Culture in the School

The moral culture of a school is defined by its operative values; ones that are reflected in actual school practices and behavior (e.g., do people respect each other? help each other? pay attention to moral problems in the school environment?). Operative values are true norms: what people expect of everybody else and are willing to help uphold. The school’s moral culture is important because it affects moral behavior (a positive moral culture pulls behavior up, whereas a negative culture pulls it down) and because it affects character development (a positive moral culture makes it easier to develop good character).
Creating a positive moral culture in the school involves defining, modeling, teaching, and upholding the school’s character expectations in all areas of school life. Part of this effort is mobilizing the peer culture on the side of virtue. One of the most effective ways to do that is partici8patory school democracy that involves students in sharing responsibility for the moral environment of the school.


3. Recruiting Parents and the Community as Partners in Character Education

Three ideas here are key: (a) Parents are a child’s first and most important moral teachers, and the school must do everything it can to support parents in this role; (b) parents must in turn support the school’s efforts to develop good character; (c) The impact of the school-parent partnership is enhanced when wider community (e.g., churches, businesses, youth organizations, local government, and the media) promotes the virtues that make up good character.


Additional Design Guidelines[edit]

In addition to Lickona’s strategies, Simonson and Maushak (2001) have drawn on findings from a number of studies to create a series of six guidelines for effective design of attitude instruction. These are:

  1. Make the instructional realistic, relevant, and technically stimulating
  2. Present new information
  3. Present persuasive messages in a credible manner
  4. Elicit purposeful emotional involvement
  5. Involve the learner in planning, production or delivery of the message
  6. Provide post-instruction discusion or critique opportunities


Relating to the behavioral aspects of attitude learning, Smith and Ragan (1999) emphasize the importance of three key instructional approaches:

  1. Demonstration of the desired behavior by a respected role model
  2. Practice of the desired behavior, often through role playing
  3. Reinforcement of the desired behavior


Assessment in the Character Education[edit]

Lickona states that as the character education movement gains momentum, questions of evaluation loom larger. In thinking about evaluation, it is helpful to identify three kinds of results schools hope for when they undertake character education:


1. Improvements in student character that can be observed or documented within the school environment.

Schools often begin character education programs because they hope to make the school a better place by effecting a positive change in student attitudes and behavior. Evaluation in this area asks questions such as: Has student attendance gone up? Fights and suspensions gone down? Vandalism declined? Drug incidents diminished? Attitudes toward cheating, and self-reported frequency of cheating, improved? Once can assess such before-and-after-the-program differences by keeping records of observable behavior and by anonymous questionnaires that measure student moral judgment (for example, “Is cheating on a test wrong?”), moral commitment (“Would you cheat if you were sure you wouldn’t get caught?”), and self-reported moral behavior, (“How many ties have you cheated on a test in the past year?”).


2. Character effects beyond the school environment.

This is a measure of generalization. Here evaluation asks: to what extent do students, when they are outside the school, engage in prosocial behaviors such as helping others in need? Stand up for a moral belief? Refrain from antisocial behaviors such as shoplifting? Refrain for high-risk behaviors such as drinking and driving and sexual intercourse? These behaviors outside the school environment, like in-school behaviors, can be assessed through anonymous self-report surveys.


3. Life outcomes after graduation.

This is a measure of the school’s enduring effects on character. To what do graduates become faithful spouses and responsible parents? Law-abiding citizens? Productive and contributing members of their communities? This third area can be assessed only through longitudinal research typically beyond the capacity of schools themselves. Other agencies can and must undertake such evaluations.



Task: Check Your Understanding of Character Development Guidelines, Strategies & Assessment[edit]

Now that you have reviewed strategies, guidelines, and assessment for character education, let's stop a moment to see what you have learned in this section. Please complete the following worksheet.

In the Character Education Designer’s Shoes[edit]

Lesson Summary[edit]

  • The affective domain is concerned primarily with feelings, attitudes and behaviors
  • In educational contexts, 'character' is often considered to refer to how 'good' a person is, whether or not a peson exhibits pesonal qualities which fit with tose considred desireable by a society. Commonly emphasized qualities include honesty, respect, and responsibility.
  • In its underlying philosophy, charachter education asserts the reality of objective moral truth, the notion that some tings are truly right and others truly wrong. Objective moral truths have a claim on our conscience and behavior.
  • The three goals of character education are: 1) Good People; 2) Good Schools; 3)Good Society.
  • Six Pillars of Character are: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship.
  • Character education also involves the cognitive, psychomotor, and interpersonal domains.
  • Nine classroom and three schoolwide strategies have been identified for designing effective character education instruction.
  • Personal responsibility, self-disciplines, and participation can be assessed in character education.



Additional Resources[edit]

References[edit]



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