What's Happening in Character Education?

Encouraging Good Character on the First Day: 3 ways to prepare your classroom for excellence

Posted by Calvary Diggs on Thu, Aug 11, 2016 @ 09:08 AM

Character education rests on a simple principle: actions matter. In our day-to-day lives, acts of good character can ben
efit the self and others. Agreeing on that should be easy. What’s next is more difficult. How can we, as education professionals, help schools improve as environments that nurture character development?

If you haven’t recently read How Children Succeed, perused any stellar Promising Practices or reflected on your own experiences as a student, here’s a succinct summary: there are many ways to teach good character. And there’s no specific formula to doing it – at least not yet (fingers crossed and wishing on a star here, folks).

Lucky for those of you starting on that old agrarian calendar system, the staff at Character.org and I figured we could give you some useful tips. If you’re familiar with research in classroom management, that’s where the bulk of this originates. Classroom management (i.e., class structure, time allocation, and instructional practices) is an area where teachers often report wanting additional training. Improvements in classroom management practices are associated with positive impacts for student prosocial behavior (character in action) and academic outcomes. So, let’s get started!

Read More

Topics: character education, promising practices, Back to School

Professional Development at The National Forum on Character Education

Posted by Jess Gawrych on Thu, May 26, 2016 @ 09:05 AM

How do we build caring and productive communities?

Read More

Topics: character education, Professional Development, community

Maintaining the Connection between Moral and Performance Character

Posted by David Wangaard on Mon, Dec 28, 2015 @ 14:12 PM

by David B. Wangaard, Ed.D., The School for Ethical Education

Character.org has many resources that provide a clear definition of character education and effective practices. It is not unusual, however, to find varying interpretations by educators. Specifically, the distinction between moral and performance character has created a division within the field of character education. Some educators have chosen to focus singularly on performance character such as perseverance, creativity and positive attitude with the goal to market to parents these attributes as uniquely supporting student success. While those values may be well received by parents and the public, it is important to consider why we should include moral values and sustain the connection between moral and performance character.

Read More

Topics: character education, moral character, core values

Using Advisory Effectively: A Case Study

Posted by Sarah Novick on Mon, Aug 24, 2015 @ 08:08 AM

By Sarah Novick

Advisory can be a great vehicle to implement character education. 

I recently had the privilege of getting to know students, teachers, teacher-advisors, and administrators involved with revamping an advisory program at San Francisco University High School (SFUHS).

For about 20 years SFUHS had an advisory period in its schedule. When I got to know the school a few years ago, students described advisory “a chill out time,” “a time to eat really good snack,” and a place where they could “hang out with friends.” While this non-academic break during a busy Friday after a stressful week is useful, especially for high achieving, stressed-out students at a rigorous high school, administrators wanted to create the infrastructure to better support students’ character, social, and emotional development. In this post I want to take this opportunity to share some of my insights into their successes as they revised their program. 

Read More

Topics: character education, Relationship Building, Caring Community, Advisory

Character Education—Comprehensive, Intentional and Proactive

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Tue, Aug 11, 2015 @ 08:08 AM

By Becky Sipos 

At Liberty Corner Elementary School (NJ), students know the focus is not only on academics, but also on how they are going to leave the school as a person. That focus apparently is working. Comments from the middle school say that “the Liberty Corner School kids are the most well-rounded, best kids in the building.” Eric Rauschenberger, Liberty Corner guidance counselor, said, “The greatest compliment we get year after year is about the kind of kids we are sending. It makes us feel validated that what we’re doing is sticking.” Kindergarten teacher, Trisha Bubnowski, said, “We’ve gelled as a school community so that when you go out in public and see Liberty Corner School kids, you hear people say character education is what sets us apart.”

How does Liberty Corner achieve these results? A big part of their success is due to principle 3 (of Character.org’s 11 Principles of Effective Character Education): “The school uses a comprehensive, intentional, and proactive approach to character development.” They really work to include character development in everything they do.

Read More

Topics: character education, 11 Principles

The Magic of Camp

Posted by Matthew Smith on Tue, Jun 23, 2015 @ 09:06 AM

by Matthew Smith

“Notes on Camp” is one of my favorites episodes of the NPR show This American Life. That’s probably not surprising since I run a leadership camp for teens. Host Ira Glass explains the purpose of the program:

Today on our program, we try to bridge the gap between camp people and non-camp people. We try to understand: What is the cult-like, mystical connection some people feel with their summer camps?

He asks David, a popular camp counselor, a sophomore in college, and a former camper to explain:

“Camp … it’s just … it’s #1 with everything I do I guess. That’s like … camp is just … it’s … it’s kind of ridiculous but it’s, like, everything. It … it changes people’s lives. Like …  people base their life around camp. Like … I would not be who I am if it wasn’t for camp.”

Apparently, camp can be tough to explain.  Sometimes, people compare it to magic. But Scott Brody, veteran camp owner thinks “It is time to retire ‘the magic of camp.’”

Scott has been traveling the country for the past few years, driving home this message. “Calling it ‘magic’ devalues the importance of creating an intentional experience for children, and alienates parents who have never experienced camp.”

Ok; but then what is it? While there are all sorts of camps focusing on various fun activities and skills, what makes them special are the relationships and skills that campers acquire. They learn social emotional skills and character development.

Camp is social and emotional learning (SEL) and character development.

Put simply, SEL means developing interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. Character adds performance and ethical values to the mix. Things like perseverance and integrity.

This. Is. Camp.

Read More

Topics: character education, 11 Principles, Camp

Not Divergent: Easily Measuring Students’ Character

Posted by Mark Liston on Tue, May 26, 2015 @ 12:05 PM

“So what makes you such a big deal?” asked Garen, the blunt 8th grader. I’m not exactly a rock star. I was speaking at his school about my tool that measures character strengths: the Character Growth Index (CGI).  I found Garen’s question entertaining.  “I developed CGI to see if you are ‘DIVERGENT’!”  His eyes bugged as he replied, “Scary but cool!”

Divergent is a best-selling book series among teens and now a movie with a sequel.  In a post-apocalyptic world (what else?), teens are tested for their greatest talent and must choose one of five groups to be in for the rest of their lives.  If they don’t qualify in the group they choose, they are either cast out or killed. Yes, kind of scary but a cool movie.

Character Growth Index isn’t really like the aptitude test in the movie.  What makes it attractive to educators is that, according to Drs. Marvin Berkowitz and Tom Lickona, CGI is, “…to our knowledge, the only valid, reliable test of character virtues for middle and high school students.”

Educators know that talent enables achievement but character sustains success, defines an individual’s reputation, and is a primary indicator of happiness and flourishing. Knowing our students’ character strength levels will provide a reliable indicator of their future success and well-being (Lippman, Moore, & McIntosh, 2011).  Better yet, if our students’ character strengths can be identified and measured over time, we have data to prove our character instruction is working… as we do in our academic instruction.

The character education movement is over 20 years old yet has never developed a character test.  Seems strange, doesn’t it? If you have ever tried to measure character, you will learn quickly WHY this is true:  Measuring character is really tricky!

Read More

Topics: character education, assessment and character education

Connecting Character and Content

Posted by Gary Smit on Wed, Apr 29, 2015 @ 11:04 AM

by Gary Smit

Finding time for building character in schools and in students within the context of the academic curriculum can be a challenge. Since school is the first social structure the child encounters, the setting provides an excellent opportunity for character building. However, this must be more than a poster on the wall, a favorite maxim to share or selection of a monthly student of character.

Richard Jones has said, “It is primarily the teacher’s responsibility to engage the students, as opposed to the teacher expecting students to come to class naturally and automatically engaged.”  With this understanding, character building requires a proactive approach through planned learning experiences and activities within the classroom. By being part of a school-wide initiative, we realize that character and values should be weaved through every aspect of school life, including the academic curriculum, co-curricular activities, staff modeling, and all human relationships.

How then can character traits and values be taught within the context of the school curriculum? I have come to understand that there are four ways for the classroom teacher to directly instill values in students, regardless of the students' ages.

Read More

Topics: character education, character education in curriculum, Curriculum Integration

Why We Don't Have the Smartest Kids (or Best Schools) in the World

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Thu, Apr 23, 2015 @ 08:04 AM

by Rebecca Bauer

When I began reading The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley, I had no idea that a book could be so inspiring and depressing at the same time.

After discovering America’s average scores on the international PISA tests, Ripley started to wonder what factors contributed to a country’s success. Why did certain countries outperform others?

She knew examining the data alone would only take her so far, so in search of answers, she followed the stories of 3 American students as they spent a year in countries known for their high quality education systems, South Korea, Finland and Poland. Ripley supplements their stories with research and weaves in connections to previous education reforms in America. What is so empowering and alarming about this book, is Ripley really offers answers to the tough questions and promising solutions.

Read More

Topics: character education, international education, Academics,

Teacher Leadership: Opportunities for your own Moral Action

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Fri, Mar 27, 2015 @ 15:03 PM

As teachers think about the 11 Principles, it can be easy to focus solely on the students. Helping students to become smart and good citizens is the ultimate goal of character education, but helping teachers become smart and good citizens is an essential part of the process.

What you do as a teacher matters even more than what you say. Serving as a good role model for moral action and citizenship will inspire your students to do the same. In February, Becky wrote a piece on teachers voicing their opinions on ESEA Reform and the importance of contacting your local representatives, but there are many other ways that you can get involved.

From leading a service learning initiative to coaching a sports team, there are daily opportunities to participate in cultivating moral action in our youth. Sometimes, standing up for a cause or initiative you believe in can be the most meaningful way to take action. I had a teacher who taught an entire lesson silently, in honor of our Gay-Straight Alliance’s participation in the Day of Silence. A number of my high school teachers and college professors were actively engaged in Ferguson protests. Students remember the instances where teachers take a stand. Now Character.org has a cause that we think you might be passionate enough about to take a stand.

Dr. Edwin Powell, a professor at Howard University has created a petition to establish a Character Development and Citizenship Education Council in Washington, D.C. and he needs your help. I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Powell to learn more about this important initiative.

Read More

Topics: character education, Advocacy