What's Happening in Character Education?

Leaving Your Ex(trinsics)

Posted by Marvin Berkowitz on Thu, Nov 10, 2016 @ 09:11 AM


“Leaving Your Ex(trinsics)” is the title of Chapter 6 in my book You Can’t Teach Through a Rat, and the one I most frequently recommend to educators, because the issue of intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation seems the most nagging and intractable issue that educators in general and character educators in particular struggle with.  There are multiple reasons to struggle with this issue.  On the positive side: (1) it is the point of Character.org’s 7th principle in their 11 Principles of Effective Character Education (which is used to evaluate schools nationally for excellence in character education, namely Schools of Character); (2) it is after all the point of character education; that is, getting kids to internalize core values so they become part of who they are and take them wherever they go in life; and (3) it works.

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Topics: intrinsic motivation

Character and Academics--How to Integrate

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Mon, Aug 15, 2016 @ 13:08 PM

I’ve been thinking a lot about our focus this month on integrating academics and character education in the classroom. We truly believe they should be intertwined, but sometimes when I go to a school for a site visit evaluation, I observe lessons that seem like were planned just for my visit, as if someone had said, “Be sure to teach a character lesson today.”

I like it best when I get to observe a challenging academic lesson that engages the students and incorporates the natural intersections with character that most content contains. Exploring the ethical issues in science, debating historical decisions, and of course, exploring character traits and ethical dilemmas in literature are obvious choices, but there are ethical considerations in every subject.
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Topics: character, teachers, intrinsic motivation

A Collaborative Curriculum: The Strengths of PBL

Posted by Pam Mitchell on Thu, Jan 7, 2016 @ 08:01 AM

by Pam Mitchell

Beginning the Journey

Mockingbird Elementary embarked on a Project Based Learning (PBL) journey seven years ago after observing PBL in action at  New Tech High @ Coppell, another school in our district. We had already been focusing on Rigor, Relevance, and Relationship (Dr. Bill Daggett) as a district, and we had also been conducting effective service learning projects for several years. Mockingbird educators were planning challenging, authentic learning experiences as well as outstanding service learning projects, so PBL was a natural progression for our innovative educators.

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Topics: character education in curriculum, intrinsic motivation, Academics,, Curriculum Integration

My Son is Not My Dog

Posted by Marvin Berkowitz on Tue, Nov 24, 2015 @ 08:11 AM

By Marvin Berkowitz, Ph.D.

It was early in my career when I first had to confront the idea of how we think about kids. As an undergraduate at the University of Buffalo over 40 years ago, I took Willis Overton’s developmental psychology class, which focused on a chapter he was writing with Hayne Reese on what they called “models of man.” It essentially explored the assumptions about fundamental human nature implicit in the leading psychological theories of the day. And it starkly contrasted a behaviorist (mechanistic) approach from a constructivist (organismic) approach. The former sees the person as a recipient of external inputs (experience) that accrue molecularly. People are not initiators of interactions nor interpreters of experience, merely the passive recipients of and responders to what the world does to us. And development happens smoothly as these bits of experience add up, much like the formation of a stalactite in a cave. It is largely a mechanical cause and effect process. The great thinkers in this tradition are B.F. Skinner and Ivan Pavlov.

Quite differently, the constructivist approach sees the child as an innate meaning maker. Even the newborn infant interprets experience. And initiates interactions with the world simply to help make sense of it. We develop not in straight lines but in spurts and steps and in stages that may be more different in kind than in amount. We are innate scientists trying to make sense of a complex world. The great thinker in this tradition is Jean Piaget.

So which are we? What is our true nature?

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Topics: intrinsic motivation, PBIS

Improving Motivation through Student Voice & Choice

Posted by Tamra Nast on Thu, Nov 19, 2015 @ 05:11 AM


By Tamra Nast, Birmingham Covington School Counselor
Edited by Lori Soifer, Michigan State Schools of Character Coordinator

There is no owner’s manual for parents and teachers to tell us how to help each child grow into ethical, empathetic and responsible learners, leaders and citizens. Students come to us with unique abilities and talents. I believe the development of self- motivation is a lifelong skill, and one that can be a powerful force in a person’s life.

Principle 7, of the 11 Principles of Character Education, emphasizes intrinsic motivation over extrinsic rewards. In other words, doing the right thing for no other reason than because it is the right thing to do. True satisfaction and joy come from finding meaning and purpose in what you do in life. This principle emphasizes true heart change over compliance, celebrating and recognizing over rewarding.

Meaningful service learning (embedded in the curriculum), allowing students' voice and choice, and implementing a discipline system focused on learning, fuel the growth of self-motivation in students.


Last year, a group of 30 middle school students from Birmingham Covington School, attended the
Character.org National Forum. They came to teach teachers about their service-learning project. What started as a local water project focused on sustainability grew into a global project focused on eliminating poverty in rural sub-Saharan Africa. The depth, breadth and scope of this project grew exponentially, all because their teacher, in fostering students’ self-motivation, allowed the class voice and choice, and nurtured each student’s talents to determine how best they could meet the goals of the project.

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Topics: Service learning, intrinsic motivation

The Pitfalls of Extrinsic Motivation

Posted by Terry Gill on Tue, Nov 17, 2015 @ 06:11 AM

By Terry Gill B.Ed., B.Sc.N., Student, Ph.D. Program, Educational Psychology,  Walden University

With society’s preoccupation on success, it is not surprising that children see value in the pursuit of good grades and rewards. Unfortunately in this pursuit of extrinsic rewards (controlled motivation), students may lose appreciation for the joy of learning (intrinsic motivation).

Instead of focusing on the students’ lack of motivation, we must assess our teaching practices or attitudes that can undermine a student’s motivation to learn. We must understand how we can empower students by focusing on what motivates them. Failing to empower students, ignoring their abilities and interests, can result in low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy.

As an educator, I have come up with the 6 Cs of character that are essential in providing an intrinsically motivated learning environment.  The formula for change is (6C+s = change)

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Topics: intrinsic motivation

Resource Roundup: Tools for Motivating Your Students

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Mon, Nov 2, 2015 @ 08:11 AM

When do you feel most motivated?

It’s unlikely your answer is, when I’m studying for an arbitrary standardized test or completing activities that require rote memorization. Perhaps you feel most motivated when you’ve set clear goals for yourself that are meaningful to you or when you’re working on a project that draws on a passion of yours.

This month’s resource roundup focuses on how you can truly engage students in meaningful ways so that students will eager and motivated leaders and learners.

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Topics: intrinsic motivation, Resource Roundup, Character Resource Roundup, student engagement

Rules and Incentives

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Mon, Oct 28, 2013 @ 08:10 AM

Second in a series by Rebecca Bauer, a graduate of a School of Character, who is now chronicling her student teacher experience.

Like most classrooms, we spent a good deal of time the first week discussing rules. We brainstormed a list together. The lead teacher wrote up a consolidated version and then every student signed it. We asked each student to choose the rule they thought was most important and to write a sentence about why it was important. One student did not finish in time and took his work out with him to complete it during recess. The boy decided that the most important rule was to listen.

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Topics: character education, student teaching, intrinsic motivation, PBIS