Character Education

Character education refers to teaching children to develop morally, not just intellectually. The term is also known, variously, as social and emotional learning, life skills education, ethical reasoning and emotional quotient (E.Q.) teaching. Character education is meant to help children develop as socially acceptable beings who incorporate notions of civic duty and moral standards.

Schools and other institutions can avail themselves of the vast array of character-education programs on the market. Typically, these programs list principles or values that are meant to be memorized and implemented. There is some commonality among the core values, but there is not one centralized list. There is also no common standard for evaluating these programs.

Teaching character entered the education system as a result of concerns that the world is changing rapidly, with morality declining at an even pace. The issue has been hotly debated, with detractors saying the public schools are not responsible for moral teachings. Supporters maintain that public education in America was created with the mission of fostering civic virtue in children. They contend that if the school's role is to preserve democracy, character education is crucial to the country's future.

Proponents of character education in schools point out that families and communities often fail in instilling ethics and values in their children. In their place, character education can be embedded in school curricula. In this model, teachers are central to instilling positive traits. There is no separate curriculum to teach character; rather the concepts are intertwined within all the subjects taught. The classroom acts as an arena in which the teacher reinforces, models and practices positive character traits.

Educators who seek to model excellent character should incorporate and exhibit the following facets:

• Generosity of time and willingness to commit to others

• Mutual cooperation and respect for others

• Provision of opportunities for community service to students

• Understanding of skills needed to motivate students to learn

Thus, teacher-education programs should be preparing teachers to be proficient in moral education. The programs should concentrate on ethics, providing examples of how teachers should personally behave, and how they can enable students to become moral agents and exemplars.

Research performed at the University of California at Berkeley demonstrates the importance of character education. Marian Diamond et al. (1998) showed that children's brain growth and learning are positively influenced by an enriched environment. Character, or moral excellence and firmness, and integrity, which is firm adherence to a code of moral values, can be included in educational programs that promote brain development. Effective teachers can inculcate character education from an early age.

Teachers can introduce character into the classroom by creating a sense of community. They can foster positive interactions among their students by asking them to write positive notes about one another and by teaming up to work together on projects. Classroom rituals, such as reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, also promote a sense of togetherness. Allowing students to contribute to the curriculum, such as by presenting something they have written, is another method of creating community because it gives them a sense of belonging.

Another method of introducing character is by focusing on manners. Educators who treat their students with respect, apologizing for mistakes and demonstrating good conduct, encourage their students to display good manners.

Students can also be taught ethical decision-making within the course of the daily curriculum. Presenting students with conflicts in literary works, or in scientific research, allows them to consider all sides of a situation. When students have to write about conflicts, it allows them to reflect on the skills needed to make ethical decisions.

Incorporating character education into schools can have the added benefit of reconnecting disaffected youth. Students who feel disconnected are unlikely to demonstrate pro-social behavior. By instilling a sense of community within the classroom, schools give students a sense of connectedness to others and, by extension, a sense of meaning that is derived from contributing to something larger than oneself. The goal of instilling character education within a school's teachings is to help the school build bridges among people and to grant its students a sense of responsibility toward others and a desire to contribute to the greater good.

Character Education: Selected full-text books and articles

School-Based Character Education in the United States
Smith, Brian H.
Childhood Education, Vol. 89, No. 6, November-December 2013
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
What Works in Character Education
Berkowitz, Marvin W.; Bier, Melinda C.
Journal of Research in Character Education, Vol. 5, No. 1, January 1, 2007
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Implementing an Authentic Character Education Curriculum
Lewis, Sally V.; Robinson, Edward H.,, III; Hayes, B. Grant.
Childhood Education, Vol. 87, No. 4, Summer 2011
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Character Education: Who Is Responsible?
Anderson, Donna R.
Journal of Instructional Psychology, Vol. 27, No. 3, September 2000
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Learning for Life: Moral Education Theory and Practice
Andrew Garrod.
Praeger Publishers, 1992
Connecting Character to Conduct: Helping Students Do the Right Things
Rita Stein; Roberta Richin; Richard Banyon; Francine Banyon; Marc Stein.
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2000
Building Learning Communities with Character: How to Integrate Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning
Bernard Novick; Jeffrey S. Kress; Maurice J. Elias.
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2002
EXPERIENCING CHARACTER EDUCATION: Student and Teacher Voices
Leming, James S.; Yendol-Hoppey, Diane.
Journal of Research in Character Education, Vol. 2, No. 1, January 1, 2004
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Relationship of Character Education Implementation and Academic Achievement in Elementary Schools
Benninga, Jacques S.; Berkowitz, Marvin W.; Kuehn, Phyllis; Smith, Karen.
Journal of Research in Character Education, Vol. 1, No. 1, January 1, 2003
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Teaching Character Education to Students with Behavioral and Learning Disabilities through Mentoring Relationships
Muscott, Howard S.; O'Brien, Sara Tails.
Education & Treatment of Children, Vol. 22, No. 3, August 1999
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Conflict, Contradiction, and Contrarian Elements in Moral Development and Education
Larry Nucci.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005
Moral Education and Pluralism
Mal Leicester; Celia Modgil; Sohan Modgil.
Falmer Press, 2000
The Death of Character: Moral Education in an Age without Good or Evil
James Davison Hunter.
Basic Books, 2000
World Class: Teaching and Learning in Global Times
William Gaudelli.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003
Librarian’s tip: "Character Education" begins on p. 82
The Ethical Teacher
Elizabeth Campbell.
Open University Press, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "The Teacher as a Moral Educator"
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