Academic journal article Journal of Character Education

Minnesota's Community Voices and Character Education Project

Academic journal article Journal of Character Education

Minnesota's Community Voices and Character Education Project

Article excerpt

The Minnesota Community Voices and Character Education Project (CVCE) was a collaborative project among researchers and educators that provided both a systematic and holistic view of character as a set of skills, in accordance with ancient and modern views, and a novice-to-expert view of character cultivation. The model provided maximum flexibility for local implementation while using rigorous evaluation methods in measuring effects. An overview of the project is presented, including the research-based framework and the evaluation of program outcomes. Multivariate analysis of variance was conducted on gain scores from pre-post student assessments of climate and individual variables, comparing program schools with a comparison school. Results were significant for program schools who implemented with more breadth and focus.

The Community Voices and Character Education Project (CVCE)1 was a federally funded project sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Education (formerly the Department of Children, Families, and Learning) and designed by a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota in collaboration with educators across Minnesota. The project was funded to develop an approach to character education at the middle school level. We discuss the research framework and the collaborative model and then present evidence for the model's effectiveness.


In response to perceived needs in the field, there were four overarching goals that drove the CVCE project design. One was to provide an integrative view of character formation that crossed traditions, finding resonance between ancient views and contemporary perspectives, traditional character education and Kohlberg's rational moral education. Although there are other integrative approaches (e.g., Lickona, 2004; Solomon, Watson, Schaps, Battistich, & Solomon, 1990), the CVCE approach is more thorough and systematic in its content recommendations and more prescriptive in its pedagogical approach, both of which are addressed in the subsequent goals for the project. second, CVCE attempted to provide a holistic, process view of moral character, in light of the fact that there are many formulations of virtuous character and few criteria against which to judge them. Whereas most character education programs tacitly endorse a trait understanding of character, the CVCE model was formulated from well-attested literatures in social science. Character development is, according to this view, not a matter of developing traits of character, bur rather developing a set of inter and intrapersonal skills that one hones towards expertise. Third, CVCE sought to integrate up-to-date pedagogy into a general approach to cultivating character. The CVCE model steers a middle course between traditionalists who urge a model-centered instructional approach and progressivists who advocate a student-centered approach. Instead of one or the other, the CVCE model uses a relationship-centered, apprenticeship approach. The adult models, guides and sets up appropriate environments while the student discovers, constructs and builds intuitions. Fourth, CVCE was designed as a collaborative project between middle school educators and researchers that sought to integrate character education into standards-driven instruction with maximum flexibility for educators. Rather than approach teachers with a ready-made curriculum, CVCE provided flexible guidelines for modifying regular instruction so that it fosters ethical skill development while meeting academic standards. Although CVCE was funded to address middle school primarily, the framework and materials were versatile enough to be used by K-12 teachers. Project goals are described in more detail below. The theoretical underpinnings are more extensively discussed in Narvaez (2005, see also Narvaez, Bock, & Endicott, 2003.)

Goal 1: To Provide an Integrative, Community-based View of Character and Its Formation

In The Republic, Plato repeatedly draws an analogy between the practice of professional skills and the practices of a just person. …

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