Support and Importance of Character Education: Pre-Service Teacher Perceptions

By Beachum, Floyd D.; McCray, Carlos R. et al. | Education, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

Support and Importance of Character Education: Pre-Service Teacher Perceptions


Beachum, Floyd D., McCray, Carlos R., Yawn, Christopher D., Obiakor, Festus E., Education


Morals and values form an important foundation for our modem society. From the words in the Pledge of Allegiance to the oaths that one takes in a courtroom, the reminder of values like equality, fairness, respect, and responsibility have great practical and symbolic meaning. In recent years, many have begun to worry about a value crisis in American society (McDonnell, 1999; Stiff-Williams, 2010). Some point out that today's society emphasizes material possession over character development, selfishness above selflessness, and comfort ahead of change (Beach, 1992; Boylan, 2000; Gorski, 2006). Lickona (1991) noted, "Escalating moral problems in society--ranging from greed and dishonesty to violent crime to self-destructive behaviors such as drug abuse and suicide--are bringing about a new consensus" (p. 4). In educational circles, some feel that this issue is particularly important with regard to the morals and values of K-12 students. "In recent years we have been jarred by alarming news accounts of serious deterioration of moral standards and practices in our schools" (Beach, 1992, p. 7). They seem to link problems such as dishonesty, teen pregnancy, school violence, gang proliferation, and overall lack of respect for authority to the moral decay slowly eroding the ethical principles of the United States (Lickona, 1991; Sowell, 2001).

A possible way to address this problem of increasing moral devalue is the promotion of character education in schools. Character education is the explicit teaching of positive values by teachers supported by the school. According to McDonnell (1999) "Character education is one of the most important, if not the most important, answer to our national crisis of character and is absolutely essential to any truly effective reform movement" (p. 251). Character education as well as the ethical dimension of teaching has received support from politicians, scholars, administrators, and teachers (DeRoche & Williams, 1998; Sanger, 2008; Wood, 1999). Thus, many people feel that students should be taught positive morals and values and teachers should wrestle with ethical dilemmas in their teaching. Colleges and universities also have an important role to play with regard to character education and teacher preparation.

The support and promotion of character education in teacher education programs is critical to its continued development; ironically, it is not commonly reflected as an integral part of the curriculum (unless they have an explicit value-based mission that permeates the entire institution). DeRoche and Williams (1998) noted, "Both university-based pre-service teacher education and in-service staff development have all but ignored character education in recent decades" (p. xii). Similarly, Milson (1999) acknowledged the importance of character education but indicated, "teacher education programs are not currently training teachers adequately to function as character educators" (p. 44).

Due to the lack of research on character education with pre-service teachers, the present study is necessitous. The feelings and perspectives of pre-service teachers are important to the knowledge base of educational research and practice. According to Wiest (1998) "teacher attitudes and beliefs influence teaching behaviors, which affect student learning and behavior" (p. 358). Mahlios and Maxson (1995) state that pre-service teachers have attitudes and beliefs that impact their feelings toward students, themselves, and teaching practices.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to ascertain the perceptions of pre-service teachers with regard to their support for character education and their feelings toward its importance in an undergraduate curriculum/methods course. This study has significant implications for educational administrators, teacher education faculty, practicing teachers, and policy makers. Each of these stakeholders stands to gain important information and/or insight on character education from the present study. …

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