Creating A Framework for Excellence
schools become the framework for constructing meaning for living and a
bridge to understanding the value of a fulfilled life, students become
proactive achievers discovering what it means to develop the potential
for themselves and the world around them.
Education is one of our most precious resources. As we continue to evaluate
our goals, it is important to set forth curriculum standards and reform
designs that clearly include character education and the conative domain
During our tenure as educators, we must thoughtfully reassess the reality
of our direction so we won't one day ironically discover that we were
a generation of educators who were caretakers of the wrong details!
What Is Character Education?
Character education is the development of knowledge, skills, and abilities
that enable the learner to make informed and responsible choices. It involves
a shared educational commitment that emphasizes the responsibilities and
rewards of productive living in a global a diverse society. Character education
enables students to come face to face with the realities of life. It encourages
them to think critically and then act responsibly. Instructional materials,
methods, and strategies, when developed into interdisciplinary curricular
themes, empower teachers to create meaning while allowing students time
for purposeful exploration and self-reflection. Character development provides
a foundation upon which we can build respect for human dignity and create
twenty-first-century schools that will empower students to achieve excellence.
Character Education and the School Curriculum
Character education is not an "add on" to the existing curriculum.
To be effective, it should be integrated across the curriculum, thus promoting
high self-esteem and the acquisition of school success.
Instructional Model: An Experiential Approach
The basic tenets of thought in the character education curriculum center
around the development of the whole child in an educational climate that
nurtures academic success through building self-esteem. It is an innovative
approach that seeks to strengthen both the affective and cognitive areas
of learning by integrating the teaching of values, character building, self-awareness,
positive self-esteem, and critical thinking skills into language arts and
throughout the curriculum. Students are encouraged to use their metacognitive
skills to learn and internalize newly acquired knowledge and information.
This curriculum also engages students in a variety of experiential learning
activities that include cooperative learning, role playing, creative thinking,
problem solving, and conflict resolution strategies. The framework for implementing
the character education curriculum is designed to enable teachers to achieve
the goals of the curriculum while effectively meeting state goals and systemwide
In schools implementing the character education curriculum, students become
the focal point. For one or
two periods a week, language arts and other curricular areas become the
vehicles by which students discover their individual potential and strategies
for successfully creating "win-win" situations. They are given
the opportunity to more clearly understand the meaning of success and what
will be expected from them as they mature and become responsible citizens.
Students explore and analyze a variety of approaches to problem solving
that are appropriate for their age level. By gathering available information
and considering possible choices as well as the benefits and consequences
of those choices, students make informed decisions. Authentic learning can
be observed as positive interactions and pro-social behavior increase. The
result is a wealth of collaborative learning that enables teachers to expand
students' thinking about conflict resolution and the best possible options.
Which Students Benefit Most from Character Education?
All students benefit. Students in regular, gifted, and special education
programs, when given the opportunity to explore practical strategies and
innovative ways to set and achieve goals, can apply concepts taught in character
education to situations in real life.
Leadership and Character Education
When the human infrastructure of a system is strengthened by the shared
goals of individuals who are committed to quality and excellence, the goals
of the system can be achieved in a more effective and timely manner. Student
performance and outcomes are driven by the human side of the school curriculum.
It is important that administrators and teachers revisit their mission and
examine school climate to ensure that instructional practices contribute
to the ethical growth of the entire student body. Clear expectations should
be conveyed to educators concerning their role and responsibility in teaching
Professional Renewal and Self-Esteem
Building self-esteem is not only important for students. Professionals also
periodically need to be recharged, reassured, and revitalized. Before we
can empower students for excellence in character and academic pursuits,
we must reexamine the examples we set, establishing a clear perspective
of where we are in relationship to out professional goals. Ask yourself
the following questions:
- Am I really where I want to be?
- Am I moving in the direction that will enable me to make the greatest
- If I could achieve my highest goals, what would my accomplishments
- Who benefits from what I do?
- As a change agent, what do I offer my students that encourages them
to want to learn, grow, and become their very best while celebrating
the best in others?
Teacher's Role in Character Education
Your role is that of a facilitator, one who assists and helps to make the
discussions run smoothly.
- Introduce the lesson/topic.
- Don't indicate any persons bias concerning the topic under discussion.
- Try to include every member of the group in the discussion.
- Try to prevent any one member of the group from dominating the discussion.
- Ask questions to stimulate group members to explore other points of
- At the conclusion of the discussion, review the various points of
view contributed by group members.
- Assist students in understanding more clearly the benefits of making
informed and responsible choices.
- Encourage students to explore a variety of problem-solving techniques
as alternatives to antisocial behavior.
Character Education Resources on the Urban Programs
Beyond Rhetoric and Rainbows
A new resource for teachers designed as an educational tool that can help
you explore and celebrate what is truly valuable and effective in education.
Strategies for Empowering Students
is collection of classroom activities that will challenge students' minds,
empower their senses of well-being, and rekindle their hearts with a commitment
to values and beliefs essential to becoming and being whole individuals.
The University of Illinois Extension Character Education Program was
developed by Cheryl Gholar, former Extension Educator, Community Leadership & Volunteerism.