The Role of Staff Development in
Implementing Character Education
Lori Wiley, Ph.D.,
What is Character?
Character, according to Webster's Dictionary, is a reliable inner disposition to
respond to situations in a morally good way. It refers to the moral qualities
and ethical standards which make up the inner nature of a person. Character
might be termed the moral personality. Behavior is a product of character.
What is Character Education?
Character Education is one form of moral education, moral being broadly defined
as pertaining to issues of right and wrong. There are different types of moral
education. Values clarification and moral reasoning are examples of two other
kinds of moral education. Character education, different from Values
Clarification, holds to the premise that civilization has a common core of
shared values, referred to as universal values.
The premise of Values Clarification is that all values are personal; that
each person has unique, personal values, and schools should not impose values on
children. The teacher is to be morally neutral, and encourage children to
clarify their own values.
Character education agrees with Values Clarification regarding Personal
Values. Personal values should not be taught. Teachers have no right to impose
personal values on students.
However, Character education is based on the belief that there are rational,
objectively valid, universally accepted qualities and actions called character
traits or virtues to which people of all civilized nations, creeds, races,
socio-economic status and ethnicity ascribe. These transcend political
persuasions, as well as religious and ethnic differences. Character educators
believe there is a unifying morality, a common core of shared values, which
society cannot exist without.
The first task of Character Education is identifying those universal values.
Benjamin Franklin listed and defined thirteen virtues: temperance, silence,
order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation,
cleanliness, tranquility, chastity and humility. The Character Counts Coalition
established Six Pillars: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness,
caring and citizenship. The Heartwood Curriculum is based on seven character
traits: courage, loyalty, justice, respect, hope, honesty and love. Baltimore
Public Schools identified twenty four core values. St. Louis' Staff Development
Division listed fifty characteristics, and Dayton Public Schools have a "word of
the week". Lickona, author of Educating for character, states that it all boils
down to Respect and Responsibility, the 4th and 5th Rs. Nel Noddings refers to
the 3 Cs: caring, concern and connectedness.
There are team building exercises and questionnaires for establishing which core
values should be taught in the local school district, because the second premise
is that there is an obligation to teach core values. Core values are learned.
They do not develop naturally. Every social institution has an obligation to
teach core values to children. "We need to keep promoting whatever values we can
agree upon. There are certainly enough of those values to keep us busy for a
while" (Harmin, 1993).
"Children are people who are going to carry on what you have started. They
are going to sit where you are sitting,and when you are gone, attend to those
things which you think are important. You may adopt all the policies you please,
but how they are carried out depends on them. They will assume control of your
cities, states and nations. They are going to take over your churches,
universities and corporations. The fate of humanity is in their hands." Abraham
The Josephson Institute brought together a group of national leaders to discuss
ethics and character. This is the result of their work:
1. The next generation will be the stewards of our communities, nation, and
planet in extraordinarily critical times.
2. The present and future well-being of our society
requires an involved, caring citizenship with good moral character.
3. People do not automatically develop good moral
character; therefore, conscientious efforts must be made to help young people
develop the values and abilities necessary for moral decision making and
4. Effective character education is based on core ethical
values which form the foundation of democratic society, in particular, respect,
responsibility, trustworthiness, caring, justice and fairness, and civic virtue
5. These core ethical values transcend cultural, religious
and socio-economic differences.
6. Character education is, first and foremost, an
obligation of families; it is also an important obligation of faith communities,
schools, youth and other human service organizations.
7. These obligations to develop character are best
achieved when these groups works in concert.
8. The character and conduct of our youth reflect the
character and conduct of society; therefore, every adult has the responsibility
to teach and model the core ethical values and every social institution has the
responsibility to promote the development of good character.
Why is Character Education needed in schools?
The purpose of education is to help children be "smart and good", "wise and
virtuous." Theodore Roosevelt said, "To educate a man in mind and not in morals
is to create a menace to society." Education has always had a moral mission,
which Character Education re-affirms.
Historically in the United States there was support for public schools as
government-sponsored institutions, because their purpose was to prepare the
"common person" for the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in a
Now, our students need moral education more than ever. Statistics on violence
and juvenile crime are staggering. The average age of offenders is getting
younger. As society's ills escalate, they invade schools more. Schools are
having to deal with violence in a way they never had to in the past. A major
educational effort is needed to address the changing needs of students. What we
did five years ago, and last year, in the area of moral education is not enough
to meet this year's needs.
Schools cannot avoid moral issues. There is no such thing as a morally neutral
environment or educator. Moral issues arise constantly in the classroom and
school. When students fight, come to school drunk or cheat on an exam, schools
have an obligation to respond. In fact, there is a moral aspect to every action
we take: whether to arrive at school on time, what to eat or not eat, personal
grooming, work habits, picking up litter, and using time wisely, etc. Character
is formed through habits of everyday living. Teachers are moral coaches, cueing,
reinforcing, motivating, and enforcing appropriate behavior and good character.
The need for Staff Development in Character Education
1. Most teacher preparation programs in the United States do not include
character education. There have been courses in methods of teaching reading,
language arts, math, science, social studies, health, art, music, etc. but
rarely is there a course in character education. The few colleges and
universities which provided training in moral education during the past thirty
years usually used a values clarification or moral reasoning approach. Because
character education was missing at the pre-service level for so many teachers,
staff development is needed to pick up on that lost experience. It fills a gap.
2. Staff development is needed to keep educators current regarding the latest
advances in their field. Character education of the 90s is different from the
moral education of previous decades. Although the oldest form of moral
education, the story (parable or fable), is still very much used today, moral
education throughout history was tied to Judeo-Christian beliefs. Even in public
schools, teachers derived rules of right and wrong from the Bible, the Ten
Commandments, and God's authority. Proverbs, hymns, prayers, punishment and
curricular content had a religious orientation. In other western countries
religious and moral education are taught as one subject. When Supreme Court
decisions systematically stripped the practice of religion from public schools
in the 1960s, the conclusion of many was, "If religion and morality are tied to
each other, and we can no longer prescribe religion, this must mean we can no
longer prescribe morality."
This kind of thinking laid the groundwork for Values Clarification. Teachers
no longer felt empowered to take stands on moral issues. The message became,
"There are no absolutes of right and wrong. Each person constructs his or her
own morality." In their zeal for a personal values system, teachers encouraged
students to disengage-engage from family values and other moral standards of
Many educators and parents reacted against Values Clarification. Their challenge
became to teach standards of right and wrong without tying them to religion. By
the 1980s educators began to construct or re-construct the notion of Character
Education, based on universal values.
Now there is a national non-partisan movement to bring character education into
schools. The Character Education Partnership, the Character Counts Coalition,
the White House Conference on Character Education (whose plenary speakers were
President Clinton and Former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett!), show that
there is a grass roots move to bring the teaching of universal values, or
virtues, back into schools.
Character Education: a movement by and for teachers
The Character Education movement is a grass roots effort by interested
educators, administrators and support personnel. For example, Sharon Banas, in
Sweet Home, New York, is a second grade teacher who has spearheaded
district-wide efforts. Mary Jane Aguilar, a guidance counselor at Bel Air School
in Albuquerque, New Mexico, started a program which caught the attention of the
whole community, to the point that Albuquerque has renamed the city to
"Albuquerque, the city where character counts." Henry Huffman, author of A
character education program and assistant principal in Mount Lebanon,
Pennsylvania, organized a district-wide effort. Rudolfo Bernardo, a principal in
Dayton Public Schools, organized a year's initiative to promote character
education. Thomasina Portas, Superintendent of Schools for Washington, D.C. has
a strong commitment to character education. St. Louis, Missouri has a PREP
(Personal Responsibility Education Process) program. Michael Josephson, a
lawyer, started the Character Counts Coalition which is working with Dallas,
For the most part, character education is individual
teachers who want to make a difference in the lives of their students. Thousands
of teachers around the country form an unidentified Character Corps. They have
become emboldened to actively promote universal values in their classrooms, and
are using their own methods as well as ideas from books, magazine articles,
workshops, conferences, in-service training and published curricula.
Staff Development is the Key
Character education begins with staff development for educators. All
teachers need exposure to character education so they can become aware of what
it is and why they can or should teach it. For many it means re-training because
their background is in values clarification.
In New Hampshire teachers are required to take five clock hours of staff
development in character education. Based on evaluations by these teachers,
ninety per cent of them embrace character education and intend to increase their
efforts in the classroom.
Once teachers have an overview or informed awareness, they
may choose to specialize in any number of areas. For example:
1) Behavioral issues are best dealt with in the context of character formation,
often through positive reinforcement and celebrating success. Problem solving,
conflict resolution, communication of anger, and peer mediation can be used for
promoting good character.
2) Community service and service learning foster caring, concern and
3) Classroom governance through the "Caring Classroom" or Class Meetings, can
become a forum for issues of justice and mercy.
4) There are several literature-based curricula where stories, essays, poetry,
movies and plays become the milieu for "falling passionately in love with
goodness" (Aristotle). Character education can be taught through every subject
area including math and vocational education. It should be the framework for
health and drug education.
5) Some teachers use the performing and visual arts for promoting character.
Their classrooms are decorated with banners, mottos written in student
calligraphy, and posters. Music and drama are used for conveying important
6) Other teachers are using daily ten-minute lessons from a curriculum such as
that of the Character Education Institute in San Antonio, Texas. These are field
tested lessons, written by teachers for each grade level.
7) Another approach is to take a theme such as tolerance and use it as a basis
for multi-culture education, combatting prejudice or preparing for the inclusion
of children with special needs.
Teachers have described hundreds of methods they are using for character
education, and there are many resources available for teachers.
Some states have provided legislative action to jump start
character education and provide funding for it. Here are three models of
a) Mandated character education
New Hampshire requires each school board to develop a policy stating how
character education is being taught, but it does not require a curriculum. One
of the standards in the Minimum standards for schools addresses character
education, so schools must address it when applying for State approval.
California requires character education in its schools. Maine, North Carolina,
Oregon and Washington have laws requiring schools to teach moral or ethics
education. Some states have included character education in the standards of
specific subjects. For example, Virginia and Louisiana have social studies
standards in character and citizenship. West Virginia integrates it into the
content curricula. Vermont includes it in the "Common Core of Learning."
The advantage of legislative action is that schools
and teachers must move to an awareness level. They cannot avoid character
education. School districts are funding in-service and other staff development
The disadvantage is when teachers feel coerced. The
National Education Association and other educational organizations were opposed
to character education in New Hampshire, and they lobbied against the
legislation. Educators attending workshops may express hostility and anger over
being required to teach character education, and a few of them are antagonistic
(not showing their best character!).
b) Encouraged, rather than mandated
Iowa passed a law "encouraging" character education. Ohio chose not to
espouse any specific values, but provides a resource guide. The South Carolina
Department of Education is also writing a resource guide. The Kentucky
Department of Education formed a committee from many diverse viewpoints, and
they wrote a non-mandated curriculum.
The advantage of encouraging rather than mandating, is
that teachers and school systems are given a choice and resources are available.
However, having a resource guide or curriculum without providing staff
development is the kiss of death to a new program. How will teachers reach
awareness without staff development? Experience shows us that teachers' manuals
and pre-packaged curricula are not used unless there is staff development.
c) No state level activity
According to members of the departments of education in Kansas, Alaska,
Minnesota and Texas, there is no activity at the state level in these states.
The advantage of keeping it at the local level is that
it stays a grass roots endeavor, and teachers are not forced to do something.
The disadvantage is that educators in these states may not become aware of
Washington and New Hampshire have included character
education in teacher certification requirements. New Hampshire requires
"character and citizenship" both at the pre-service and in-service level.
Colleges and universities with teacher preparation programs must show that they
are including character education in the college program.
There are different ways character education has been
included in teacher preparation programs. For example:
1) Classroom and Behavior Management course: Discipline at
its best is character formation.
2) History and Philosophy of Education: Moral education
has been an essential part of education from its beginnings.
3) Human growth and development: Most courses include a
section on moral development, introducing the work of Kohlberg and Piaget, as
well as studies on empathy and altruism.
4) Methods courses in the content areas: Literature,
language arts, science and social studies provide avenues for moral education.
5) Legal and ethical issues: Pre-service teachers are
prepared to become models of good character and citizenship, understanding and
meeting their legal and ethical obligations to children, peers, parents,
administrators, society and the profession.
In New Hampshire teachers apply for re-certification every three years, and they
must have completed fifty clock hours of staff development. Five of those hours
must be in the area of character and citizenship, unless their Staff Development
Coordinator sets up another plan.
Character Development Foundation
In response to requests from school districts and teachers needing staff
development for re-certification in New Hampshire, the Character Development
Foundation was formed.
It is composed of five board members: a teacher, a
para-professional, a business representative, a police officer and a college
The foundation offers five 5-hour workshops in character education:
1) An Overview
2) Character Education through Problem Solving
3) Character Education through Literature
4) Ethics for Teachers
5) School-wide Character Education: Making policy
These workshops are offered at a local conference
center, and also as in-service at school sites after school and on teacher
workshop days. Teachers may use them toward graduate credit. Approximately two
thousand teachers earn staff development through the Character Development
Foundation each year. The Foundation has a library, resource materials, and a
few books for sale. It provides consulting for schools which wish to have a
school-wide approach, and a speakers bureau.
Staff Development Plan
The first step is to bring an awareness of Character
Education to staff development coordinators, teachers, administrators and
parents, so they know what it is. Awareness can come through listening to a
speaker, reading books and articles, or watching video-tapes.
Words like values and morals worry people. "Whose values will be taught? Is this
a cover for the liberal left for the religious right? Don't values belong at
home? This shouldn't be taught in school," are the types of comments made by
people who need more information about character education.
The second step is for groups of educational teams at
the building level to meet and make a school-wide character education plan.
Ideally the teams include teachers, specialists like guidance counselors and
nurses, administrators, bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers, secretaries,
parents, coaches, clergy, business representatives, retired people, and
students. These constituents need to come to an agreement over which virtues to
teach and how they will be taught. This team should meet regularly and hold each
other accountable to follow the plan. There also needs to be some form of
assessment for the purpose of program improvement.
In order for a democratic society to survive, there
must be individuals with strong moral character. The only way the United States
will be able to maintain democratic freedom is if individual citizens have
integrity and subscribe to universal virtues. The purpose of public education is
to prepare its graduates to be good people, good citizens and good workers.
Character education promotes this perspective. It affirms and encourages the
efforts of teachers who promote respect, responsibility, honest and integrity.
Harmin, M. (1990). How to plan a program for moral education. ASCD.
Huffman, H. (1994). Developing a character education program. ASCD.
Josephson, M. (1992). Making ethical decisions. Josephson Institute of Ethics,
Marina del Rey, California.
Kilpatrick, W. (1992). Why Johnny can't tell right from wrong. New York: Simon
Lickona, T. (1991). Educating for character. New York: Bantam Books.
Noddings, N. (1984). Caring, a feminine approach to ethics and moral education.
Berkeley: University of California Press.
Tomlinson, P. & Quinton, M. (1986). Values across the curriculum. Philadelphia,
Pa.: Falmer Press.
Manatee County Safe Schools
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Bradenton, Florida 34206
Phone (941) 751-6550 ext 2270