This month we are spotlighting character education. In last week’s blog post, we introduced character education for educators. Next, we will delve deeper into the "Building Blocks of Character," as described by the Jubilee Centre. These components can be foundational in the framework of any character education program. The Jubilee Centre is a research center located at the University of Birmingham in the UK, where they have been researching character and virtues from an Aristotelian view for almost a decade, with the aim of improving human flourishing. The four virtue types are moral, performance, civic and intellectual. As educators, it is important we not only teach virtues, but also model them in our interactions with students, families, staff and administrators.1
Moral virtues can help you respond ethically in various situations. These include honesty, humility, compassion, integrity, kindness and empathy. As a teacher, modeling these moral virtues demonstrates our role as a professional in the community who cares for each and every person. For instance, when a student misses multiple days of school, we can show compassion by inquiring about the student’s well-being and providing a plan to help the student catch up on missed assignments. To help students build their own moral virtues, you can provide opportunities for students to practice these virtues and recognize or celebrate such practices to encourage further application and development of the virtues. In some schools this may look like a classroom bulletin board in which students can recognize each other for demonstrating moral virtues at school.
Performance virtues help us to respond well or not so well to various situations. Often times when school leaders conduct interviews with potential teachers, questions will reflect interest in the teacher’s ability to apply performance virtues. A question may be, “How do you handle conflicts?” While perseverance has always been important in education, in today’s educational climate it is even more important to apply practices such as the growth mindset, which reflect your ability to demonstrate resilience even in difficult situations. Some of the performance virtues include resilience, determination, perseverance, leadership, self discipline and motivation. You can model these virtues by holding open and honest discussions with your students about challenges you are having, and model how you can work through these as opportunities for growth. Acknowledge these opportunities and share how you can self-motivate to improve the situations for the well-being of the class or for yourself. For example, if you are struggling with using classroom technology, take the opportunity to verbalize to your students what you are doing to improve.
Civic virtues are centered around being engaged in responsible citizenship. By practicing community awareness, service and volunteerism, you can demonstrate social justice by showing that you are prioritizing all cultures in your community. An example of this could be teachers working together to raise funds for those in need, such as a talent show organized to collect canned goods for the community. You could also lead your classroom in picking up trash around the school yard or teaming up with another classroom to clean up the school.
Intellectual virtues are focused on developing your own learning. These virtues include reflection, resourcefulness, communication, critical thinking, curiosity and reasoning. As educators, an important component of this is our ability to regularly practice reflection. Consider what went well in your lessons for the day, and what did not go as planned. Use feedback and assessment data from your students to help clarify for you how your teaching is developing. This open communication with the students will aid you in your personal and professional growth as a teacher. For instance, if one of your students is having a difficult time understanding a particular concept, try rethinking how the information has been presented and team with a partner teacher to brainstorm another instructional strategy that may be more effective.
These four virtue types that comprise the Building Blocks of Character can be regularly practiced by teachers and leaders to both model ethical character development for students, as well as to improve school functioning and flourishing in their communities. By modeling the ethical behaviors for our students there is the potential for them to pick up on virtuous behavior and thus have an impact in the community. In the coming weeks, let us think more about how we can support student growth in character development in our various school environments.
Want more? Check out all of the articles from Teaching Tuesday and return each week for a new post. Learn more about Grand Canyon University’s College of Education and our degree programs and join in our efforts to elevate the education profession.
1Retrieved from University of Birmingham, A Framework for Character Education in Schools in November 2021.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.