Teaching Tuesday: Components of Character Education

By Dr. Tracy Vasquez

Young students learning about recycling and sustainability

The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham in the UK describes character education as the process of educating students and adults in a school community with the building blocks of character.1 While it is important to understand character education, it is also critical that you have practical tools to apply the components of character in classrooms; these pieces help to shape character education in schools and classrooms.

The Jubilee Centre has researched character and virtues from an Aristotelian view and has designed the building blocks framework. When equipped with this framework, we can support this instruction in our classrooms with the aim of improving human flourishing. We can teach these virtues to our students and facilitate the integration and application of the virtues with students, families, staff and administrators.

Ethical Decisions and Moral Virtues

Understanding moral virtues helps your students make decisions that align with positive ethics and act honestly. These virtues include honesty, humility, compassion, integrity, kindness and empathy. Now more than ever, classrooms and communities rely on these virtues to help run smoothly and efficiently.

Students have multiple opportunities throughout the day to be kind to one another, as well as the teacher. When we vocalize to students the actions they are taking, we help them understand and value their actions as a representation of a moral virtue. For example, if a student drops their lunchbox in the hallway, a student can show compassion by helping their peer pick up the lunch items, or offer to share their lunch.

To help students build moral leadership, provide school-based opportunities for practicing these virtues, and recognize or celebrate such practices to encourage further application and development of the virtues. For example, you could encourage students to share out observations of their peers practicing kindness in class meetings, or draw pictures of what they have observed and post these on the bulletin board.

Growth Mindset and Performance Virtues

The growth mindset helps students to cope with challenging situations. While stressful circumstances can often arise for students in school, teaching the performance virtues can equip students with strategies to apply resilience. Performance virtues include resilience, determination, perseverance, leadership, self discipline and motivation. 

Create a classroom environment that encourages honesty. Make it an acceptable practice for students to share about their academic and social challenges and have them collaborate with one another to build strategies and solutions while acknowledging their growth. This can help students to motivate one another and self-motivate to improve their stress level.

Community Support and Civic Virtues

Civic virtues help individuals recognize responsible citizenship and develop character. Show your students how to practice community support by reading children’s literature about volunteering, telling stories of local support practices and show pictures of others being helping their community.

One way to do this is to encourage students to bring in clippings of images in their local newspaper that demonstrate volunteering. By helping students practice community awareness, students understand what it means to demonstrate social justice. As a class you could also organize a talent show organized to collect canned goods for the community.

Curiosity and Intellectual Virtues

Fostering a classroom environment of curiosity will help students apply this curiosity in their everyday life. Intellectual virtues are reflection, resourcefulness, communication, critical thinking, curiosity and reasoning. We can help students develop their intellectual virtues as we motivate them to enjoy learning as well as seek out their own additional learning opportunities. For instance, if one of your students is having a difficult time engaging in a particular concept, try rethinking how the information has been presented and integrate a topic the student is passionate about to spark curiosity.

The building blocks of character can be regularly practiced by teachers and students to create a school community built on human flourishing. By teaching students about character, modeling ethical behaviors and recognizing students for their own virtuous behaviors, we can directly impact the community and those around us.

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. 

1Retreived from University of Birmingham, The Jubilee Centre for Character & Virtues, A Framework for Character Education in Schools in December 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.

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