Connections to Learning
WHAT IS CHARACTER EDUCATION?
Character education provides guidance for youth to understand their abilities, to strive to reach
their fullest potential, to care for others and enables all youth positive self-development. Schools can
foster this development in and out of the classroom by focusing on intellectual, social, emotional, and
ethical character in students. Implementing character development programs that focus on these
needs give students the optimal chance at success (journal). Character education is a primary
prevention tool used to promote positive youth development, academic achievement, and character
development (journal). Activities and programs promote responsibility and caring students while
encompassing influence from parents, schools, and communities (Ed.gov).
HOW DOES CHARACTER EDUCATION RELATE TO CONNECTIONS TO LEARNING?
Character Education is an embedded concept with the Connections to Learning framework
because it supports the child in a holistic way. Programming helps the child to build self esteem, to
turn his/her hopes and dreams into success plans and to contribute to the well-being of others. Best
practice character education programs promote developmental and learning outcomes, reduce risky
behavior, prevent school failure, decrease drug use, decrease anti-social behavior, and promote pro-
social and emotional competence among youth (character.org). In order for skills and implementation
of effective programs to be successful, data should be gathered to assess where the schools’ needs are.
Programs will make the most impact if they target the school’s need. In addition, after character
education program implementation, assessment of staff function, character of school, and students
demonstrating good character is necessary to determine what is and not working (Character.org).
RESEARCH AND EXAMPLES OF BEST PRACTICES/PROGRAMS
There are different types of character education programs. The commonalities of effective
programs are based around social skills and awareness, personal improvement and self-management,
and problem-solving and decision-making (Character.org). Effective strategies also vary in
implementation. Professional development, peer interaction, direct teaching, skills training, an explicit
agenda, having role-models or mentors, integration into the academic curriculum, and a multi-strategy
approach are among the proven strategies that influence character development (Character.org).
Multi-strategy approaches are found to make the most lasting impact on students. The Seattle
Social Development Project (SSDP) is an example of a multi-system strategy that influences healthy
behaviors, and positive youth and adult development (youth.org). The SSDP includes elements of,
social competence training for elementary school students; educator training for school staff; and
voluntary parenting classes (youth.org). There have been on-going evaluations of project participants.
Effective and lasting results in reduced delinquency, greater academic achievement, and more
commitment to school, are proven in 5, 10, and 15 year assessments of student participants
(youth.org). Parents and teachers have also reported lasting effects. Their participation showed active
engagement in learning, encouragement of positive behavior, and a strengthened bond to family and
Connections to Learning
“Character Education” cont’d.
Other programs, such as Skills for Action and Positive Actions, are implemented at the classroom
level, and are proven to produce positive results among participants (Ed.gov). Skills for Action builds
character values and citizenship for high school students. The combination of classroom lessons and
service learning help students to take an active and productive initiative to their life (Ed.gov). In
Positive Action, classroom lessons, discussions, role-play, games, songs, and activity sheets promote a
‘feel good’ philosophy. This philosophy is based on the assumption, if students feel good about
themselves, than positive self-development will occur. The program, intended for K-12 students, also
incorporates school-wide climate change, family classes, and community ties into its philosophy.
Studies have shown that academic achievement, retention rates, and positive self-esteem occur in both
“Character Education” Citations and Resources
www.advocatesforyouth.org/programsthatwork (Seattle Social Development Project)
www.casel.org (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning)
www.character.org (Character Ed Partnership)
www.doe.k12.de.us/programs/schoolclimate (Character Ed Partnership link available here)
http://journals.apa.org/prevention/volume5/pre0050015a.html (Character Development)
www.whatworks.ed.gov (Overview of common Best Practice programs)