Character Education and Virtues: Something We Can Learn from the Jubilee Centre

By Mohammed Baddar

Jordan IPEN Global Representative 


Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues

As part of the positive revolution in UK, Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues is leading a movement towards teaching character, virtues and values for the purpose of contributing to human flourishing. As a part of the University of Birmingham’s School of Education, it is a rigorous research-based center backed by science, and brings it into practice.

Since it was established in 2012, the center has devoted itself to strengthening character in many ways and not only in  UK  but also at the international level. In spite of its young age, the center has a very large impact on policies and practices. Its website now provides you with various tools and resources to integrate character education in different school programs targeting all school age groups of students.

Acting social responsibility on the ground, the center has been providing free resources. For example, it has been offering till now about 886 free documents in its library on the website. And there is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on “What is Character: Virtue Ethics in Education” via FutureLearn.com. I am inviting everyone who is at home or at school to get exposed to the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues. I have already got some experience and lessons that I would love to share with you, but I am still starving. In this article, I am inviting you to savor the moral ethical taste of character education, and I am encouraging you always to refer to the center’s stuff. I am basically relying on “A Framework for Character Education in Schools” by the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues (2013).

Character Education in a Few Lines

Depending on that character is the complex thing behind emotions, motivation and behavior, Character Education comes to offer explicit and implicit educational activities for helping our children develop positive personal strengths called “virtues” in order to equip them with wise choices and ethical actions that turn thoughts into practice. Here are eleven key principles of Character Education to have a good start:

  1. Character is educable and its progress can be measured holistically, not only through self-reports but also more objective research methods

  2. Character is important: it contributes to human and societal flourishing

  3. Character is largely caught through role modeling and emotional contagion: school culture and ethos are therefore essential

  4. Character should also be taught: direct teaching of character provides the rationale, language and tools to use in developing character elsewhere in and out of school

  5. Character is the foundation for improved attainment, better behavior and increased employability

  6. Character should be developed in partnership with parents, employers and other community organizations

  7. Character results in academic gains for students, such as higher grades

  8. Character education is about fairness and each child has a right to character development

  9. Character empowers students and is liberating

  10. Character demonstrates a readiness to learn from others

  11. Character promotes democratic citizenship

Can academia alone contribute to human flourishing without being accompanied by teaching character?

Seldon (2013) concluded his letter to Michael Gove and Sir Michael Wilshaw with:

“So should schools prioritize character or exam results? They should prioritize both.

Is this a matter for schools or for families? It is a matter for both.

Does character matter more at primary school than for secondary school? It matters for both.

Why then do I say that schools should prioritize character-building above exams? Because if you prioritize exams in the way that you are both doing, Michael and Michael, little or nothing will happen with character. But if you prioritize character, exam success will follow, and for the right reasons.”

“… We find that if you develop the character, exams look after themselves. We want children to be prepared for the life of tests, for the challenges which lie ahead, the challenges of marriage, the challenges of employment, the challenges of just generally living in the 21stcentury.” – the director of Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues Prof. James Arthur said in an interview in “A Question Of Character” film.

Misconception of Character Education

Kristjánsson (2013) challenged various ‘myths’ stating that the notions of character, virtue and virtue education are unclear, redundant, old-fashioned, religious, paternalistic, anti-democratic, conservative, individualistic, relative, and situation dependent. On the other hand, he acknowledged other three better-founded historical, methodological and practical concerns about the notions of character and virtue. In fact, character education is not about indoctrination and mindless conditioning; its main goal is to equip students with the intellectual tools to make wise choices of their own within the framework of a democratic society. If character and virtue have been already in religious systems, that does not mean they are exclusively religious notions. Also if fulfilling the wishes of students’ parents happens, then it is an advantage. Character education does not only aim to make individuals better persons but also to create the social conditions within which all human beings can flourish. Character education is not about promoting the moral ideals of a particular moral system. Rather, it aims at the promotion of a core set of universally acknowledged virtues and values. The question that can be asked about a school’s character-education strategy is not whether such education does occur, but whether or not it is intentional, planned, organized, monitored, evidence-based and reflective.

The How of Character Education

In this part of the article, the focus is on the principles number three and four. As principle number three says that character is caught, The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues is presenting‘Schools of Character’ that authentically represent how to create a character education culture in schools. On the other hand, principle number four says character should be taught. Now which character virtue should be taught? How? The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues (2013)clearly indicated that virtues/character strengths needed vary from one context (school) to another; however the educators should refer to such a model in order to get to know how to start from the virtues that lead to individuals and society. See the model below:

Arthur, Kristjánsson, Cooke, Brwon, & Carr (2015) found in their research that as teachers talked about their role as character educators, there are three themes emerged regarding how character might be taught. The first theme is that character education can be integrated in everything happens in school, the second is to teach character in the form of extra-curricular activities, and the third is to have the teacher acting as a role model to students and enacting the virtues she/he sought to develop in their students. In this regard, the teachers involved in the research indicate that in order to be a good teacher, one should have the most important character strengths/virtues as follows: 


Note: there are many interesting findings in the research report.

Anyway, the top 4-6 character strengths may differ from a school to another. Then educators would better set priorities according to what they see in their school in order to come up with a teacher who is able to be the role model the students are looking for, who can develop and implement character extra-curricular activities, and who carry on integrating character in school policies and/or practices.

Finally, here are two programs that can answer the question of how character is taught. If your students are 9-11 year old, you shall make a use of one or more of Knightly Virtues program resources. And for those 11-16 year olds, Wright, Morris & Badwen (2015) made an invaluable Character Education. Above all, you just can attend the Festival of Positive Education where you can meet the representatives from the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues as well as many positive and character education scholars and professionals from all over the world.



References

Arthur, J., Kristjánsson, K., Cooke, S., Brwon, E., & Carr, D. (2015) The Good Teacher: Understanding Virtues in Practice, Birmingham: University of Birmingham.

Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues (2013) A Framework for Character Education in Schools, Birmingham: University of Birmingham.

Kristjánsson, K. (2013) Ten Myths about Character, Virtue and Virtue Education – and Three Well-founded Misgivings, British Journal of Educational Studies, 61 (3), 269–287.

Seldon, A. (2013) Why the Development of Good Character Matters More Than the Passing of Exams, Priestley Lecture

Wright, D., Morris, I., & Badwen, M. (2015) Character Education: A Taught Course for 11 to 16 Year Olds, Birmingham: University of Birmingham

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