With thanks to Shona Pye, author of Character Education: The Star Awards Programme for Primary Schools and Project Master Facilitor at VINE, for this fascinating article which explains the importance of developing pupils' strengths, virtues and values.
In this ever-changing world the development of a strong resilient character is an unchanging requirement. Children must have the opportunity to develop those personal strengths that will enable them to go out into the world with the confidence, resilience and self-belief needed to negotiate the challenges and opportunities that life will bring.
As a mother of two children I felt it was important to spend time on nurturing these positive character qualities/virtues with my children. To develop their understanding of what they mean, I would always say to my children: ‘what does this virtue look like in this situation? How can we use it? And why should we use it? What would things be like if we did not use that virtue?’ This in turn has given them a deeper understanding of those virtues and character qualities that they have and how they can use them in different situations. Only the other day my daughter had moved up in her swimming group to the next level and was feeling nervous and anxious about this. I asked her what qualities or virtues she would have to practice and she said ‘Courage and Confidence’, and so we discussed what would help her use these virtues and what things would be like if she did. She has moved up to the next group and is going in positively using her courage.
I have found using the language of virtues to support my children’s growth and understanding to be a valuable toolkit as a parent. Not only this but being able to work with schools to develop a programme that supports children’s well-being and character development has been exceptionally rewarding. In response to this I started a business called VINE… www.virtuesineducation.com and I have been working with schools in Cornwall to train their staff (Teachers/TAs and all staff included) in using the language of Virtues and the importance of being positive and specific with the language we use with children to help support their understanding and the growth of these positive character qualities.
Our schools provide a rich context in which teachers can educate, support and challenge children in applying these personal strengths so that they can act with wisdom to achieve the best outcomes academically and socially. The purpose of the publication, Character Education: The Star Awards Programme for Primary Schools, is to assist schools in identifying and teaching those strengths, virtues and values that are fundamental in laying the foundations for academic achievement and the development of a healthy character both at the level of the individual and society.
Character Education: The Research
There is a good deal of evidence showing the strong link between character education, behaviour and social and emotional development. Professor James Arthur and James O’Shaugnessy demonstrate a clear positive correlation between character education and academic attainment in their 2012 paper Character and Attainment: Does Character Make the Grade? The Research Evidence.
Dr Thomas Lickona defined character education as: “The deliberate effort by schools, families and communities to help young people understand, care about, and act upon core ethical values.” In 2017 The Framework for Character Education in Schools (Birmingham University) defined Character Education as the “...explicit and implicit educational activities that help young people develop positive personal strengths called virtues.”
The language used by teachers in their daily interactions with children can be a powerful tool to develop and shape character. The Character Coaching provided in each lesson section in the Star Awards book aims to replace the use of overused and non-specific phrases such as well done or good - which do not give any indication of what was ‘well done’ or ‘good’. If a pupil, however, is praised for showing determination (for instance in completing a piece of work) then a link with an enduring character quality is established and any increase in self-esteem will rest on a meaningful platform. Teacher-pupil interactions usually fall under three headings: meaningful praise, guidance, and correction. These particular interactions should be character-specific and their efficacy will be greatly increased by identifying the character quality or virtue that the child has demonstrated or needs to practice.
The majority of the strands which form the core of this book were chosen in response to the UK government’s recent report into character education (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/developing-character-skills-in-schools) and also from our own experience in delivering virtues-based character education over the past 20 years in Cornwall.
Our success in delivering character education programmes to many schools has confirmed the vital importance of getting all school stakeholders on board, including governors, parents, administrative and catering staff and lunchtime supervisors if possible. This is key to the school community feeling included, engaged and able to actively contribute to the character development of its pupils.
With the whole school community engaged in the programme this will support the continuity of the language being used throughout the school and enrich the children’s understanding of what all these character qualities/virtues are, as well as what they look like at home, in school and in the community.
My children are growing up and time is passing by so fast; I feel that having this valuable toolkit to support their wellbeing and happiness gives me some sense of peace. They will undoubtedly face challenges and obstacles as well as joy and happiness and by using the language of virtues my hope is that they will have developed some life skills that will enable them to move on to the next phase of their lives. Whether it’s moving up a year in school, moving on to secondary school and at some point, leaving home, I feel that understanding what character qualities/virtues they can call on will give them the self-belief and confidence to move forward in life, making good choices through different life experiences.
My family will always be an inspiration to me and my children surprise me everyday with new joy and wonder. They inspire me to continue my work in schools; I see them growing into such kind, compassionate, creative and joyful children. I will be continuing to work with schools delivering training for staff as well as workshops with children, including delivering the Star Awards challenge sessions through my business VINE www.virtuesineducation.com.
I have witnessed how this approach can support the wellbeing and confidence of many children as well as the adults in a school. I truly believe that through the learning process of character development we can still grow in ourselves, that we can be an example to the children and demonstrate that even as adults there are things we can learn and things we can practise and improve on.
Interested in exploring this further? Order Shona's brand new title Character Education: The Star Awards Programme for Primary Schools here.
You can also order a free inspection copy by calling Bookpoint at 01325 400 555. Inspection Copies allow you to review texts for up to 60 days. Purchase 15+ copies and keep the Inspection Copy FREE OF CHARGE.
, Wellbeing and Character Education