Mar 21

When the Rules Aren't Enough

Posted by Pamela M. Jones in Fair Is Not Equal on Mar 21, 2013

A Look at Character Education's Impact on Student Behavior

Be Safe. Be Kind. Be Clean. Fix Your Mistakes. These are some of the rules, or norms, that we and other educators have used in our classrooms.

We generate the norms with our students so that they have a connection to these guidelines that will be our community's lampposts for the school year. For the norms to be effective in helping students' monitor and correct their behavior, teachers must engage their students in on-going discussions and activities (such as role-plays).

Even in the best of circumstances, where teachers make the rules a living and breathing part of the classroom's fabric, many teachers are left asking themselves the question, "Are the rules enough?" According to a recent article in EdWeek, a growing number of teachers are answering, "No."

Perhaps due to the belief that studying and building character increases students' chances of making more positive choices, many educators are finding that their students might benefit from explicit and on-going instruction in character education.

Take, for example, a school where one of us worked several years ago. Teachers and students had classroom rules but in addition to the rules, the school ascribed to a philosophy whereby students, teachers, families, and all school personnel learned & reflected on a daily basis about core values such as "integrity." It seemed that when students acquired a deeper understanding of these core values, they (in turn) had a better understanding of the rules. So, when students understood that integrity could mean "doing the right thing, even when nobody is looking," we found that they were more apt to follow the norms "be kind" or "be safe." We think it's because an understanding of the core value of "integrity" helped them develop a greater appreciation for the importance of being kind and safe to their friends and others.

What are your thoughts about character education? Do you think that it has the potential to effect positive change on your students' behavior? Weigh in and tell us your thoughts!

tagged behavior support, character education, core values, norms
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