Character Education

Should character education be taught in schools?

As I have learned about character education over the past year, I have been very adamant that I would introduce some sort of focus on practicing positive character traits and values in my classroom. I was aware that there might be issues with deciding on which traits to concentrate on and I did not want to create any specific lessons about the characteristics. My philosophy has been that it is best to discuss the values with my students. Another advantage of character education is to help unite my students to work toward a common goal of operating as a caring, functional classroom. It did not occur to me that some parents or community members might view character education programs as a conservative, religious agenda until reading Cornwall’s perspective that value-focused programs reinforce the majority’s social and cultural values (Evans, 2008, p. 343). Cornwall opposes character education programs for multiple reasons. A few of arguments against character education include 1) programs do not explain to children the reason for promoting certain values, 2) there is no way to track the success of programs, and 3) a better alternative is to transform how the classroom operates rather than focusing on the faults of people (Evans, 2008, pp. 343-347).

Cornwall’s first argument is not persuasive because it is nearly impossible to teach children anything without explaining why. If a teacher forgot, or purposefully did not explain the reason, then a student will likely ask. Cornwall assumes teachers or parents will respond to a child’s inquiry by stating, “because I say so.” If that is an adult’s response, then most children’s interest will decrease in learning whatever they are being taught. It is difficult to convince children of anything without providing ample reasoning. Children always have questions and (thankfully) are not satisfied until understanding why. Cornwall’s second argument is more convincing. There should absolutely be a method to track the success of character education programs. Of particular interest to me is what is the best method that students learn the values and what values are most worth teaching? Cornwall’s last point is thought provoking. I agree the system in place should not force people to make the better, responsible decision, but creating a better environment begins with people having values and morals. Additionally, this argument contradicts another argument that character education does not reflect the true complexity of choices in the real world (Evans, 20098, p. 344). If teachers and parents provide the most ideal system possible, then how will children learn decision-making skills to use once they are adults in society? Not everyone will be trying to protect them when they are adults.

Cornwall addresses important questions to consider, yet I still believe teaching values and character is beneficial for students. Character education helps teach students how to live by their values, even when there might be a hard decision to make. They have to analyze the benefits and consequences and decide on the option they think is best. Parents, teachers, and caregivers have the responsibility to guide children to learn why values and character traits are important and how these values help everyone live in a more harmonious society.

Reference

Evans, D. (2008). Taking sides: Clashing views in teaching and education practice. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Higher Education.

Module 4 – Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility

ISTE Standard 4 addresses ethics, safety, and responsible application of using technology in a global society. An educator’s responsibility is to teach students about the importance of respecting people’s digital privacy, ethical use of resources, and being cognizant of behavior online. This standard also recommends teachers consider if students have proper access to technology resources.

When I start teaching I would like to work with fourth of fifth graders. I strongly believe I have to model any type of behavior or expectations I have of my students. After reading Standard 4 I asked myself what opportunities do I have to model ethical behaviors to my students as we explore and practice using the digital tools and communication resources available in a global society? An objective is to demonstrate safe and ethical technology practices during class.

Digital citizenship is a key phrase school districts might use when creating policies to teach students Internet safety, responsibility, and proper technology-related skills. As a teacher, digital citizenship includes being informed about technology trends, being aware of district policies and options, and empowering students to create engaging digital learning projects (Lindsay & Davis, 2010). I think teaching digital citizenship to students begins with teaching students to understand how digital citizenship is similar to real-life citizenship. Ribble and Northern Miller (2013) describe how children have grown up with technology so they attend school with a basic skill set, but they are often not aware of technology etiquette or what is required of a digital citizen. Due to this, educators need to think about opportunities that will explicitly teach students about appropriate technology habits and attitude.

Researchers and experts have developed categories that target specific issues related to digital citizenship. Lucey and Grant (2009) list property, freedom of speech, priorities, privacy, and accessibility as the primary digital issues. They further explain the responsibilities of teachers, students, and administrators related to the five categories. One of my classmates shared an article that described three main categories to describe important digital issues: 1) respect yourself and others; 2) educate yourself and others; and 3) protect yourself and others (Ribble and Northern Miller, 2013). Within each category there are specific elements and examples so educators can understand how these issues relate to instruction. Ribble’s Digital Citizenship Website aptly summarizes the nine categories and provides additional resources and information.

Lucey and Grant (2009) state, “Teachers demonstrate their technology values through their instructional choices” so it is important to be mindful of how technology lessons are incorporated in the classroom and what students will learn from such examples. One opportunity for me to teach students is by explaining how I decided to use certain facts or research in a lesson. I can review with students how I determined a website was creditable, obtained updated information, and if there were any digital laws that prevented me from using the source. Another chance to practice digital citizenship is by evaluating if students have enough time to work on projects during school. If many of my students do not have computer access at home, then I should allow extra time to finish assignments or provide opportunities before or after school for students to work on school computers. A final example is teaching students why it is important to cite sources and paraphrase other people’s work into your own words. This activity involves me demonstrating aloud how I think about rewording another author’s work and decide on my own version. Over time I would assign students to work together to paraphrase examples or sentences and eventually have students work independently on sample paragraphs.

When planning digital citizenship lessons I will reference the various categories to ensure I am covering all the necessary issues. My objective is to teach, discuss, and model why these issues are important and how my behavior reflects an effort to follow the guidelines. Learning activities will be mixed in with different subjects so students have many opportunities to practice digital citizenship and learn that technology safety and ethics is applicable to numerous situations.

References

Lindsay, J. & Davis, V. (2010). Navigate the digital rapids. Learning and Leading With Technology (March/April 2010). Retrieved from: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ886385.pdf

Lucey, T. & Grant, M. (2009). Ethical issues in instructional technology: an exploratory framework. Multicultural Education and Technology Journal (3)(3). doi: 10.1108/17504970910984871. Retrieved from: http://www.mjusd.k12.ca.us/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=468668

Ribble, M. & Northern Miller, T. (2013). Educational leadership in an online world: connecting students to technology responsibily, safely, and ethically. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks (17)(1). Retrieved from: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1011379.pdf

Teaching Values

The American education system has always included value-based curriculum as part of lessons in either a formal or informal manner. Schools create rules that students are expected to follow typically revolving around respect, commitment, honesty, and teamwork. Figure 1 below lists many of the fundamental values taught by schools, families, cultures, and religions.

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Figure 1 (Retrieved from http://www.newtampamasjid.org)

According to Joyce, Weil, & Calhoun (2015), studying values is important because students learn to think more critically about how their personal behavior and values impact their decisions and other people. Teaching values to children includes several considerations. How do you decide what are important values and do those values align with students’ cultures and home life? Why are certain values taught? How do you incorporate virtue lessons in classroom instruction? And perhaps the most important question is can values actually be taught?

Russell Kirk (1987) stated, “Can virtue be taught? Why, it can be learnt, though more through a kind of illative process than as a formal program of study…” I think Kirk’s statement is accurate because ideally, values would be learned through personal reflection and motivation. A formal program exposes students to what virtues are and what they mean, but the formality does not help students understand why people hold certain values and how values impact daily life. Parents, teachers, and other mentors can guide virtue lessons by having students think about why they believe in certain values and how those values influence their decisions. One strategy to teach children about values is through role playing. The basics of role playing involve providing students with a problem situation in which the outcomes are affected by an individual’s virtue and students act out the roles of people in the scenario. Role playing is an opportunity for students to model positive behaviors and interactions, work together to assess social issues, and practice a democratic way of solving issues (Joyce, Weil, & Calhoun, 2015, pgs. 261-262). This is also an effective kinesthetic activity since as children move around while acting out different roles, more neural networks are being developed in their brain so the learning is retained longer (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012, p. 73).

Coordinating students to act out certain scenarios aligns more with teaching values instead of students learning values on their own, but I do not believe most children will learn the importance of values and how to think about them without some direction. A benefit of role playing is students experience how their actions and values impact other people and they spend time thinking about why someone might decide differently. This activity is interactive and involves higher thinking skills than a student reading about virtues or listening to a lecture. Teachers should not rely on one method to teach students about morals. Teachers should also consider modeling virtues, complimenting students when they practice a positive behavior, or initiating discussions about decisions made by historical figures or characters from stories. These activities provide ample opportunities for students to observe actions, think about outcomes, and decide how they want to represent themselves and their community.

References

Dean, C., Hubbell, E., Pitler, H., & Stone, Bj. (2012). Classroom Instruction that Works (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Joyce, B., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of Teaching (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson.

Kirk, R. (1987). The wise men know what wicked things are written in the sky. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway.

Socially Constructed Knowledge

There are different types of knowledge students learn throughout their K-12 education. A few of specific types of knowledge student acquire are subject-related knowledge, academic skills, social skills, and collaboration abilities. Prior to grade school, children often experience life primarily at their home, at a preschool, or in a childcare center. These places tend to be very small populations and children interact with familiar people. Elementary school changes this learning and knowledge dynamic. Students are exposed to new learning content, social procedures, and a diverse set of perspectives and approaches to life. Children start learning new and different knowledge as they work with others. The cooperative learning approach supports students as they learn how to respectfully interact with each other while building vital social skills for adult life.

The cooperative learning strategy recognizes that students have diverse interests and the class acquires knowledge together based on those interests. The process of cooperative learning includes creating an environment where students can explore new knowledge by discussing the information with peers, and developing an understanding with classmates about the information (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012, p. 37).

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Image 1 (Retrieved from collaborativegrouplearning.com)

Image 1 on the right summarizes the cooperative learning process as students interact in a community and share ideas. The teacher’s responsibility during this process is to facilitate the groups, intervene when necessary, and act as a consultant (Joyce, Weil, & Calhoun, 2015, p. 252). When students participate in a cooperating learning environment, knowledge is constructed based on the group interests rather than knowledge the teacher believes students should learn.

I have participated in numerous group-learning projects throughout my education and in the work setting. Naturally, group work is challenging at times, but the value of working with different people and learning about their perspectives or approaches outweighs the difficulties. As a teacher, one of the best benefits of utilizing a cooperative learning strategy is so students have the opportunity to talk and exchange ideas. Humans are social creatures. I do not expect my students to sit silently for the majority of the school day. Instead, I want students to learn how to exchange ideas and reflect on their knowledge through discussions and collaboration. Another advantage of group learning is that students realize working together is easier when they properly utilize each other’s strength and knowledge. Every individual has a unique ability or thought that should be shared with group. When everyone participates, the result is a better solution to a problem or a stronger final product. A cooperative learning approach advocates the notion that students learn more when working together because they are simultaneously teaching each other. This type of education and knowledge cannot by preplanned by a teacher, so teachers should encourage students to learn from each other through group activities and discussions.

References

Dean, C., Hubbell, E., Pitler, H., & Stone, Bj. (2012). Classroom Instruction that Works (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Joyce, B., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of Teaching (9th ed.). Upper Sadle River, New Jersey: Pearson.

The Learning Process

One of my goals is to understand how people learn so I can practice more effective teaching methods. A standard teaching strategy generally involves a teacher providing information to students and expecting them to memorize everything. Next, the teacher assigns homework or worksheets focused on fact-based information. At the end of a unit, students usually complete a multiple-choice test to evaluate how well they have remembered specific facts. This is a repetitive process that rarely advances a student’s thinking skills. It is not my intention to primarily use a memorization strategy, but I do believe memorization is an important part of the learning process. A major teaching objective is to help my students learn how to remember what they are taught and to know how that information will eventually assist them in critical thinking.

Students can practice a variety of memorization techniques depending on what they are attempting to remember. Joyce, Weil, & Calhoun (2015) present a four-phase process to help students memorize information. The four phases of memorization are: 1) attending to the material; 2) identifying connections; 3) using techniques to expand sensory images; and 4) practicing recalling the information until it is completely learned (Joyce, Weil, & Calhoun, 2015).The strategy used in each phase will depend on what type of content is being taught and learned. Eventually students learn which strategies are best applied to what they want to memorize.

Memorization is an important part of the learning process because students scaffold their knowledge and thoughts before applying different thinking strategies. Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy of the Intellectual Processes aptly describes how the learning and thinking process develops. Bloom’s original model of taxonomy was created in 1956. The 1956 model categorizes the learning process into six domains, with knowledge as the first domain to be mastered before achieving success at higher levels (Armstrong, 2016). In 2001, the categories were relabeled as verbs in order to more distinctly demonstrate how people discover and apply their knowledge (Armstrong, 2016). Figures 1 and 2 below are examples of the original and revised versions. Both images include a short description explaining how learning occurs in each category.

BloomsTaxonomyOriginal
Figure 1: Original Version from 1956. (Image retrieved from http://www.uaa.alaska.edu).

 

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Figure 2: Revised version from 2001. (Armstrong, 2016).

 

As shown in both models, memorization is a significant part of the learning process since it must be mastered before moving up to the next level. Once students remember and understand knowledge, then I can apply other teaching strategies that guide students to a deeper thinking process. Bloom’s Taxonomy is a valuable resource for me to reference when planning lessons and to assess where my students are in the learning process. It is also important to share this model with students so they are cognizant of how their learning progresses overtime. I believe once students are aware of how learning occurs, then they will be more successful at mastering each level.

References

Armstrong, P. (2016). Bloom’s Taxonomy. Retrieved from: https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/

Joyce, B., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of Teaching (9th ed.). Upper Sadle River, New Jersey: Pearson.

Student Affairs, University of Alaska Anchorage. (2012). The Assessment Cycle. Retrieved from: https://www.uaa.alaska.edu/studentaffairs/assessment/assessment-cycle.cfm