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.

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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.

EDU 6120: Final Foundations

Question: Many of the authors we study contend that the most important goals of education are to improve the moral and social fabric of student and to raise academic achievement. Explain what this means to you and provide illustrations showing how these goals might be best attained. 

The American public education system serves multiple purposes. When parents send their children to school, it assumed the primary reason is so children learn academic skills to prepare them for the future. While academics do consume the majority of a student’s day, students also learn social skills and societal values during the school day. It is important for teachers to identify opportunities to teach social and moral character while preparing academic lessons.

Arthur Foshay identifies four learning areas that teachers are obligated to recognize as part of a student’s education. The four areas are: 1) academic coping skills; 2) character development skills; 3) citizenship skills; and 4) self-realization skills (Ellis, Session 6, p. 3). These four skill areas align with purpose of education: academic, social, and moral lessons. For example, academic achievement is influenced by academic coping skills, characters development skills, and self-realization skills. Acquiring academic coping skills helps students since they learn the foundations of certain subjects and how to effective study habits. Character development and self-realization relate to academics because these skills teach students perseverance when schoolwork becomes challenging.

Similarly, values and morals are taught when students learn character development skills, citizenship skills, and self-realization skills. Part of developing one’s character is deciding certain values to live by and self-realization occurs in situations when students have to follow their values. If a student believes cheating on tests is wrong and discovers their friend cheated, then this situation becomes a personal dilemma. That student must decide to either inform the teacher or talk to their friend first. These types of situations test a person’s morals and character. Lastly, morals are learned through citizenship in the classroom. Teachers expect students to follow certain procedures as part of class management during the school day, just as citizens are expected to follow societies rules which function to maintain a sense of order. Morals are an underlying component of any classroom or society rule. Rules are created based on the belief that people should practice respect, not harm others, and make positive contributions to the community.

Since part of a teacher’s responsibility is to teach academic, social, and moral skills, how do teachers effectively incorporate these skills into the classroom? Richard Hersh proposes that the academic and social climates of the school contribute to effective teaching and effective learning (Ellis, Session 4, p. 10). According to Hersh, effective teachers promote a positive academic climate by using a variety of teaching techniques, ensuring students stay on task to increase instruction time, monitoring student progress, and evaluating assigned homework. (Ellis, Session 4, p. 10). Hersh also provides suggestions for how teachers cultivate a positive social environment. Recommendations include that teachers explain expectations and goals to their students, have high expectations of students, demonstrate a caring disposition toward students, and publically recognize positive student behavior (Ellis, Session 4, p. 10). With this advice, teachers can ensure students are learning academic, social, and moral skills in the classroom and during other interactions in the school community.

When teachers are aware of the responsibility to teach a variety of skills and know how to effectively teach these skills, then teachers can keep these goals in mind during lesson planning and instruction. To successfully teach academic skills, teachers should use grading rubrics to ensure students are accomplishing learning objectives and have students track their own learning goals on individual assessment forms. A thorough grading rubric guarantees students and teachers understand instructional goals and that everyone also knows the performance that is required to reach that level of understanding (Marzano, 2007, p. 23). A rubric is an efficient method for teachers to outline and describe the academic skills that are the purpose of a specific lesson. Teachers should also distribute Student Progress Charts so students monitor their progress after deciding on a learning goal in a particular subject. The Student Progress Chart requires students to choose a goal score to attain at the end of a unit and then student’s track their progress in graph form. (Marzano, 2007, pg. 25-26). This self-assessment is very helpful for students as they learn academic skills because it is a visual guide for them to see what areas they are struggling in compared to areas where progress has been made. Rubrics and student self-assessments are valuable tools for teachers to monitor if academic skills are being learned.

Teaching moral and character skills might not involve such explicit techniques. Instead, to teach these skills, teachers should create a sense of community within the classroom and find opportunities to praise students when their behavior reflects community values. One of the first lesson plans a teacher should include in the beginning of the school year is collaborating with students to create a list of classroom rules. Involving students in the process is critical because it helps students think about why rules are important and how they can demonstrate the behavior described in the rules. Another way teachers may incorporate learning about character and morals is while reading literature or during history lessons. In these examples, teachers should initiate class discussions about character personality traits. If a character in a story did something that negatively impacted themselves or their community, then students might discuss what that character could have done differently. Similarly, when studying history, the class might talk about the character traits or morals of an individual who had a positive impact in history. These discussions help students connect school lessons with the real world. A goal of these lessons is for students to think about the impact of their behavior inside and outside the classroom. When students know their core values then it is easier for students to practice those morals.

It is evident that a student’s education must include lessons that teaching academic skills, along with social and moral skills. When a teacher considers all three skills to be a priority while teaching, then students will likely be better prepared to handle the diverse challenges that occur in every day life. Academic skills are critical for a child to be a successful student, but building character helps students persevere throughout difficult subjects while knowing core values guides student through complicated life situations. Teachers must include the three skill areas for a student to receive a meaningful education.

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Question: Of all the individuals and philosophies we have discussed during this course, select one or two whose ideas have influenced you the most. What are those ideas, and what relevance to they have to your own philosophy?

For thousands of years people from around the world have been interested in figuring out the best method to educate others. Philosophers, educators, and scholars have written countless articles, essays, journals, reflections, and performed studies that scrutinize the most effective educational approaches. These resources have provided modern educators with a plethora of information to study, examine, and analyze in the context of present day education and philosophy. When studying these historical methodologies, it is essential to remember that several ideas were likely written for a particular audience and during a time when students tended to be from a similar group. Yet many of the contributions are still relevant in modern society and can be applied in the classroom. Throughout this course, I have been primarily influenced by principles of the Progressive philosophy and the educational contributions of Horace Mann.

Progressivism is an educational approach that centers on the manner in which information should be taught. A progressive philosophy is the belief that students should be taught how to think rather than what to think (Ellis, Session 5, p. 6). Progressivism does not teach students that the purpose of education is to memorize information in order to pass examinations. Instead, when a teacher practices a progressive approach, he or she strives for students to be independent thinkers and learn how to analyze the information they are being taught. The goal is to provide students with the skills necessary to adapt to environments that are constantly changing (Ellis, Session 5, p. 6). This philosophy aligns with one of my teaching goals. I believe students should think about why they are taught certain information and to consider how that information might apply to future situations.

John Dewey, an American educational philosopher, contributed to many of the main principles of progressivism. A few of Dewey’s principles include the belief that education is a lifelong process through active involvement, that students’ interests should guide lessons, and that students require different teaching styles (Scheuerman, Session 8, p. 1). These principles support my teaching philosophy because I want students to develop a passion to continually learn throughout their lifetime. This idea is supported when teachers make lessons relevant to a student’s interests. If a lesson is about a subject a student is interested in, she or he will show more focus, comprehension, retention, and examination about that topic. Teaching lessons relevant to students’ interests persuades them to explore learning opportunities outside the classroom and hopefully become lifelong learners. Teachers can further support lifelong learning when it is recognized that students have different interests and learning styles. These factors should be taken into consideration when teachers are planning lessons. A variety of lessons, activities, and teaching techniques help make learning more relevant to a diverse audience of students.

Horace Mann, who was the first director of the Massachusetts State Board of Education, is influential because he understood the complexities of providing a public education for all students and valued various subjects being taught in school. Mann lived until 1859, yet he envisioned a public school system that is quite comparable to present day. He believed students benefitted from instruction in a range of subjects. In one of Mann’s Annual Reports, he wrote about the importance of lessons in music, health, and physical fitness (Scheuerman, Session 7, p. 1). In modern society, these subjects are included in students’ school schedules, but these classes are often the first to either be eliminated or have reduced instruction time because of budget constraints. While the specific classes might be removed from my students’ schedules, I can still find ways to include these subjects into the general classroom. For example, I can incorporate music into the classroom by reciting lyrics during literature readings or plan for activities that allow students opportunity to move around the classroom. Creativity while lesson planning will help students continue to be exposed to a variety of subjects.

Mann also acknowledged the numerous benefits of living in an educated society. In 1848, in his Twelfth Annual Report, Mann emphasized several community-related advantages of all citizens attending school including that education provides independence, prevents poverty, decreases the class system, and teaches logical thinking, innovation, and socialization (Scheuerman, Session 7, p. 2). This report is influential because Mann’s analysis was written over 160 years ago and it helped provide all children access to an education. These societal advantages continue to be discussed today as the American education system struggles to balance providing an equal education for all students. It is also remarkable that Mann devoted his career to education yet began his professional career as a successful lawyer (Scheuerman, Session 7, p. 1). I think this decision is very inspiring because I strongly believe teaching is my calling in life. Becoming a teacher is a career change for me after working in typical office environment for about five years. I believe that my work experience outside the field of education will help me empathize with parents when figuring out scheduling conflicts and trying to determine the best communication method. My prior experience offers a unique perspective, yet I have a lot to learn from teachers who have always worked in education. Mann’s story has encouraged me that following one’s life calling will lead to success.

The progressive philosophy and the work of Horace Mann have greatly influenced my preparation to become a teacher. One of the greatest lessons is that I must acknowledge how the principles will impact my work. If I am cognizant of why I plan lessons a certain way or practice certain teaching methods, then it helps ensure my students are receiving the benefits of those principles. The progressive approach encourages lifelong learning and this belief is applicable to my personal growth and development. I am open to learning about additional philosophies and instructional techniques to enhance my knowledge Furthermore, when I continue researching educational philosophies and applying new concepts in my lessons and teaching activities, then I am modeling the behavior that I hope my students will develop. My instructional approach will continually change as I gain experience working as a teacher, learn additional educational principles, and observe how my students respond after applying certain techniques. Just like learning is a lifelong process, teaching is a lifelong process of adapting and evolving.