Education Curriculum Planning

Character Education: A Guide for School Administratorsdown arrow image

DeRoche, Edward F. and Mary M. Williams (2001). Character Education: A Guide for School Administrators. Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press. 180 pages

As the title indicates, this book is indeed a guide for school administrators. Although it could be easily read in one sitting, it is intended to be a roadmap, or perhaps more precisely, a cookbook for the school principal who wishes to develop a successful character education program.

The book is organized into nine short chapters, called “tour stops”. The first chapter, “The Comprehensive Framework”, provides an introduction and overview of character education beginning with the “Character Education Manifesto”, that in the words of the authors, “...provides a holistic view of the importance of character education in schools.” Definitions of terms related to character education are found in this initial chapter along with important questions that can be used to formulate thinking about a program.

The succeeding chapters include planning, leadership, school climate, teaching, training, program, partnerships, and evaluation. Each chapter provides a number of useful tools that can be easily adapted and utilized in the school and community such as sample questions and surveys; practical strategies; checklists; plus many ideas for activities for students, teachers, administrators, parents, or school-wide. There are helpful hints throughout, roles and responsibilities are clarified, current programs are explained and compared, and many ideas of a “how to” nature are presented. Each chapter contains a “tour stop” at one or more examples of schools throughout the country where the different aspects discussed in the chapter are exemplified.

If a school administrator was forced to choose just one book on how to develop a character education program, this should be the one. It is the most complete and practical guide available.

Reviewed by Dr. Donald Wise
Professor of Educational Administration, CSU Fresno

Educating Hearts and Minds: A Comprehensive Character Education Frameworkdown arrow image

De Roche, Edward F. and Mary M. Williams (1998). Educating Hearts and Minds: A Comprehensive Character Education Framework. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.

Edward DeRoche and Mary Williams' practical book can be used by schools in creating informed character education programs. In it they attempt to “merge ideas from research on character education with a synthesis of the most effective practices in character education in schools and across the nation.” The frame work they have developed is a nine-component model for a comprehensive character education program. The components include: vision, standards, expectations, criteria to guide program development, the role of leadership, necessary resources, training, partnerships and assessment. Each component is described in such a way as to allow the utilizing school to respond as it sees fit in relation to its student demography without feeling coerced into a particular way of thinking. The authors of Educating Hearts ask the right questions and frame a correct path to help school committees.

Whereas the first four chapters provide a framework through which a comprehensive character education program can be developed, the last two chapters provide guidance in assessment and evaluation. Chapter Five presents 10 examples of how programs can be assessed, and Chapter Six gives assessment information from some of the major national programs. This is a helpful book for school committees which have made the commitment to create a character education program and need help to fulfill that goal.

Moral Classrooms, Moral Children: Creating a Constructivist Atmosphere in Early Educationdown arrow image

DeVries and Zan, Betty (1994). Moral Classrooms, Moral Children: Creating a Constructivist Atmosphere in Early Education. New York: Teachers College Press.

Moral Classrooms, Moral Children is a book for teachers of young children (preschool and kindergarten) based on the developmental theories of Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg and Robert Selman. In it the authors describe a rationale, based on constructivist theory, of how teachers should look at children, at their own classroom atmosphere and at their school environments. The authors state that the basis for the book is “that a sociomoral atmosphere must be cultivated in which respect for others is continually practiced.” DeVries and Zan define a moral classroom as one in which “the sociomoral atmosphere supports and promotes children's development”. They give three examples of classrooms (negative and positive) that are used throughout the book to define their perspective--the Boot Camp Classroom, the Factory Classroom and the Community Classroom. Many practical examples (and counter examples) are given for how to conduct a constructivist classroom. These are divided into topical chapters (e.g., Establishing a Constructivist Sociomoral Atmosphere, Conflict and Its Resolution, Grouptime, Rulemaking, Social and Moral Discussions, Activity Time, Clean-Up, Lunch Time, Nap Time, etc.). Each chapter ties to a theoretical framework and is optimistic in its outlook. That is, while each chapter is an argument for resolving the issue under consideration from a constructivist perspective (e.g., The Difficult Child--Chapter 16), the resolution that results is often given as positive advice without much research back-up. For example, an argument against Assertive Discipline for preschoolers is that “one of the major goals of the school is to teach students to question and to resist controlling methods that lead to blind following of authoritarian demands and orders” (p. 267). And, another argument given for treating young children democratically is that not doing so can lead “to mindless conformity in both moral and intellectual life” (p. 47) even though it has just been explained by the authors that these young children are not naturally cognitively capable of autonomous thinking. These ideological problems notwithstanding, this is a practical and often useful book for teachers of young children seeking to understand how to use children's cognitive and socio-moral development as a basis for appropriate program planning.

Promoting Social and Moral Development in Young Childrendown arrow image

Edwards, Carolyn Pope (1986). Promoting Social and Moral Development in Young Children. New York: Teachers College Press.

This is a book for teachers of children from 2-6 years. Promoting Social and Moral Development in Young Children not only explains children's intellectual development at these ages, but focuses on their attainment of social and moral knowledge. The framework for the book is derived from the work of Lawrence Kohlberg and other developmental psychologists and educators. Much of the book contains valuable activities, with full explanations, for enhancing such knowledge. The first two chapters present the theoretical framework and guidelines for conducting social/moral discussions with young children. The remainder of the book focuses on different content areas: age identity and roles, gender identity and sex roles, racial and cultural categories, concepts of family and friendship, societal institutions, and age appropriate moral decision making. The book is practical, easy to read and use, and thoughtful.

Promoting Social and Moral Development in Young Childrendown arrow image

Edwards, Carolyn Pope (1986). Promoting Social and Moral Development in Young Children. New York: Teachers College Press.

This is a book for teachers of children from 2-6 years. Promoting Social and Moral Development in Young Children not only explains children's intellectual development at these ages, but focuses on their attainment of social and moral knowledge. The framework for the book is derived from the work of Lawrence Kohlberg and other developmental psychologists and educators. Much of the book contains valuable activities, with full explanations, for enhancing such knowledge. The first two chapters present the theoretical framework and guidelines for conducting social/moral discussions with young children. The remainder of the book focuses on different content areas: age identity and roles, gender identity and sex roles, racial and cultural categories, concepts of family and friendship, societal institutions, and age appropriate moral decision making. The book is practical, easy to read and use, and thoughtful.

The Moral Life of Schoolsdown arrow image

Jackson, Philip W., Boostrom, Robert E., and Hansen, David T. (1993). The Moral Life of Schools. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Over a period of two and one-half years the authors of The Moral Life of Schools engaged in extensive observations in eighteen classrooms, elementary and secondary, located in public, independent and parochial schools in the Midwest. Specifically, without preset notions of what they might find, they collected information about how to look at schools and how to think about what goes on in classrooms. In the process eight observational categories were derived to help the observer: 1) moral instruction as a formal part of the curriculum, 2) moral instruction within the regular curriculum, 3) rituals and ceremonies, 4) visual displays with moral content, 5) spontaneous interjections of moral commentary, 6) classroom rules and regulations, 7) the curricular substructure, and 8) expressive morality. Throughout the book the point is made that many teachers inadvertently teach morality to their students "without the full awareness and thoughtful engagement of those in charge." This is a useful book for teacher groups to begin the process of reflection on what they actually do at those times they communicate formally and informally with their students.

Educating for Character: How Our Schools Can Teach Respect and Responsibilitydown arrow image

Lickona, Thomas (1991). Educating for Character: How Our Schools Can Teach Respect and Responsibility. New York: Bantam.

In this award-winning book for teachers Lickona states that good character has three interrelated parts--moral knowing, moral feeling and moral behavior. Schools, in conjunction with the home, are essential partners in raising moral human beings. After an introductory section, Lickona presents a variety of classroom strategies for teaching respect and responsibility, including the moral role of the teacher, creating a moral community in the classroom, moral discipline, integrating values in the curriculum, conducting moral discussions and teaching children to solve conflicts. A last section, updated since his 1985 book, treats specialized topics such as sex and alcohol education, and working with parents. As always, Lickona uses real-life, excellent examples.

Character Matters: How to Help Our Children Develop Good Judgement, Integrity, and Other Essential Valuesdown arrow image

Lickona, Thomas (2004). Character Matters: How to Help Our Children Develop Good Judgment, Integrity, and Other Essential Values. New York: Simon & Schuster

Award-winning psychologist-educator Thomas Lickona offers more than 100 practical strategies that parents and schools have used to help kids build strong personal character as the foundation for a purposeful, productive, and fulfilling life. Lickona lays out a blueprint for developing the 10 essential virtues that make up good character—wisdom, justice, fortitude, self-control, love, a positive attitude, hard work, integrity, gratitude, and humility—through a partnership shared by families, schools, and communities. Chapters include: 14 strategies that help kids succeed academically while building character; more than a dozen character-building discipline strategies; 20 ways to prevent peer cruelty and promote kindness; 10 ways to talk to teens about sex, love, and character. The culmination of a lifetime’s work in character education, this landmark book equips parents, schools, and the entire community with the tools needed to raise respectful and responsible children, create safe and effective schools, and build the caring and decent society in which we all want to live.

(From: Center for 4th and 5th Rs)

Character Education in America's Blue Ribbon Schools: Best Practices for Meeting the Challengedown arrow image

Murphy, Madonna M. (1998). Character Education in America's Blue Ribbon Schools: Best Practices for Meeting the Challenge. Lancaster, PA: Technomic Pub. Co., Inc.

According to the author, "this book attempts to show what the best schools in America are doing to train students in moral values and ethics." Madonna Murphy, a Professor of Education at the College of St. Francis in Illinois, spent several years identifying and categorizing information on character education content from elementary and middle school applications for the National Blue Ribbon Award Program (1985-94). Her goal was to report on these award-winning schools and to assess the effectiveness of the programs described by them. In the process she reviews programs said to educate children about drug resistance, motivation and self-esteem, character development, discipline and citizenship education. The book is full of useful information and succinct evaluations of commonly implemented programs. Familiar and not-so-familiar programs are reviewed--DARE, Here's Looking at You, Quest, Character Based Sex Education, Second Step, various guidance programs (e.g., DUSO, Magic Circle), as well as programs from the major character education curriculum development institutes--Character Education Institute, Jefferson Center, Child Development project, The Heartwood Curriculum, CIVITAS. In addition, Murphy draws from many applications and gives excellent examples from excellent schools which have developed their own programs. School staffs interested in developing their own character education program or in applying for the National Blue Ribbon Award Program will find this book a very useful resource.

Taking Religion Seriously Across The Curriculumdown arrow image

Nord, W. A. and Haynes, C. C. (1998). Taking Religion Seriously Across The Curriculum. Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Warren A. Nord and Charles C. Haynes’ Taking Religion Seriously Across The Curriculum emphasizes the study of religion in K-12 curriculum based on civic, constitutional, and educational frameworks. The authors argue that while the First Amendment requires neutrality in matters of religion, public school curriculum must be inclusive, teaching students about religious as well as secular ways of living and thinking. If students are to be liberally educated, they must be initiated into a discussion in which they hear a variety of voices, not marginalizing religion and uncritically constructing the sense of what is reasonable in society.

The book frames our cultural ways in to two polarized groups: liberals who prefer prayer out of schools, religion out of the curriculum and sex education in the classroom; and religious conservatives who would restore prayer in the school setting, add creationism to a moral curriculum, and eliminate sex education. Based on these deep fundamental differences, the authors articulate a set of civic and educational principles that may be used for adjudicating cultural differences and establishing a common purpose for implementing religion in the educational domains of history, civics, economics, literature, and the sciences.

The result is an influential book that offers a refreshing perspective on the relevance of religion across the curriculum in the New Consensus. It recognizes that religion courses are controversial and that school systems must have clear policies that emerge out of collaborative efforts among parents, school officials, and the community.

(Reviewed by: David DeSilva, Joint Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership CSU-Fresno/UC Davis (2002)

Character and Community Development: A School Planning and Teacher Training Handbookdown arrow image

Vessels, G (1998). Character and Community Development: A School Planning and Teacher Training Handbook. London: Praeger.

This handbook is a useful guide for school personnel interested in implementing a character education program. Gordon Vessels defines character education and discusses public concerns and general program implementation issues. Traditional and progressive approaches are traced theoretically. Cognitive, affective, moral, and social development frameworks are analyzed. Vessels has assembled a remarkable collection of perspectives, with representation of education, philosophy, religion and moral development.

Character constructs are discussed. Each construct is defined in children's language for elementary students and in like manner for middle and high school students. Age ranges for Early Childhood, Middle Childhood, Middle School and High School are determined, and cognitive, social and emotional issues are discussed in the context of instructional implementation. Behavioral objectives are also included, as are strategies for program development.

Vessels makes an important point to be considered by all prospective program developers. That is, the leadership at the school site must share the vision and explicit goals for the system-wide promotion of positive character. Furthermore, the leadership must include parents in preparation and training. In fact, this reviewer considered the planning and evaluation chapter the most valuable of all those in the book. Each program decision is presented, analyzed and evaluated—helping character educators to think through all possible implementation challenges. The author's philosophical frame unites the work. Vessels makes it clear that a supportive classroom and community involvement are critical elements of successful character education programs. He presents strategies to foster such involvement.

(Reviewed by Rob Gaertig, Graduate Student, CSUF)

Promising Practices in Character Education: Nine Success Stories From Around the Countrydown arrow image

Vincent, Philip Fitch (1996). Promising Practices in Character Education: Nine Success Stories From Around the Country. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Character Development Group.

Philip Vincent has put together a collection of recent testimonials from school districts around the country describing their efforts at instituting character education programs. Included are descriptions of programs from North Carolina, New York, New Mexico, Indiana and Ohio. Particularly interesting is the range of programs described, from St. Louis' PREP Program to Dayton, Ohio's Allen School. In one the whole community participated in creating a vision and in the other a solitary school struck out on its own. Each program described tells its own story, and in the process describes resources used, the vision of the planners, materials they found useful and changes they have noticed in the children as a result of their efforts. This is a useful introduction for school and district staff looking for models as they plan to create their own approaches to character education.

Learning to Trust: Transforming Difficult Elementary Classrooms Through Developmental Disciplinedown arrow image

Watson, Marilyn (2003). Learning to Trust: Transforming Difficult Elementary Classrooms Through Developmental Discipline. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

The introductory chapter began with Nel Noddings quotes, "We should educate all our children not only for competence but also for caring. Our aim should be to encourage the growth of competent, caring, loving, and lovable people," to demonstrate Watson’s commitment to the role of caring in child development. She indicated that caring is highly correlated with competence and relationship building.

In her role as the program director of CDP she found high success rate among participating schools implementing Developmental Discipline. Developmental Discipline stresses that the teacher:

  • Forms warm and supportive relationships with and among their students
  • Helps their students understand the reasons behind classroom rules and expectations
  • Teaches any relevant skills the students might be lacking
  • Engages students in a collaborative, problem-solving process aimed at stopping misbehavior
  • Uses non-punitive ways to externally control student behavior when necessary

Learning to Trust is a case study of Laura Ecken and her classroom. Details of activities she engaged in for two year to build caring and trusting relationships, inspire students about learning, one another, and the world outside the classroom door were provided.

Watson wrote the book for teachers and student teachers having problems implementing Developmental Discipline and needed to see what it looks like in a regular classroom not the educational video she was using for instruction.

Watson and Ecken argue that children's social and emotional development is as important as their cognitive development. They used Luis Rodriguez quote to drive their points home, "I know why young people join gangs: to belong, to be cared for, and to be embraced. I hope we can create a community that fulfills these longings, so young people won’t have to sacrifice their lives to be loved and valued in this world."

Developmental discipline is based on the attachment theory, contrary to Skinner's behaviorist learning theory and Freud's psychoanalytic theory that shaped educational approaches to discipline and classroom management. "Attachment theory holds that the nature of early attachment relationships affects the quality of one's attachments throughout life. A child whose early relationship with a caregiver is positive and secure learns to trust others to provide needed care. Children whose primary relationships don't meet basic needs will have insecure attachments and tend to devalue themselves and mistrust others."

Developmental Discipline is all about teaching the social, emotional, and moral skills and understandings that children have not yet developed.

Summary of Content

The book is segmented into three sections: Building Trust, Managing the Classroom and Putting it all Together. The first section details how Ecken struggled to build trust in her relationship with her students and among her students. She had to explicitly instruct students on how to introduce and conduct themselves partnering activities. Question circles were used to make personal connections. Students were involved in a lot of interactive activities that kept them engaged with the curriculum as well as their classmates.

She took advantage of the teachable moments by spending time to learn more about the students during lunch which she has each day with respective table groups. The students were constantly taught and reminded about friendship and what it means to be a caring community of serious learners.

In order to provide a balance between autonomy and responsible decision making, Ecken empowers the children by collaboratively developing routine procedures with the student at the beginning of the year and as needed.

Ecken’s goal is to engage all of her students as partners with her to improve their academic learning and to behave in kind, fair, and responsible ways. She is of the school of thought that saw punishment as a negative force," neither helping children neither become caring and responsible nor kindling their love of learning."

The book is a testament to the challenges faced by teachers trying to implement Developmental Discipline as well as the immeasurable impact full implementation has on student outcome. Students were equipped with coping skills and strategies to manage their behaviors. Strategies such as self-talk, modeling, and frequent reminders that enable student to self-correct.

Critique

Laura Ecken is a brave soul, who documented her classroom life for the benefit of other teachers. Evidence of good teaching is documented all over the book. The book reaffirms the saying, "kids don’t care what you know, until they know that you care." Watson stressed the importance of a small class size for effective developmental discipline.

As a classroom teacher, I would love a framework that is easy to follow. Most of what happened in Laura’s class and the strategies she suggested mimics those I learned about Discipline that Restores. There appeared to be no accountability on the student and administrators’ part, the teacher is overwhelmed. A school wide program might relief the teacher of having to do so much. I understand that teachers need to build that trusting relationship, but it would be a lot easier if that were the school’s culture.

Keeping the students for two or more years is beneficial on moral development grounds, but it is not taking teachers’ productivity into account. If the campus culture is such that developmental discipline pervades the school there won’t be the need to follow students. Teachers could deepen their understanding of the curriculum to the benefit of their students.

This is a good book for administrators to have a glimpse into challenges experience by teachers when they are overwhelmed with behavior problems despite their best intentions. The book demonstrated the complexity classroom instruction entails and how it truly takes a village to raise a child.

Reviewed by: Idia A. Abode
Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership at Fresno State (DPELFS)

Comprehensive Character-building Classroom: A Handbook for Teachersdown arrow image

Wiley, Lori Sandford (1997). Comprehensive Character-building Classroom: A Handbook for Teachers. Manchester, NH: Character Development Foundation.

Lori Wiley has produced a teacher-friendly book with a bit of everything needed by the teacher just getting started with character education planning. The first few chapters give the basis for developing such programs, explaining what character education is, why it is important and how character is acquired; various methods for teaching character and several samples of ethical codes for classrooms and schools are presented. The middle section of the book gives information on curriculum strategies for building positive classroom climate, a moral community in the classroom and school, and examples for correlating classroom discipline with morally appropriate strategies. The last few chapters provide many and varied examples of national curricula developed in the area of character education and practical ways to get students involved in moral behavior. The book ends with a list of references including books, films and information on resource centers and curriculum projects around the country. This is a good first resource for program initiation.

Reclaiming Our Schools. A Handbook on Teaching Character, Academics and Disciplinedown arrow image

Wynne, Edward and Ryan, Kevin (1997). Reclaiming Our Schools. A Handbook on Teaching Character, Academics and Discipline. New York: Merrill.

The authors, perhaps the best known character education proponents in the country, have written an annotated handbook for teachers and school administrators. The book opens with a checklist of activities that happen in a typical school and ask readers to document how students and faculty spend their time. For example, staff are asked how much time is spent in meetings and parent conferences, in out-of-class contact with students, the percentage of students who participate in school activities outside of academics, the manner in which students are publicly recognized for positive participation in school-related activities, and the meaningfulness of the school's discipline code. The bulk of Reclaiming Our Schools then explains and analyzes the items on the checklist. After a bit of background on the 2000+ year history of character education in the Western tradition, individual chapters focus on teaching character and discipline, teachers as moral educators, the curriculum as a moral educator, leadership in moral schools, and the planning of recognition ceremonies to recognize outstanding students, and more. Widely acclaimed, this book, though sometimes surprising, is full of good sense, and provides support for adults who want to reclaim schools for the sake of future generations.

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