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QUESTIONS OF CHARACTER 20 th February 2015: SQA Research Seminar Series Gary Walsh

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1 QUESTIONS OF CHARACTER 20 th February 2015: SQA Research Seminar Series Gary Walsh

2 What kind of people does the world need? What kind of world do people need?

3 Why go to school? In 1998, UNESCO offered a set of aims for schooling, world-wide: Learning to know Learning to do Learning to live together Learning to be

4 “If we are to respond to challenges of possible financial collapse and the fear and anger that so often follow in its wake, if we are to make a better world in the sure knowledge that it too will always be in flux then, rather than trying to convey ever- increasing amounts of information to new generations of students, we must base our approach on ‘values and understandings which rest upon common humanity’ and that common humanity is realised quintessentially and daily in the school as a living community of persons whose fundamental task is to learn what it means to lead good lives together.” John MacMurray, Scottish philosopher Extract from his lecture ‘Learning to be Human’, Moray House School of Education, Edinburgh, 1958 Learning to be Human

5 Professor Brian Boyd’s report A Common Weal Education (2014) asks us to examine “…the role of schooling in creating a civilised society. It looks at the aims of education and emphasises the importance of ‘the New Basics’ like the ability to think – critically and creatively - empathy, working with others, problem-solving and resilience in a modern economy and society.” Learning to be Human

6 “"I regard it as the foremost task of education to ensure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial, and above all, compassion."” Kurt Hahn, Educator, philosopher, founder of the United World Colleges Learning to be Human

7 “We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.” Martin Luther King Jr, 1947 Learning to be Human

8 “We need to listen, once again, to the ideas of Dewey and Tagore, favoring an education that cultivates the critical capacities, fosters a complex understanding of the world and its peoples, and educates and refines the capacity for sympathy—in short, an education that cultivates human beings and their humanity, rather than producing generations of useful machines. ” Martha C. Nussbaum 1947-present American Philosopher Extract from ‘Cultivating Humanity and World Citizenship’, 2007 Learning to be Human

9 Construct of pupil character: a recent history 18th Century: the sinful pupil 19th Century: the polite pupil Early 20th century: the morally adjusted pupil Late 20th century: the cognitively developing pupil Turn of the 21st millennium: the emotionally vulnerable pupil Early twenty-first century: the flourishing pupil (Walker et al, 2013)

10 21 st century demands on ‘character’ Globalisation & neoliberalism Climate change Social Media ethics Food Irradiation Smart Drugs (cosmetic pharmacology) Life extension sciences Genetic research & modification Cloning of replacement body parts (using 3D printers?!) Combat drones Personal privacy vs national security





15 Survey results



18 What were the concerns? Who defines behaviours, values, ‘good’ character? Just a way of achieving conformity to norms of groups, society, culture? No problem dealing with issues of lawfulness, but morals? Pushing a particular ethical code: we should assume moral relativism Victorian, value-laden Preconceptions of Character Education Time spent ‘away’ from curriculum study Is this the job of educators? What about parents? There is already a specific focus on Character Education built into Curriculum for Excellence, isn’t there? Character Education should be informed by clear underlying philosophy or values approach Shared understanding: where do values come from? Are values different across cultures, religions etc?

19 Survey results




23 Which values? Community of character?



26 Virtue Ethics: a philosophical perspective Practical Wisdom MoralCivicPerformanceIntellectual ‘Doing the right thing’ Examples: Courage, Self-discipline, Compassion, Gratitude, Justice, Humility, Honesty ‘Being engaged and responsible’ Examples: Service, Citizenship, Volunteering ‘Thinking it Through’ Examples: Autonomy, Reasoning, Curiosity ‘Being your best’ Examples: Resilience, Determination, Creativity The ability to balance or decide between conflicting virtues (Aristotle)

27 Character Strengths: a psychological perspective

28 A values perspective Schwartz (1992)

29 Values take different forms Values Personal Family Moral MaterialSpiritual Socio- cultural Jimenez, J.C., The Significance of Values in an Organization

30 Values and Moral Development Principles and fundamental convictions which act as general guides to behaviour, enduring beliefs about what is worthwhile, ideals for which one strives, standards by which particular beliefs and actions are judged to be good or desirable. Halstead and Taylor (2000) Acquiring a set of beliefs and values relating to what is right and wrong which guides intentions, attitudes and behaviour towards oneself, other people, one’s own society and others, and the environment; and developing the disposition to act in accordance with such beliefs and values. (Halstead and Taylor, 2000, p3)

31 Values and character formation EmotionsWhat we feel AttitudesWhat we think and feel BeliefsWhat we think and feel to be true ValuesThe beliefs which guide how we live our lives MotivationsThe beliefs and desires which make us want to behave in certain ways BehaviourOur actions: what we do Our habits: what we regularly do CharacterWho we are: what we value, how we think and feel, what we do Mowat (2014)

32 Values and character formation Mowat (2014) Values & Character EmotionsBeliefsAttitudesMotivationsBehaviour

33 Character is about who we are as people. It is defined as the set of psychological characteristics that motivate and enable the individual to function as a competent moral agent, that is, to do ‘good’ in the world. Character education is defined as those educational practices that foster the development of student character. Berkowitz 2011 Character Education: what is it?

34 What kind of people does the world need? What kind of world do people need?


36 Questions & Issues raised from pre-event survey Terminology What is a ‘positive moral ethos’? What is a ‘community of character’? Community approach Links with other influences in young people’s lives Teachers being asked to do work previously done by families, communities, churches etc Schools should support this work and expect wider communities to do the same Responsibility lies with many people Diversity of belief Schools adding value to communities – young people having pride in school because of this – data linking this with improved behaviours Shared understanding of how we live and work together SQA Respondents valued a community approach higher than teaching staff Professionalism CE and values provide a key lever for school improvement Tension between engaging in areas of ‘right and wrong’ and teachers putting across own moral position

37 Questions & Issues Character Education principles What is the ultimate good? ‘Good character’ – who decides? Focus on the moral is simplistic Character Education is about the capacity to make choices of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ How do we account for cultural bias? What is Character Education? Is it a subject or an approach to curriculum? What to do in terms of assessment and measurement? How prescriptive should it be? How much emphasis? Partnership working e.g. CLD – schools shaping communities – we are missing this opportunity Values-based or principle centred? Recognition of Wider Achievement Keep integrity of RME intact Danger of assuming moral superiority Values approach shouldn’t be separated from morality Character Education as development, not a new ‘initiative’ Approaches to character & ethics without didactic/proselytising approach In what ways can CE be an academic enabler AS WELL AS building character? Is that a false distinction? Character of organisation vs character of individuals Nature vs nurture CE as another blot on or passing fad with short shelf life What are schools currently doing? Existing models from other countries? CE given a ‘Scottish’ slant? “There are so many approaches to achieve the same ends- is it useful to have another one and if so what is it's particular contribution?” Inspiration AND aspiration Get values ‘off the wall’

38 Challenges in schools where character & values could play a role Pupils & teachers Greed, selfishness, lack of interest, lack of belief, negativity, laziness, Lack of confidence: perseverance, confidence, courage Senior School students do not feel their views are taken into account, they don’t feel valued Pupils under huge pressure of exams, tend to be critical about everything Learned helplessness, working with others, lack of ambition & intrinsic motivation, pupils ‘trained out of creativity’ Number and scale of competing challenges facing teachers Acting with integrity, ‘doing the right thing’ rather than ‘doing things right’ Self-regulation in education and work settings Respect, integrity, giving people a chance, putting personal opinions to one side, gratitude, equality Low aspirations, limiting beliefs Enthusiasm, moral background, integrity Development mindset, seeing mistakes as learning opportunity, conflict resolution Encouraging commitment & consistency with young volunteers Exploring own values vs agreeing school values? Shared values/conduct between staff and pupils? Pupil ownership? YP desperate to do good? Unconditional positive regard?

39 Challenges Health & Wellbeing Developing wellbeing curriculum – resilience model – can this be linked with CE? Behaviour: ‘foul’ language, litter, bullying, lack of empathy for diversity Stress Culture We live in a compliance culture, more concern about what we are seen to do than what we actually do Legislation around personal freedoms Achievement: Extrinsic motivation ‘winning’ over intrinsic Growth mindset vs fixed ‘cultural’ mindset Clash of cultures Concern for the environment, equality, materialism Communication, fear, time, resources, motivation and will Financial constraints Opportunities for challenge Ethics to negotiate the moral/social questions of modern world Moving from vision to measurable steps towards it Engagement of those who feel let down by the system Home environment not encouraging good character vs doing good as part of school curriculum Getting parents on board Competing priorities, CE seen as another pressure, convincing headteachers Role of parents/families?

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