Game Changers | Learn | Teaching for Character
Character education works best when it’s deliberate, targeted and intentional. The consistency and quality of character learning in a school is a reflection of a school’s willingness to embrace character apprenticeships, specific character pedagogies and an approach to strategic educational development that embeds character and competencies into every facet of school life in a deliberate, targeted and intentional way.
As educators, we need to develop specific and explicit expertise in shaping character relationships. Many strong and positive relationships (such as the ones referred to above) are formed in which students learn about character through a process of apprenticeship to a variety of experts who can show them how to grow in expertise in character competency. These critical relationships through which so much character learning is enabled can often occur with a reliance on intuition rather than intentionality of practice. We propose that greater attention be given to the nature of intentional relationality within the whole education of a school. This would be based on an understanding that character competency and character leadership are built within special learning relationships that function through a character apprenticeship model based on the cognitive apprenticeship model that responds to explicit and implicit, intentional and spontaneous experiences that grow, test and measure civic, performance and moral character over time within a school, its culture, and its community.
Our Model for Character Apprenticeship (shown above) progresses from articulation to reflection to exploration as a novice, then from modelling to coaching to scaffolding as an expert. It is a strong yet non-judgmental way of explaining how a student learns about character in relationship with others. It emphasises the importance of teaching and leading others towards mastery of character competency as a feature of character education itself. In other words, there must be a deliberate pedagogical shift in the power dynamic of the learning relationship as the expert hands over the opportunity to teach others to those who were once their novices and are now experts in their own right. The movement from novice to expert is not necessarily linear, nor does it preclude a learner being both simultaneously: many supposed experts still regard themselves as being learners who are also benefitting from being in relationship with those whom they consider to be greater experts. What is critical in this is the shift in power over time from the expert to the novice: it is passed on in the same way as the expertise is passed on.
The consistency and quality of character learning in a school is a reflection of a school’s willingness to embrace character apprenticeships, specific character pedagogies and an approach to strategic educational development that embeds character and competencies into every facet of school life in a deliberate, targeted and intentional way.
THE PEDAGOGIES OF AN EDUCATION FOR CHARACTER AND COMPETENCY
The attainment of desired graduate outcomes based on civic, performance and moral character and competencies in a school depends critically on the nature of the specific pedagogical relationships of character apprenticeships in which students are accepted as novices, craft their character competencies, acquire expertise, and pass this on in turn to others. How we do this, on a daily basis, with our students and with each other, in no small measure determines the success of what we do. Much of this will be reflected in our pedagogies. From what we have seen in our study and more broadly, we feel that the Character Learning Experiences created by our pedagogies can best be situated within a quadrant formed by two axes that stretch from ‘Explicit Learning’ to ‘Implicit Learning’ and from ‘Intentional Learning’ to ‘Spontaneous Learning’ (see diagram below).
This allows us to identify four types of learning experience:
Currently, many primary or elementary educators tend to emphasise explicit pedagogies while senior school educators tend to emphasise implicit pedagogies. Most educators default to one of these approaches. We believe that all educators need to become expert in the pedagogy and curriculum of all four types of learning experience. From what we have seen internationally, we are led to the conclusion, in fact, that this body of pedagogical knowledge and its corresponding understanding level of effectiveness in character education, while complex in so many ways, is identifiable and discussable – and certainly so if and when the right conditions and direction for professional discussion and growth are set in place. In its current state in schools, there is a hidden and tacit world of professional knowledge in character education that needs to be made explicit and made better for all in the process.
A STRATEGIC APPROACH TO A FRAMEWORK FOR EDUCATION
An agreed and documented framework for education helps a school to gather evidence about, align, and implement, and evaluate its shared educational vision within a community of inquiry and practice dedicated to achieving its graduate outcomes:
One way of looking at the process as a whole is to define its concrete phases and map them to a timeline over 3-5 years:
What might be the goals, associated outcomes, and processes of a project that seeks to develop and implement a Framework for Education?
The purpose of a School for tomorrow is to prepare our students to thrive in their world. How we educate for character and competency is the core business of this; it is the whole work of a school and the work of a whole school.