Game Changers | Learn
The core business of a School for tomorrow. is to help its students to express the civic character of belonging, the performance character of fulfilling potential and the moral character of doing what is good and right so that they might achieve success – progress and wellness on their pathways to excellence. Character is, therefore, the reason why we do “school”; it is the whole work of a school. So, what is this thing called character?
UNDERSTANDING CHARACTER AND COMPETENCY
Character is the way we live life. Do we belong? Are we fulfilling our potential? Are we doing what is good and right? These are powerful questions we ask about our civic, performance and moral character. Sometimes to answer them we search deep and discover an inner sense of who we are, and who we may become; this is our mark as a person. Other times, we try to fulfil the expectations of others; this is our measure as a person. And so, through the course of our lives, as we express the civic character of belonging, the performance character of fulfilling potential and the moral character of doing what is good and right, we wrestle. We wrestle with both leaving a mark and measuring up. This is how we form character. This is how we show who we have been, and who we are becoming.
Competency is the capacity to demonstrate how one has grown in character. It deliberately and simultaneously asks one to know, to do, to be, and to learn. When competency is achieved, the knowledge, skills, dispositions, and learning habits that are cultivated during the social and educational processes we experience are demonstrated in our values, our actions, and the outcomes we demonstrate. In short, our civic, performance and moral character is revealed in how we learn, live, lead, and work.
Our program of global research into the nature of an education for character has prompted us to conceive of a school which places an education for character and competency at the centre of what it does. We call this a School for tomorrow.
THE PATHWAY TO EXCELLENCE
We have also arrived at a model for human development that has purpose at its heart: The Pathway to Excellence. This is a journey of inquiry in search of meaning and the discovery of truth and relevance. The Pathway to Excellence helps learners to express the civic character of belonging, the performance character of fulfilling potential and the moral character of doing what is good and right. In time, learners become increasingly more confident at demonstrating this through their competencies. This means that they:
The Pathway to Excellence calls on us as educators to be mindful of what matters most in what we do. The things of daily life in a school are important: the rhythms and routines that provide us with a sense of order and predictability, the relationships we form, the specific content we teach and learn. All of these have their time and place. Yet if we lose track of the bigger picture, we run the risk that these things – units, tests, games, events and so on – become what school is all about. The particular means become the overarching ends and we construct a narrative of justification around them. We lose our perspective and we stop educating.
When we educate, when we teach, when we take students on The Pathway to Excellence, we are forming human beings. School is, therefore, by necessity a whole education for a whole person. Academics, co-curricular, pastoral care, the life of the community – all of these are important. Yet none of themselves define and shape character and competency individually. It is the holistic experience of growth that equips our students for the world.
The Pathway to Excellence for our students, therefore, is about growing in the character and competencies they need to thrive in our world. It is also about how they build the adaptive expertise and self-efficacy to experience success – progress and wellness on their pathways to excellence. Adaptive expertise means human beings growing in character and competencies and using these to solve known and new problems. It is, in essence, our commitment to growth. Self-efficacy means human beings organising themselves and their learning, living, leadership and work to optimise their character and competencies so that they can thrive in their world. It is our capacity to be the best version of ourselves that we can be.
If character is the way we live a life and competency is how we demonstrate our capacity to do this with the adaptive expertise and self-efficacy to thrive in our world, then teaching for character and competency means how we prepare our students to live and thrive on The Pathway to Excellence.
Success means progress and wellness on our pathways to excellence. Progress is defined by the growth, motivation, engagement, achievement, and qualification of a person in each of their competencies. These concepts are connected intimately with each other; inherent in this connectedness is the measurement of a person’s progress according to growth in mastery of competencies, organisation of one’s life around these competencies, and a sense of thriving in the world through these competencies. Wellness is how we experience health and happiness in the world. Our wellness (or how well we feel) is influenced by our health – physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual, our satisfaction with the lives we are leading, and the sense of purpose and connectedness we have. Our character is directly affected by our wellness; how well we are is so very important to how we live our lives and who we are becoming through all of our social relationships and educational experiences on our pathways to excellence.
This is why a School for tomorrow. exists: to promote the qualities of adaptive expertise and self-efficacy required for our students to develop the character and competencies to thrive in this world and to experience progress and wellness on their pathways to excellence. We don’t need our students or ourselves to be perfect or even exceptional. All of us in a school’s community of inquiry and practice need to be committed to growth and to being the best version of ourselves that we can be. We need to know what we are learning – aspiration. We need to go on a journey of encounter, connection, challenge, and discovery to acquire character and competencies – experience. We need to collaborate with our teachers, mentors and experts as the co-authors of the narrative of our learning journey – agency. We need to discover our own identity and how best to express it through our learning and relationships – voice. And we need to be provided with the time, support, and conditions that will help us to make the most of our learning – resources.
If all things are as they ought to be on The Pathway to Excellence, our strengths will come to the fore in our learning, living, leading and working. This will allow us to both leave our mark and to measure up in terms of our sense of belonging, the fulfilment of our potential, and our propensity to do that which is good and right. And we will also have passed on what we have found along the way to others.
THE WAY – TEACHING AND LEARNING IN A SCHOOL OF CHARACTER
From our research, we can also propose a way to educate our students about how to pursue The Pathway to Excellence. The Way is a research-driven and evidence-based approach to building a fit for purpose 21C school, a School for tomorrow. that helps students to grow in the character and competencies of learning, living, leading and work that they need to thrive in our world:
In other words, The Way helps us consistently demonstrate an increasing propensity towards inspiring, challenging, and supporting students to belong, to fulfil their potential, and to do good and right things as young people of character and competency. It is about them becoming homes for personalised, aligned and integrated journeys of student inquiry in search of meaning and the discovery of truth and relevance through aspiration, experience, agency, voice, and resource supported by a community of inquiry and practice dedicated to improved student outcomes. In other words, teaching means that we need to connect what we do (Our Practice) to the fundamental rationale at the core of our work (Our Purpose) and through our context (Our People and Our Place). It goes beyond the things of school; it is about the humanity of who we are, what we do, and why we do it. Teaching is about the character of life.
If character is the way we live a life and competency is how we demonstrate our capacity to do this with the adaptive expertise and self-efficacy to thrive in our world, then teaching for character and competency means how we prepare our students to live and thrive on The Pathway to Excellence. It means that we need to bring all of what we do back to the real intention of an education: to form human beings.