The Way | Lead | Establishing the Foundation for Character Education
Standards for character education hold everyone to their educational purpose.
We believe that we have reached the point now where we might successfully assemble the six corridors of an set of standards that can help a school to identify, understand, and agree on a shared vision and framework for education that is aligned to desired graduate outcomes based on 21C civic, performance, and moral character competencies. Nonetheless, these proposed standards are probably best seen as a useful starting point for a school to consider what it most wants to achieve. Most (if not all) schools should want some point of reference to what might be considered an industry standard. Yet, we have already seen that it is preferable for schools to work through what they want the qualities and capabilities of their graduates to be and how they want this to work through into the learning of their students along the pathway towards graduation. Each school has its own context and heritage that will influence the priorities that their community will wish to afford certain aspects of the character for a 21C life and the nuances of how this will play out in their own educational space. Off-the-shelf, in this respect, is neither wanted nor preferred. This will mean that schools will need to develop their own approaches to formulating both the content, and course, of an education for character.
In our work, we have examined much of the three core layers of the six corridors of standards around which a conceptual framework for character education might be built. Based on what we have discerned from our work in this study and beyond, we have suggested the formation of such a conceptual framework and also a process for implementing them meaningfully within the distinctive culture of a school for character. Let us look now at the expression of standards for character education that draw on everything that we have learned. In the following chart, we can see these articulated into six corridors whose components are aligned and shaped purposefully to deliver an education that consistently produces fit for purpose 21C graduates.
Optimism is essential. We should want our students to have integrity. We should be positive about them and believe that they are fundamentally interested in the idea of character and what it means to be a good person. We need to honour this by believing in their potential to contribute positively to their world. In attending to school character, climate, and culture, we need to want to build a school of character. We must believe that the purpose of our school is to build the 21C character and competencies of our students. We need to support our work in school culture by constructing a shared vision and vocabulary for our aspirations, community spirit, and pathways to success, and embed this within all aspects of the life of the school. In our leadership, we seek to strengthen. We believe that leading through character adds to the value of a school and that this should be characterised by embedding shared values in a culture with a clear and meaningful core of civic character, performance character, and moral character. This draws on the leadership capability of disciplined and purpose-driven practice. We seek to provide an education that is valued and appreciated by our stakeholders. We describe and justify an educational value proposition for parents and students that is based on 21C character and competencies in a time of increased improvement, service, and value for money across all industries. In doing so, we are solving the problem of more for less in an industry where the workforce traditionally leans towards valuing inputs and processes more than outputs and products
Validation plays a key role in the work of educators. We must affirm what our students know, can do, believe and are becoming. We should believe that our students need to understand the complexity of our world and the progress they are making on their journey if they are to become the people they need to be. We need to design assessment and reporting that helps them to measure their 21C character and competencies. In our leadership of the educational program, we lead our school towards the future of our students. We must believe in the importance of a future- focused education for our students. We need to support our work in school leadership by providing a clear and compelling rationale that explains how and why we might move forward positively and incrementally to this future without disrespecting the past or neglecting current requirements. Our leadership practice must aim to inform. We should believe that leading through narrative creates shared purpose in a school. This is characterised by leading it towards a shared understanding of its context, trajectory, and sense of community. This draws on the leadership capability of creating and communicating vision. We aim to provide an education that prepares our students to face challenges with confidence. In doing so, we are developing expertise in accommodating the velocity of change and complexity of managing people in a time of uncertainty. In doing so, we are solving the problem of the fear and solipsism that emanate from complexity and challenge so naturally for so many.
Forgiveness is so valuable to excellent teaching practice. We should want our students to grow. We must allow them to make mistakes and to transform by learning from them. We should believe that our students need to test boundaries and learn from errors. We need to resist the temptation to condemn them by passing judgment too quickly about their capacity to grow and improve. In focusing on teacher effectiveness in growing the whole person, we should expect all learners to achieve our desired graduate outcomes. We share a belief that all teachers contribute towards this whole work of our school. We need to support our work in school learning by setting high standards and encouraging all teachers to develop greater self-efficacy and adaptive expertise in growing the whole person. Our leadership in this respect strives to orientate. We believe that leading through transformation commits the school to growth. This is characterised by adopting behaviours of self-efficacy and adaptive expertise in pursuit of the progressive attainment of iterative standards. This draws on the leadership capability of understanding and managing change. We aim to provide an education that encourages students to be disposed towards technological fluency. We are preparing students to inhabit a technology-rich world that demands their constant attention. In doing so, we are solving the problem of living and learning that can be emblematic of differing inter-generational experiences of youth and adulthood.
We should provide our students with a structured community of inquiry and practice. We ought to believe that our students benefit most from a consistent, rigorous, clear and structured approach to learning together. We need to provide planned and responsive learning that deliberately shapes the development of 21C character and competencies.
Great teachers educate for the freedom of their students. We need to encourage our students to make their own choices. We should believe that our students need to know the outcomes that are expected of them and should learn how to make good choices and accept their consequences. We need to respect and enhance their emerging sense of creativity, discernment, and agency as they adapt to their changing circumstances. In directing our work to the nature of the student educational experience and outcomes, we should aim for excellence for all learners. In particular, we need to believe that the experience of education should be excellent for all of our students, both by intention and design, in achieving our graduate outcomes for 21C character and competencies. We need to support our work in school performance with depth of examination, thoroughness in implementation, and measurement of impact. Our leadership in this respect is about focus. We believe that leading through expectation concentrates the school on solutions for the future derived from the best possible thinking. This is characterised by enacting strategic intent, paying attention to detail in implementation, and emphasising achievement of desired outcomes. This draws on the leadership capability of problem- solving and decision-making.
We help our students shape their identities and citizenship. We need to believe that our students should learn about themselves, their character, competencies and context by making their perspective of their developing citizenship their most powerful method of learning. We need to respect that this process helps to shape our students’ enduring understanding about who they are and to what purpose their lives might be put. In concentrating upon strategic and operational alignment, we need to focus ourselves on the greatest positive impact on all learners. We must believe in the necessity for directing our time, energy, and funding towards the things that matter most in improving outcomes for more learners. We need to support our work in school strategy by ensuring that what we all do on a daily basis is deeply influenced by our vision for a preferred future. Our leadership, therefore, in this context seeks to align. We believe that leading through intent draws the school together by building trust. This is characterised by promoting openness and responsibility, establishing commitment to a common aspiration, and resourcing for long- term success. This draws on the leadership capability of values-based leadership style. We should want to provide an education that allows children to grow naturally into their adulthood. We want to de-power the rapidly escalating professionalism of many aspects of adolescent and school life, notably in the design and implementation of sporting and other co-curricular programs, including high- contact sports and those with pathways into professional adult competition. In doing so we are wrestling down the problem of managing differing expectations, traditions and aspirations of students, parents and alumni.
We should provide our students with a structured community of inquiry and practice. We ought to believe that our students benefit most from a consistent, rigorous, clear and structured approach to learning together. We need to provide planned and responsive learning that deliberately shapes the development of 21C character and competencies. In refining our teacher professionalism in a community of inquiry and practice, we need to commit to evolving our practice for the benefit of all learners. We need to believe that our current context and future demands in education require fresh thinking, different models, and a rapidly evolving evidence-based knowledge architecture. We need to support our work in school systems and processes with an effective and relational community of inquiry and practice focused on improving the experience and outcomes of student learning.
Our leadership in this area, therefore, is about the capacity to enrich. We need to believe that leading through teams enhances the school by empowering people. This is characterised by conscious acknowledgement of the dignity, worth, and agency of individuals and groups within the community of inquiry and practice. This draws on the leadership capability of team cultivation. We provide an education that helps students to bring people together and welcome differences. We negotiate contemporary and emerging concepts and practices of gender, race and class. In doing so, we are solving the problem of bringing hidden values and prejudice to the surface and mediating cultural conflict to create internal and external community alignment with our values. The process by which this bespoke approach to developing a whole education for whole character will be realised will depend largely on the quality and consistency of the character leadership in the school, and the amount of character capital generated.