Q. How do you answer studies that have so far proven that no character education program is effective? Indeed, the implication from the studies is that no program can be effective. That is, October 2010, a federal study, the largest and most thorough ever conducted, found that schoolwide Character Education programs produce exactly zero improvements in student behavior or academic performance.
A. D.R. Exactly the reason that there should be a new effort to create programs that are effective. There is plenty of research to show that “character” as defined by people like Marty Seligman and Chris Peterson is positively correlated with success and high achievement both in individuals and groups. I just think that many supposed character programs have been ill conceived and not well executed. We have not yet worked out an entire program at both our schools, but I think that the work that we are doing is heading in some interesting directions.
Here's the federal study that's referenced above. What drives me crazy is that there's all this money being spent and all this time being invested in programs that don't work. Will my program fail? Yeah, it probably will. That's why assessment is so important.
People resist change. We put students through experiences precisely because we've reasoned that they should impact the students. What that means is that it's really easy to say that kids must have grown because they went through these meaningful experiences. It's so easy to fool yourself into thinking that people have learned something when they haven't learned a thing.
In all likelihood the course that I'm designing will not significantly impact the character of my students. But I think we can try, and if we are careful in the way we measure success we've got a fighting chance of figuring this out eventually.
Here's what I'm proposing as measurements of the success of my program. I'll take as evidence of success any positive, measurable changes in the following areas:
- Amount of charity given
- Amount of time dedicated towards others
- Attitudes towards an individual's obligations to others
Right now I'm looking for surveys that measure any of these. If you've got anything, please drop it into the comments.