The core value proposition of most Christian Schools to parents is about character. Of course, each school has its own particular emphases, but essentially the core 'clients' of the school are those parents who are prepared to pay more so as to gain for their child involvement in a formative environment which will maximize their chances of become well formed, happy and successful people. To this end, the School of Education at Alphacrucis has been working with Dr Philip Cummins and Brad Adams at CIRCLE Education on the results of a large international study of character education in Schools. The Final Report of the project to the International Boy's School Coalition was completed in November 2018, and the book exploring the results of the extensive project (The Way: The character of an excellent 21C education) was released earlier this year. Involving 48 schools for boys, nearly 40,000 students, and 4,500 teachers, it is one of the largest studies of its type yet to be carried out.
The results of the study demonstrated not only what can be done to improve our approach to character education in schools, but why schools often don't live up to their value proposition. It is clear from the evidence, for example, that 'while [school] leaders have a clear picture of the work' that needs to be done to form students, schools have 'little opportunity to reflect on how this work can be situated within a model or series of models that allow for the development of a cogent theory of character leadership'. (Final Report, p. 270) In other words, schools are often too busy to be consistent in the pursuit of their core proposition. Schools need to build deliberate cultures of reflective practice, around clear strategies, plans and HR resourcing in 'character leadership', to break through the busyness of the day, and so do what they go to work to do.
Character formation emerges from the convergence of character leadership, character labour, and character capital. 'Character leadership', the report notes, 'refers to the specific character labor exercised by leaders in modeling character and developing character competency, as well as reinforcing character education.' Character labor refers to the deeds, words and decisions that reveal a leader’s true character and promote the character labor of others and the character capital of the school as a whole. As Dr Cummins notes:
Character education efficacy results from the will and their capacity of leaders to embed a shared commitment to “what we want, why we want it and how we do” it in character education. Character leadership is associated with the Theory of Culture which states that character education is reinforced by character leadership that attends to [the school's] honorable traditions, rituals, artifacts and models.
The Way: The character of an excellent 21C education, is available from the CIRCLE Education website.
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