The basis of character education is that the choices we make grow into habits, and our habits shape the person we become. At Gordon’s we have identified five character strengths that we encourage children to develop through their choices and the habits they build.
These character strengths are courtesy, integrity, diligence, enthusiasm and resilience. We believe these five character strengths will be a firm foundation for success (academic and otherwise) at Gordon’s and beyond.
Courtesy and integrity are also known as 'moral virtues' and diligence, enthusiasm and resilience as 'performance virtues'.
PROMOTING CHARACTER EDUCATION IN LESSONS
Whilst we are ambitious for ourselves and our students we are also a kind school. Naturally, some students are more academically able than others, but it is not about some being bright and others ‘not so bright’; all are equal differently. Our responsibility is to help all students understand that they can always improve through effort and a positive attitude and to identify their strengths.
To this end the following five strategies, for in and out of lessons, are encouraged:
1. High expectations, supported by levels of challenge for every student
Effort is more important than ‘talent’ or ‘innate ability’. Our attitudes directly affect students’ learning and, ultimately, the grades they get. A teacher who has high expectations of every student in his or her class will reap the rewards: more students will rise to the challenge and succeed.
Some think that lowering standards will give students a taste of success, boost their self-esteem, and raise their achievement. But all the evidence suggests it does not work. Instead, it leads to poorly educated children.
2. Explicit encouragement for students to risk being wrong and be independent of thought
We should actively encourage students to develop a growth mindset: to make mistakes and build their resilience to setbacks. No one ever learns anything by always being right; we must foster a safe and secure environment in which falling over is not only okay but the road to getting better. Students should feel confident in our school to admit “I don’t understand this…can you help me?” and realise it is not a sign of weakness or low intelligence; quite the opposite.
3. Engagement in purposeful practice
Even geniuses have to work hard for their achievements.
“The harder I practise, the luckier I get.” – Gary Player
We should therefore, provide students with plenty of opportunities to practise and perfect their knowledge and skills. Students invariably need more practice than we expect.
4. Reward for effort not attainment
Don’t praise ability ("you got a high score, you’re good at this"), praise effort ("you got a high score, you must have worked hard"). Research (Dweck, 1998, 1999 & 2007) has found that students praised for ability are consistently more likely to reject challenge than others because they do not want to do anything that will bring their ‘talent’ into question. Dweck concluded that praising ability actually lowered students’ IQ and resilience.
5. Use of frequent formative assessment
If you believe you can develop yourself you are open to accurate information about your current abilities, even if unflattering. We all need accurate information about our current abilities in order to learn effectively. We should therefore dedicate quality time in our lessons for our students to act on feedback and to redraft work in order to improve upon it.