Teaching Moral Character: Two Alternatives for Teacher Education By Narvaez, Darcia Lapsley, Daniel K
Debating whether or not teachers should teach values addresses the wrong question. Education already is a values-infused enterprise. The larger question is how to train teachers for positive character formation. Two teacher education strategies are presented in this article. A “minimalist” strategy requires teacher educators to make explicit the hidden moral education curriculum and to reveal the inextricable linkage between best practice instruction and moral character outcomes. The “maximalist” approach requires preservice teachers to master a tool kit of pedagogical strategies that target moral character directly as a curricular goal. To this end, the Integrative Ethical Education model outlines five steps for moral character development: supportive climate, ethical skills, apprenticeship instruction, self-regulation, and adopting a developmental systems approach. Teaching Moral Character: Towards a Conceptual Framework for Teacher Education Option 1: Best Practice Instruction is Sufficient for Moral Character Formation Effective teaching for moral character aligns with best practice instruction for academic achievement. The knowledge base that supports best practice instruction is coterminous with what is known to influence the moral formation of students. Making explicit this linkage should be a clear goal for teacher education. Preservice teachers should consider not only how instructional practice influences academic learning but also how it shapes student character development. As we will see, schooling and teacher practices that promote achievement overlap with practices that support student prosocial development (Sebring, 1995). Effective teaching promotes both academic and moral excellence (Solomon, Watson, & Battistich, 2002). We will focus on two domains where best practice instruction pays dividends for moral character education: socioemotional skill development and caring classrooms and schools. Caring School Community
Character formation begins with a caring relationship, first in the home and then at school. A caring relationship forms the bridge from adult to child through which mutual influence can occur (Greenspan & Shanker, 2004). A child who is cared for will likely care for others, and will engage as a citizen in the moral life of the community. The quality of early teacher-student relationships can have a strong influence on academic and social outcomes that persist through eighth grade (Hamre & Pian ta, 2001). In a study of middle-school students, Wentzel (2002) showed that teaching styles that conform to dimensions of effective parenting were a significant predictor of students’ academic goals, interest in school, and mastery learning orientation (even after controlling for demographic factors such as gender, race, and students’ control beliefs). In particular, teachers who had high expectations tended to have students who earned better grades but who also pursued prosocial goals, took responsibility, and showed a commitment to mastery learning. Conversely, teachers who were harshly critical and were perceived to be unfair had students who did not act responsibly with respect to classroom rules and academic goals. Implications
Given the tight connection between best practice instruction for academic expertise and for moral development, teachers are unwittingly engaged in character education when they structure lessons and organize classrooms in ways that optimally support student learning. The implication for teacher education is straightforward: adopt a best practice approach to instruction for character education. Preservice reflective practice could address the pedagogical strategies that are correlated with student academic achievement, making apparent their implications for moral character education. Moreover, teacher educators can help preservice...
References: Narvaez, D., Lapsley D. (2008) Teaching moral character: two alternatives for teacher education.
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