Source: RMC Research Corporation, September 2006
How Does Current Research in Character Education Support Service-Learning?
- Research conducted by RMC Research Corporation (2005) found that students who participated in the Partnerships in Character Education project (character education project integrating service-learning components) in Philadelphia reported gains on the civic engagement measure from fall 2004 to spring 2005. Participating students also reported greater increases in prosocial behaviors, such as altruism, caring, respect, and ability to choose between right and wrong, than their peers in the comparison group.
- The "What Works in Character Education" project (2005), led by Berkowitz and Bier of the University of Missouri-St. Louis and commissioned by Character Education Partnership, reviewed 33 successful character education programs. The researchers gathered the existing findings to look for patterns and draw conclusions about best practice. Community service/service-learning was recognized as one of the pedagogical strategies utilized in the best practice sites. Other strategies included direct teaching of character traits, peer interactive teaching/learning strategies, classroom/ behavior management strategies, schoolwide or institutional organization, modeling/mentoring, family/community participation, and professional development.
- Scott and Jackson (2005) found that using service-learning concepts as part of comprehensive guidance endorsed the middle school philosophy in multiple ways and helped middle school students meet comprehensive guidance program goals related to academic/learning development, life/career development, personal/social development, and multicultural/global citizenship. Five major themes pertinent to middle school student development included personal awareness, social skills, learning skills, career interests, and character education. Middle school students, who received comprehensive guidance curriculum instruction in their service-learning class and then taught a similar curriculum to elementary school students, reported learning character education skills and how to be better citizens in addition to being academically successful.
- "Smart & Good High Schools" authored by Lickona and Davidson (2005) was a national study of American high schools including site visits to 24 diverse schools, a comprehensive research review, and the input of a National Experts Panel and a National Student Leaders Panel. The report advocated a shift from focusing on moral character to both moral and performance character. The report identified "contributing community member and democratic citizen" as one of the eight strengths of character and described service-learning as an effective strategy to "engage students in service" to achieve this goal. The report also included a summary of research findings on the impacts of service-learning indicating that it helps increase students' sense of civic and social responsibility and citizenship skills, improves school climate, increases respect between teachers and students, decreases tardiness and discipline referrals, increases academic achievement, and improves interpersonal development as well as the ability to relate to diverse groups.
- The report authored by Tonn (2005) and produced by the Washington, DC-based American Youth Policy Forum and the Alexandria, Virginia-based Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development reported that civic education in the United States is being neglected because of a renewed emphasis on reading and math spurred by the demands of the No Child Left Behind Act and included a 7-point agenda for improving civic education, and ultimately civic engagement, across the country. It advocated, among other strategies, broadening the definition of "core" curriculum to include civic learning, increasing opportunities for service-learning and character education in schools, and integrating civics lessons into other subjects.
- An action research conducted by Blozis, Scalise, Waterman, and Wells (2002) on middle and high school students in several growing, middle class communities located in northern Illinois found that character development, service-learning, and multicultural competency can be effective intervention strategies to increase student involvement in community and school activities, to increase understanding of their role and responsibilities as a citizen, and to promote a growing sensitivity to diverse cultures.
- Muscott in his 2001 article described an after-school service learning and character education program, Service-Learning Opportunities (SO) Prepared for Citizenship, designed to advance the prosocial behavior of students exhibiting either temporary or longstanding emotional and behavioral problems. The article addressed the use of service-learning and character education as major strategies with the students with "egos that cannot perform" to help them develop self control.
Based on these findings, and other research on character education programs, it is clear that character education supports service-learning and that service-learning provides an environment in which the goals and values of character education can be enhanced.
Developing and Integrating Character Education and Service-Learning at Your School
- Canvas the community to understand their needs and willingness to work with K-12 students.
- Define character education clearly and comprehensively so that all participants share a common vision and mission.
- Identify core values by involving students, family members, school staff, and community members in the process.
- Train school personnel in character education and service-learning so that the activities are of high quality and positive outcomes are more likely to accrue.
- Infuse character education and service-learning into every aspect of the school culture and curriculum so that both are viewed as essential rather than as add-ons.
- Develop agreements for student and community participation in service-learning so that expectations are clear from the beginning.
- Encourage all adults participating in service-learning projects to model the core values adopted by your school.
- Design student materials and orientation processes for service-learning so that students can understand and play important roles in planning and implementing activities.
- Reinforce the connection between service-learning core values and the curriculum through written and oral reflection opportunities for all participants.
- Conduct an evaluation to assess and understand the program's effectiveness and use the information to improve.
- Share your experiences and best practices with other schools so that more schools become involved in character education and service-learning and program quality is improved.
Examples of Programs that Combine Character Education and Service-Learning (Best Practices)
- Easton High, one of the schools honored by the Maryland Center for Character Education (2006) adopted Character Counts as the basis of their character development strategies. Students and staff are involved in numerous community service activities, such as Habitat for Humanity, the Neighborhood Service Center, and area soup kitchens to help reinforce character development. The school also participated in "The National Anthem Project," promoting the singing and understanding of the Star Spangled Banner.
- Tariffville Elementary School in Tariffville, Connecticut, one of ten 2005 National School of Character winners, featured a strong service-component in their character education program, CLIMB (Character Lives In My Behavior). The program emphasized "giving back to the community" and each class performed community service. Their citizenship projects involved planting plants to beautify the village, preparing meals for the homeless, participating in the walk to raise fund for Multiple Sclerosis, and visiting senior homes or children's hospitals. Discipline incidents decreased dramatically and student achievement increased since the inception of the CLIMB program.
- Bridge Point Elementary School in Austin, Texas, an awardee of the 2005 Promising Practices in Character Education, addressed the problems of homelessness through participating in the Meals on Wheels service project. Students made cards for the meal recipients in their language arts class and then visited the Meals on Wheels headquarters. Students reflected on social justice and economic fairness and implemented plans for raising money for the Meals on Wheels project.
- Pearson School, Modesto, California, another school of Promising Practices, adopted a service-learning initiative. Kindergarteners and first graders interacted with community members through reading to firemen or policemen, discussing citizenship with the mayor and civic leaders while touring city hall, and inviting handicapped people to the classroom so they could learn about disability. Eventually, the school invited community members to help plant a School Community Peace Garden. Through these service-learning opportunities, students developed civic and social responsibility.
- The Pennsylvania Alliance for Character Education (PACE), working with the School District of Philadelphia, implemented the "Champions of Caring" Journey of a Champion program. Middle and high school students engaged in readings, discussions, and service projects related to character development and civic involvement. They used character education and service-learning focused around a particular theme. In 2005, students, teachers, and community-based organizations from western Pennsylvania gathered in the Ballroom of the Fez Banquet Center to look at what it meant to build character through participating in service-learning projects. The event included training in service-learning and the elements of character established by the National Character Education Partnership. Students also had time to talk with community-based organization staff members about potential projects and partnerships.
- The Character Counts! Program (2001) at Los Ranchos Elementary in Albuquerque, New Mexico, developed a program for 5th graders to raise plants. In learning lessons about science and responsibility, the students sold the plants and used the money to purchase blankets for the homeless. Students at Sierra Middle School in Roswell, New Mexico, constructed an outdoor classroom that served as a site for character education instruction and activities. A key sponsor of the outdoor classroom, the Future Homemakers of America, organized a recycling program in conjunction with the students to benefit needy families and a women's shelter.
Organizations, Centers, Educational Institutions:
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Character Education Network
California Partnership in Character Education
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)
University of Illinois at Chicago
Center for Social and Emotional Education
New York, NY
Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character
Boston University School of Education
Center for the Fourth and Fifth Rs
Character Counts! (National Office)
Marina del Rey, CA
St. Louis, Missouri
Character Development Group
Chapel Hill, NC
Character Education Partnership
Community of Caring National Office
University of Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah
Corporation for National and Community Service
Developmental Studies Center
Ethics Resource Center
Center for Community Service Learning
University of San Diego
San Diego, CA
National Service-Learning Clearinghouse
Santa Cruz, CA
National Service-Learning Partnership
New York, NY
Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE)
RMC Research Corporation
U.S. Department of Education
Character Education & Civic Engagement Technical Assistance Center (CETAC)
Recent Publications and Resource Materials
Abravanel, S. A. (2003). Building community through service-learning: The role of the community partner. Denver, CO: Education Commission of the States.
Annette, J. (2005, September). Character, civic renewal, and service-learning for democratic citizenship in education. British Journal of Educational Studies, 5(3), 326-340.
Bayha, J. L., & Dietsch, B. J. (2005). Short-term effects of a literature-based character education program among fourth grade students. San Francisco: WestEd.
Beaumont, E., Colby, A., Ehrlich, T., & Stephens, J. (2003). Educating citizens: Preparing America's undergraduates for lives of moral responsibility. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Benninga, J. S., Berkowitz, M. W., Kuehn, P., & Smith, K. (2003). The relationship between character education and academic achievement. Journal of Research in Character Education, 1(1), 19-32.
Benninga, J. S., Berkowitz, M. W., Kuehn, P., & Smith, K. (2006, February). Character and academics: What good schools do. Phi Delta Kappan, 87(6), 448-452.
Berkowitz, M. W., & Bier, M. C. (2005, February). What works in character education: Research-based character education. Washington, DC: Character Education Partnership.
Billig, S. H. (2002). Support for K-12 Service-learning practice: A brief review of the research. Educational Horizons, 80(4), 184–189.
Billig, S. H., & Furco, A. (Eds.). (2002). Advances in service-learning research: Vol. 1. Service-learning: The essence of the pedagogy. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.
Billig, S. H., & Jesse, D. (2005). Evaluation of partnerships in character education. Denver, CO: RMC Research Corporation.
Blozis, C., Scalise, R., Waterman, C. E., & Wells, M. (2002). Building citizenship skills in students (M.A. Research Project). Chicago: Saint Xavier University.
Bohlin, K., & Ryan, K. (2001, November). Now more than ever, help kids build character. The Education Digest, 67(3), 8.
Brooks, D. (2001). Readings and activities for character education: A resource guide for teachers and students. Peterborough, NH: Cobblestone Publishing Company.
Bulach, C. R. (2002, November/December). Implementing a character education curriculum and assessing its impact on student behavior. The Clearing House, 76(2,) 79-83.
Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character. (2001). 100 ways to bring character education to life. Boston: Author.
Character Education Partnership. (2005). 2005 National Schools of Character: Promising practices. Washington, DC: Author.
Davies, I., Gorard, S., & McGuinn, N. (2005, September). Citizenship education and character education: Similarities and contrasts. British Journal of Educational Studies, 53(3), 341-358.
Derek, D. H. (2006, Winter). Character education in America's public schools. Journal of Church and State, 48(1), 5-14.
Dubinsky, J. M. (2002). Service-learning as a path to virtue: The ideal orator in professional communication. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 8(2).
Education Commission of the States. (2001). Service-learning and character education: One plus one is more than two (Issue Paper). Denver, CO: Author.
Fitch, P.F., Reed, N., & Register, J. (2001). A gift of character: The Chattanooga story. Chapel Hill, NC: Character Development Publishing.
Furco, A. (2002). Institutionalizing service-learning in higher education. Journal of Public Affairs, Supplement 1(6), 39.
Hildreth, R. W. (2004, April). John Dewey as a critical resource for the theory and practice of civic engagement (Conference Papers). Midwestern Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL.
Hoge, J. D. (2002, May/June). Character education, citizenship education, and the social studies. Social Studies, 93(3), 103.
Jensen, L. C., Lewis, C., Williams, D. D., & Yanchar, S. (2003, March). Character education in a public high school: A multi-year inquiry into unified studies. Journal of Moral Education, 32(1).
Kahne, J., & Westheimer, J. (2002, August). Educating the "good" citizen: the politics of school-based civic education programs. Paper presented at the American Political Science Association, Annual Meeting, Boston, MA.
Kaye, C. B. (2005, September). Service-learning: Strategies for developing character. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing Inc.
Lickona, T. (2004). Character matters : How to help our children develop good judgment, integrity, and other essential virtues. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Lickona, T., & Davidson, M. L. (2005, December 14). Smart and good high schools: Integrating excellence and ethics for success in school, work, and beyond. Education Week.
Manke, B. (2004). Project wisdom 2004 program evaluation. Bellaire, TX: Project Wisdom.
Manzo, K. K. (2005, September). Character education. Education Week, 25(4), p. 14.
Muscott, H. S. (2001, Summer) Service-learning and character education as "antidotes" for children with egos that cannot perform. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 10(2), 91.
National Commission on Service-Learning (2002). Learning in deed: The power of service-learning for American school. Columbus, Ohio: Author.
Romanowski, M. H (2003, Fall). Through the eyes of students: High school students' perspectives on character education. American Secondary Education, 32(1), 3-20.
Scales, P. C. (2002). The effects of service-learning on middle school students' social responsibility and academic success. Journal of Early Adolescence, 20(3).
Scott, K. A., & Jackson, A. P. (2005, December). Using service learning to achieve middle school comprehensive guidance program goals. Professional School Counseling, 9(2), 156-159.
Swick, K. J., Winecoff, H. L., Nesbit, B., Kemper, R., Rowls, M., & Freeman, N. (2000). Service learning and character education: Walking the talk. Columbia, SC: South Carolina Department of Education.
Thomsen, K. (2005, December). Service learning in grades K-8: Experiential learning that builds character and motivation. Curriculum Review, 45(4).
Tonn, J. L. (2005, April). Greater role sought for civic education. Education Week; 24(33), 12.
Wilkinson, C. (2001). Help at last: Activities to nurture character development in elementary children. Denver, CO: RMC Research Corporation.
Selected Evaluation Tools
Character Education Quality Standards (2003). Washington, DC. Character Education Partnership.
Compendium of Assessment and Research Tools (CART). Denver, CO: RMC Research Corporation. Retrieved April 15, 2005, from http://cart.rmcdenver.com
Davidson, M. L., & Khmelkov, V. (2006). Character in Action Survey (CiAS). Cornerstone Consulting & Evaluation, LLC. Retrieved April 15, 2005, from http://www.cortland.edu/character/instruments/CiAS_description_v1p0.pdf
Lickona, T., & Davidson, M. L. (2003). School as a Caring Community Profile-II (SCCP II). Cortland, NY. Center for the 4th and 5th Rs. Retrieved April 15, 2005, from http://www.cortland.edu/character/sccp-ii.htm
The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) - Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Assessment Tools. Chicago, Illinois. Center for Social and Emotional Learning. Retrieved April 15, 2006, from http://casel.org/in-schools/assessment/
U. S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. (2003, December). Identifying and Implementing Educational Practices Supported By Rigorous Evidence: A User Friendly Guide.Washington, DC. Retrieved April 15, 2005, from http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/rigorousevid/rigorousevid.pdf
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