“If we want character education to be embedded within our curriculum and practised in our schools then it needs to be included in teacher training and explicitly developed and recognised in the assessment of trainee teachers. It also needs to be reflected and enhanced in ongoing continuing professional development for teachers”
Nicky Morgan MP (Taught Not Caught: Educating for 21st Century Character, 2017)
Recent Jubilee Centre reports such as Character Education in UK Schools have shown that the ideals of character and virtue have recently undergone a resurgence of interest in political and educational circles, and among the wider public, both internationally and in the UK. There is also strong support from parents for the idea that schools should promote character development; 84% of UK parents believe that teachers should encourage good morals and values in their students and 91% of UK adults say it is important that schools develop good character.
An indication of this resurgence can be found in the Department for Education strategy 2015-2020 World-class education and care document in which character and resilience have been made one of the DfE’s 12 priorities; the recent report, Developing Character Skills in Schools, also highlights the prominence of character development within schools. Within this it is shown that 97% of schools seek to promote desirable character traits amongst their students; however it is also reported only 17% of schools have a formalised plan for character education – only 43% of these offer all staff members training relating to the development of character.
With character education taking a more prominent seat at the educational round table, the current Jubilee Centre research project, Teacher Education: Character, ethics and the professional development of pre- and in-service teachers, looks to bridge the gap between theory and practice.
Previous research undertaken by the Jubilee Centre (The Good Teacher; Statement on Teacher Education and Character Education; Framework for Character Education in Schools) advocates the allocation of time and space for teachers to critically reflect on the moral aspects of their practice. It is recommended that initial teacher education (ITE) seeks to develop the moral agency of teachers and, to ensure the early enthusiasm of teachers wanting to make a difference is sustained, it is suggested that continued professional development (CPD) programmes include academic and theoretical input concerning the integral role of moral virtues in the profession.
Building on this previous work, the current project seeks to delve deeper into the important issue of how teachers are prepared and supported to meet the moral and ethical demands of their roles. In the current climate, schools and teachers are facing unprecedented pressure and unmanageable workloads as a result of the prioritisation of grade attainment (House of Commons Education Committee). The heavy reliance on academic progress and performance in league tables has led to many initial teacher training programmes and CPD activities being heavily laden with academic skill-based learning, often neglecting or minimising the role of moral teaching.
This research aims to take meaningful steps forward, intending not only to explore teachers’ (pre- and in-service) perceptions and experiences of preparation for character education, but to establish how best to train and support them for this endeavour. The project will explore the impact of reflection on teachers’ development with the intention of integrating evidence of good practice into a coherent programme which can be disseminated to schools and training institutions to be used within ITE and CPD.
Teachers are not being adequately prepared to fulfil all aspects of their roles as educators. Teacher Education: Character, ethics and the professional development of pre- and in-service teachers, seeks to address this concern and facilitate the advancement of character education in schools.
Stage 1 (September 2017 – August 2018): Research, design and implementation of initial teacher training programme for pre-service teachers.
Stage 2 (September 2018 – August 2019): Research, design and implementation of continued professional development programme for in-service teachers.
Initial findings from stage 1 of the project can be expected in September 2018. Initial findings from stage 2 can be expected in September 2019, with the research report to follow.
Michael Fullard and Paul Watts are Research Fellows at The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues. They are both experienced teachers working on the Teacher Education: Character, ethics and the professional development of pre- and in-service teachers project.