Character Educator in Focus: Cristy Guleserian

In this blog, 1st year MA Character Education student, Cristy Guleserian, explains the approach to character taken by Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. Cristy discusses her role as Director of Principled Innovation and why she chose to study on the MA Character Education.

What is your role at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and how does this relate to your studies on the MA Character Education?

My career in education has taken me through many different districts, schools, grade levels, and classrooms. Looking back, I recognise my interest in character education as the common thread and guiding force that led me to my current role as the Director of Principled Innovation (PI) at Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College (MLFTC).  Thanks to a generous grant from the Kern Family Foundation, my role at ASU allows me to collaborate with scholars and practitioners in the fields of virtue ethics, character, and moral development, while contributing to positive change in education through the infusion of PI into the systems of leader and teacher preparation. The MA Character Education program at the University of Birmingham is providing opportunities to explore theory and practice that will enrich our work, and is engaging me in research that will guide us as we continue to develop and operationalise our Framework for Principled Innovation.

What is ‘Principled Innovation’?

PI is a character-driven framework with descriptive practices and principles that guides individuals’ and organizations’ “ability to imagine new concepts, catalyze ideas, and form new solutions … that create positive change for humanity.”  The PI framework was co-created by faculty, staff, and students at MLFTC and born out of an exploration of the Jubilee Centre’s Framework for Character Education in Schools.

Guiding principles provide a vision for how we approach our work and interactions with others. The principles described in the MFLTC framework recognize the humanity of the individual and the uniqueness of the contexts in which they operate. The guiding principles envision learning environments that are collaborative, caring, and considerate of individual and societal well-being, while expressing our responsibility to address complex educational problems with an informed mind and a compassionate heart.

At the root of PI is the notion of character.  As we are designing for systems change in education, it’s our moral responsibility to ask ourselves, “Just because we can innovate, should we?”  This question places ethical understandings, a commitment to humanity, and our own character at the center of our decisions and actions.

Similar to the Jubilee Centre’s framework, PI recognises four interconnected clusters of “character assets” – moral, intellectual, civic and performance. These character assets are engaged through the eight practices of principled innovation which help us recognize humanity in ourselves and others, view situations and contexts from multiple perspectives, grow as informed, reflective learners, and navigate uncertainty as we design solutions for a flourishing civil society.

PI can be instantiated in various contexts, from everyday interactions to large-scale systems change. Any decision or action that affects the lives and learning of other people can be approached through the practice of PI.

Why did you decide to study on the MA Character Education?

My work at ASU, and my studies at the University of Birmingham have reinforced my belief that educators have a responsibility to model and nurture character development, supporting their students in becoming thoughtful/capable contributors to a civil and just society.

This program is expanding my understanding of the approaches and practices that foster nurturing, student-centered environments where educators, leaders, and learners regularly reflect on their own character development and the impact each individual has on the culture of the learning community. As my studies progress, I look forward to building relationships, synthesising the various voices, perspectives, and approaches in the field, and making connections that will best support our efforts at MLFTC. Through self-reflection and a better understanding of my own character development, I hope to continue to grow as a contributing member of an international community of character educators.

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