For thousands of years, emphasis has been placed upon the role of character, ethics, values and virtues. The ancient Greeks believed that virtue meant human excellence. Philosophers, theologians, educators and psychologists since that time have explored beliefs and behaviours as they contribute towards purpose, achievement, healthy relationships and personal wellbeing.
Ron Richart at Harvard University has investigated Intellectual Character. His work has identified specific dispositions that constitute Intellectual Character. Individuals who are open-minded, curious, metacognitive (think about their thinking), strategic, sceptical, seek truth and understanding and think before acting have the qualities associated with Intellectual Character.
Thomas Lickona, the author of “Educating for Character" and co-author with Matthew Davidson, of “Smart and Good High Schools", have together identified specific values and qualities that make up Performance Character. In approaching a task, those with Performance Character hold values such as: curiosity, a love of learning, goal-setting, initiative, preparation for the task at hand and organisation. Work is characterised by the values of creativity, effort, commitment to the best of which we are capable, determination, diligence, perseverance, self-discipline, delayed gratification, wise time-management and a focus on achieving mastery. The ability to internalize high standards, assess one's work against these standards, revise the process to improve the quality of work and take responsibility for one's own learning contribute to Performance Character as well as the quality of the work produced.
Students are sometimes expected to improve their performance without understanding how to do this. Adults can help students to understand the specific values and behaviours that contribute to the development of Performance Values and Character. Students can take responsibility for their own learning and development by using the values of Performance Character (listed above) as a guide for understanding their existing character strengths and then identify specific areas that still need to be developed.
Students might consider these values, dispositions and behaviours as indicators of their ability to practise organisational skills, take risks and accept challenges, listen attentively, stay on task and evaluate their own learning. By focusing on specific values and behavioural goals for the future, students can build lifelong character strengths to help them achieve. Lickona and Davidson have highlighted that Performance Character plays a critical role in students' academic achievement, promotes academic excellence, enables us to achieve our highest potential and builds skills for “productive, fulfilling lives".
© Michele Juratowitch