Sunday, 28 June 2015

Character assessment

Claire Harvey talks about assessment in Curriculum for Excellence; both formative assessment in the broad general education, that is, assessment for learning and deciding those important `next steps` on the journey to excellence; and summative assessment in the senior phase which moves 14 and 15 year olds towards qualifications.

The problem being discussed is how to ensure that standards of formative assessment are the same across Scotland so that pupils are treated fairly. In a curriculum devoid of much content there are many grey areas.

Character assessment

As if asking children to demonstrate SHANARRI wellbeing was not a questionable enough activity as it is, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) opened a discussion about how they might also assess and acknowledge character, and why this might be important.

The topic was raised at the recent conference `Character, Culture and Values` at Glasgow University where 200 delegates explored the "continuing global shift towards character and values in education, the first event of its kind in Scotland".

Whose idea of character and whose values we might ask? A glance at the glossy website and the John Templeton Foundation which helped fund the conference provides part of the answer, as do other topics on the agenda:  ‘Learning to be Human’ which explored "John MacMurray’s philosophical and educational ideas" and ‘Skills, Work & Enterprise’ which discussed the "role of attributes and attitudes in aiding young peoples’ transitions into employment and enterprise."

GIRFEC: the journey from birth to the world of work is at the heart of Curriculum for Excellence; it is not a journey that is going to be left to chance.
Below is a brief summary of the historical and academic underpinnings of character and values education in Scotland.

Marvin Berkowitz, Professor of Character Education and Co-Director of the Centre for Character and Citizenship at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, defines character as "the set of psychological characteristics that motivate and enable the individual to function as a competent moral agent, that is, to do 'good' in the world." (Berkowitz, 2011) Character Education can be thought of as "the deliberate effort to help people understand, care about, and act upon core ethical values" (Lickona, 1991). There are many other definitions, but what does it mean for Scotland?
Scotland has a long and intertwined history with character and values. In the midst of his radical approaches to social reform, Robert Owen founded the Institute for the Formation of Character at New Lanark in 1816. The country's history in education is much tied to its culture and underpinning values. Scotland's traditional aspirations relate to social reform, justice and a shared determination to address broad and general questions relating to philosophy, ethics, economics, technology, humanistic approaches to pedagogy and democracy. Notable Scottish thinkers in these areas include Adam Smith, David Hume, Robert Owen, John MacMurray, Alasdair MacIntyre and many others.
Character and values education are not new ideas, and their renewed focus is a natural extension of Scotland's educational history. The influential 1947 report of the Advisory Council on Education in Scotland states the following:
"Our real wealth is in the character and skill of our people."
"The secondary school... should provide a rich social environment where the adolescent grows in character and understanding through the interplay of personalities rather than by the imparting of knowledge."
"The breaking of new ground rather than the treading of safe ground has become the task of all in education."
In the book entitled Pioneering Moral Education, Dr William Gatherer provides what Professor David Carr described as "a very objective no-nonsense critical assessment" of 20th Century approaches to moral education led by the Scottish philanthropist Victor Cook, leading to the establishment of the Gordon Cook Foundation. This book, possibly the only publication in existence that details a specifically Scottish approach to moral education, delivers an honest portrayal of the difficulties and failures experienced by Victor Cook in his mission to establish a place for moral education, while at the same time describing how his work represented "...the establishment of moral education in schools throughout the world."
Today, with the continuing development of initiatives such as Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) and the enthusiasm for which professionals in Scotland have embraced programmes such as Rights Respecting Schools and Eco Schools, Scotland is being recognised internationally as a global leader in citizenship education. Character and values-based approaches are integral to these policies. The purpose of CfE is to develop young people's attributes and capacities. Scotland's professional teaching standards are underpinned by the values of social justice, integrity, trust, respect and professional commitment. Similarly, other policy agendas such as the Wood Commission report, Global CitizenshipEnterprise in Education and the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) provide an ideal context for approaches aimed at developing and empowering young people's values, skills and attributes.
Recent developments in science, technology, psychology and philosophy have resulted in a global resurgence and the emergence of new and robust frameworks for character and values development. A plethora of new programmes have been made available around the world, the research and evidence base is continually growing and initial findings suggest that there are strong correlations between skills, character qualities and positive outcomes for children and young people (OECD, 2015). In the UK, the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues in University of Birmingham is contributing to the research base for character, as are Scottish institutions including University of Glasgow and University of Aberdeen.
This is a rapidly expanding area of practice and research. This conference aims to provide an introduction to the key issues to help practitioners, policy makers and researchers to understand and inform the relevance of this work for children and young people in Scotland. For more information please consult the Key Reading tab above.

Dr Avis Glaze
Character Education: Lessons from around the World

Avis Glaze
Prof Marvin Berkowitz
The 'Science' of Character Education

Bishopbriggs Community Ambassadors
Character, Values and Youth 

Gary Walsh - Character Scotland
Character Education in Scotland:  "Why, How and So What"?

James O'Shaughnessy - International Positive Education Network
Education (re) design

James OShaughnessy
Rob Loe - Relational Schools
Education (re) design 

Rob Loe
Scottish Youth Parliament
Young People and Character 

Service Cadets
Young People and Character

Service Cadets


Below is a selection of photographs from both days of the conference. A huge thank you to Steven Brown Photography for providing these and for your efforts during the event. 

Day 1 - Monday 15th June, 2015

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Day 2 - Tuesday 16th June, 2015

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Thank you to all contributors for both participating in and contributing to the delivery of the conference. We would like to use this space to recognise speakers, workshop facilitators and panel contributors.

View the Conference Programme

View the Conference Companion

Dr Alan BrittonBriefing Note on Education for Citizenship in Scotland
Dr James MacAllisterMacmurray on learning to be human
Dr Avis Glaze Character Development: Education at its Best 
Prof Marvin BerkowitzUnderstanding Effective Character Education
OECDSkills for Social Progress: the power of social and emotional skills
Education ScotlandBuilding the Curriculum 4: Skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work 
Education Scotland et alNational Youth Work Strategy 2014-2019
Tila MorrisThe Radical Road to Character Building

Further Reading
The documents below are policy documents, research papers and introductory readings that you may find useful for reference.

Moral Panics

The sensible thing for a government to do when it wishes to transform society by way of education is to create a moral panic to justify its interference.
The arguments used for involving schools in explicit moral instruction have enormous social and political significance. The Introduction to Character Education in America’s Schools asks the rhetorical question "Why Educate for Character?" The answer reveals a dim view of contemporary American social life: "Because many homes do not". The authors briefly identify the home as "a big part of the problem"  and they list some statistics - half of all children live in nontraditional families, including single parent homes and blended families. The claim is made that "statistics link the decline of the traditional nuclear family with rising teen pregnancy, school drop-outs, divorce rates, unemployment, poverty, and just about every other ill in our society"

In Scotland the panic is being built around the education attainment gap between those social groups who perform best and least, but the culprits are the same, the poor and disadvantaged. Education will teach everyone their place; it always has.


The problem is that there are not enough high quality jobs for young people and the situation is going to get worse but in order to survive governments must somehow change the narrative. The story becomes: education must be transformed so that learners develop 21st century skills; team work, creativity, empathy, problem solving abilities, higher order thinking skills. This is to prepare young people for the knowledge based economy.

But the reality is that "if the twentieth century brought mechanical Taylorism, characterised by the Fordist production line, where the knowledge of craft workers was captured, codified and re-engineered in the shape of the moving assembly line by management, the twenty-first century is the age of digital Taylorism." There is evidence that knowledge work is being translated into working knowledge, codified, digitised into software prescripts and packages that can be " transmitted and manipulated by others regardless of location."
Highly skilled workers in Europe will have to compete with highly skilled workers in places like India and China and there are many more of them there who will work for less wages." If ‘permission to think’ is limited to a relatively small proportion of the European workforce, this raises fundamental issues about the role and content of mass higher education."

Wellbeing, global citizenship, mindfulness, resilience, character, surveillance, the outcomes of Curriculum for Excellence.

It looks like the population is going to be put to sleep !

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