|Original Publication Information:
The article "A Character Development Rubric" appeared in the spring, 1998 I.A.H.P.E.R.D. Journal.
With the recent publication of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (N.A.S.P.E.) National Standards for quality physical education, educators are challenged to thoughtfully apply these standards. Standards 5, 6, and 7 are particularly challenging in that they extend beyond the motor and cognitive domains into the seemingly nebulous domain of the affect, or the social development of our students. The remainder of this article will outline a rubric which has been successfully applied regarding the teaching of character development at Wickham Elementary School. The Wickham rubric uses the term character development which is synonymous with social development. Many parts of the rubric may be easily adapted to secondary school settings. A brief description of the Wickham school environment will be followed by initial steps used in the development of the rubric, as well as a discussion of the rubric itself.
Wickham School is located in Coralville, Iowa and is part of the Iowa City Community School District. There are 25 certified teachers and approximately 400 kindergarten through sixth grade students who are organized into multi-aged teams. Wickham opened during the 1997-98 school year and the teachers met periodically during the summer of 1997 to facilitate planning for student needs.
Initially, the entire staff and administration must value and be committed to the character development of the students. In addition, it is acknowledged that character development is not vicarious, but is an intentional teaching/learning process. This process includes appropriate adult modeling. Therefore, a character development committee was formed during the summer planning time to study effective approaches in meeting the needs of students in this area. This committee then appraised the staff of their progress and made proposals to the staff regarding specific staff/student activities relative to character development. Probably due to staff camaraderie and staff commitment to character development, all of the proposals were employed throughout the school year. One of the proposals, a character development rubric, is described below.
The character development rubric appearing below relied heavily on models created by Ernest Boyer, Don Hellison and J. Ed Foraker for teaching social responsibility.
Core Virtues Honesty Respect Responsibility Compassio n Self-discipline Perseverance Giving Levels of Commitment . . . . . . . Responsibility
for self and others
Is trustworthy. Is supportive of others and helps others take responsibility for their actions and work. Independently takes some risk in sharing ideas openly. Supports others with positive comments. Helps others and self to follows directions. Willingly works with a group. Conscientiously performs and accepts tasks willingly. Displays ownership for work completed and any actions. Dependable. Considerate, forgiving, and caring. Acknowledges other people's feelings and offers comfort. Reflects habits of good living in all aspects of life. Develops and meets individual and group goals and disciplines. Encourages others to complete tasks. Sets challenging goals and sustains strong commitment to them. Receives satisfaction from sharing with others. Initiates service activities. Seeks opportunities to respond positively to needs of others without reward or recognition. Involvement (Level 3) Takes responsibility for own actions and work. Takes some risk in sharing ideas with encouragement from others. Makes positive comments and "put ups" some of the time. Willingly works with a partner. Hears and sees. Offers positive input to others and situations. Is aware of others feelings and responds to their needs. Models appropriate behaviors and recognizes expectations. Completes tasks. Willingly shares ideas, materials or time. Participates in service activities. (intrinsic motivation) In Control (Level 2) Takes responsibility for own actions and work with some encouragement from others. Keeps self from calling others names. Keeps self from striking or pushing others. Keeps self from using negative comments, negative body language and "put downs". Allows others to hear and see. Keeps self from performing negative acts - acting out. Is aware of others feelings but ignores them. Lives within limits and is accepting of those guidelines. Makes an attempt. Will share ideas, materials, or time when given a reward. (extrinsic motivation) Irresponsibility (Level 1 Does not take responsibility for own actions and work. Denies any wrong-doing. Calls people names. Strikes or pushes others. Uses negative comments, negative body language, or "put downs". Does not take ownership for negative actions or words. Hurtful, with little or no regard for how others feel. Acts out in a disruptive manner which is harmful to self and others. Gives up quickly. Does not share time, materials, or ideas with others.
The rubric focuses on seven essential human qualities of character development, which may be called "Core Virtues"; Honesty, Respect, Responsibility, Compassion, Self-Control, Perseverance, and Giving. Of course, these virtues may have been previously established at home and then reinforced and supported at school. The rubric is useful in several ways. First, the rubric provides a basis for understanding the meaning of the Core Virtues through the use of observable behaviors. The rubric is posted in every classroom, lunchroom, and other selected areas of the school environment.
Secondly, the behaviors are placed on a continuum known as levels. There are four levels, three of which are acceptable in terms of behavioral expectations. However, each student is encouraged to "move up" to higher levels of character development, which is a reflection of progress in this area.
Thirdly, the levels provide assistance in the area of assessment. Students, teachers, and parents are able to ascertain levels of character development at any particular point in time. Knowing "where you are" is very important relative to goal setting and improvement and helps to forge "where you are going". Therefore, useful goals are determined in this area with a tool available (the rubric) to measure progress toward higher levels of character development. It is true that all people have "good days and bad days", however, thoughtful and regular use of the rubric identifies meaningful behavioral patterns useful for facilitating growth in the area of character development. The rubric is introduced during the first day of school by teachers who give examples of the virtues, provide role play situations, or solicit examples from students. Thereafter, situations that occur spontaneously in the classroom are framed into the rubric. For example, the teacher or another student may note a level 4 behavior in the classroom and describe the situation and how it relates to the rubric. Next year at Wickham, a video tape created for and by students will be shown the first day of school depicting the virtues and each corresponding level.
Lastly, the rubric enables teachers to develop effective instructional strategies designed to help students understand and apply the rubric on a regular basis. These strategies are positive and humane both in their conception and application. Therefore, character development becomes an intentional teaching and learning process, as opposed to a random occurrence.
In addition to the strategies discussed earlier, other student and learner controlled strategies may be used. One learner controlled strategy involves students reflecting on their behaviors over a period of time and rating themselves regarding selected virtues. For example, at the end of a class period (or varying lengths of time) the students are asked to rate themselves or the class regarding their perceptions of "respect" during class and hand signal the rating simultaneously regarding their observations. Any of the other virtues may be selected for this purpose. Student self-assessed ratings may be entered into journals and included in student portfolios. Another example is asking the students, prior to their involvement in an activity or game, to identify their perceptions of the appropriate level required. This provides an additional advantage of "setting the students up for success".
The same strategies outlined above may be utilized by the teacher whereby the teacher rates the students relative to a given virtue during a class period, or identifies the level required prior to participation in an activity or game. Teacher controlled strategies generally are more effective at the beginning of the school year and with younger students (K-2), while the learner controlled strategies are more effective later in the year and with older students.
Parents are encouraged to adopt and adapt the rubric for home use. An example of one adaptation used at home is relative to "home responsibility"; level "1" = refusing to do selected household chores or always finds an excuse, level "2" = doing selected chores with frequent reminders, level "3" = doing selected chores with some reminders, level "4"= offering to help with other household and community chores (without prompts). It is advisable to involve children in determining the parameters or criteria relative to the levels, as this increases ownership and motivation in regard to rubric adherence.
Whatever plan selected by educators for helping students develop positive social behaviors involves a concerted commitment from the teacher. The power of the plan is greatly increased by staff development (ownership), administration and on-going assessment of the plan. Using this approach the Wickham community has experienced a greater adherence to the Core Virtues by all those involved, and has provided a means by which N.A.S.P.E. standards number 5, 6 and 7 may be addressed in a purposeful and meaningful manner.
- Boyer, E. L. (1995). The basic school: a community for learning. Princeton, NJ: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
- Foraker, J. E. (1995). Responsibility rubric
- Hellison, D. (1995). Teaching responsibility through physical activity. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
- National Association for Sport & Physical Education. (1995) Moving into the future: National standards for physical education. Chicago: Mosby.