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Narnian Virtues Character Education research project

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Prof Lickona delivers seminar on Digital Character at The Centre for Policy Studies in Education, University of Leeds

In January 2017 Prof Tom Lickona visited the Centre for Policy Studies in Education (CPSE), University of Leeds, and delivered a seminar on ‘Digital Character:  What could a school-response to the challenges of pornography look like?’. In the seminar Tom discussed why pornography has problematic consequences for young people and how teachers and parents can use character education to combat it.

A copy of Tom’s talk, as well as the handout he distributed during the seminar, can be accessed here:

Digital Character Talk

Digital Character seminar handout

Our photo shows Prof Tom Lickona delivering the seminar on Digital Character to academics and secondary school teachers at The Centre for Policy Studies in Education.

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Wisdom and Character education at the 6th Jubillee Centre conference

Because it was his Turkish Delight that he chose, it was a discussion. We realised that he understood that playing on his PlayStation was taking over his life. So he put that down as his Turkish Delight. Because of the Turkish Delight [activity] he’s been able to manage himself. The positive output is that he manages his time exceptionally well on that. [Parent’s interview response]

The Jubilee Centre is a hub for research and discussion into Character Education in the UK, and their 6th annual conference at Oriel College, Oxford, was focused on Wisdom. Delegates were treated to a plethora of definitions, conceptions, and concerns around the concept.

In our paper, we presented the latest findings from our Narnian Virtues research, investigating the relationship between character and English literature, with a focus on the influence and perspectives of parents. This paper reports how families are engaging in the Narnian Virtues character education project and we specifically focused on the views of parents. Initial highlights from the phone interviews with parents showed that the ‘Turkish Delight’ activity – where families write down something that tempts them the most – as the activity that resonated with them the most. This echoed our pilot year, where there was something about how reflecting on their own weaknesses helped them recognise everyday actions as being ethical. Simple behaviours, like turning on the X-Box or picking up their phone, began to be seen as ethical actions: that it reflected on their self-control, honesty, and wisdom. Analysis of this data will begin in earnest spring 2017.

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42nd Annual Association for Moral Education Conference

In December 2016 Prof. Mark Pike and Dr Peter Hart represented the Narnian virtues team at the AME conference, hosted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Prof Mark Pike presented on the parental involvement in the project. He described how we are engaging with parents through seminars and home activities that students take the lead on. He also described some of our initial findings from interviews with parents and carers. While the level of influence parents have over the character of teenagers is currently an aspect of some debate in academia, this project is empirically testing the hypothesis that the students who have greater parental help with developing their character will show greater change in their knowledge and application of the virtues. At the moment, our initial reflections on the data collected suggest that parents certainly believe they are very important to the student’s character development, and many have commented that this curriculum has aided in increasing the depth of conversations parents are able to engage in with their children.

At the same session, Dr Peter Hart began a more speculative philosophical piece asking whether home life could be considered a MacIntyrian practice (a regular human activity, rooted in our social nature, that offers opportunity to develop the virtues and leads towards human flourishing) and began to expound on whether character education is itself a practice, or better understood as an ‘internal good’ to the practice of teaching. In our pilot study we recognised that the home was a particularly important site for ethical reflection.

The keynotes focussed on Civic Engagement, against the backdrop of the US presidential elections, with a huge range of papers on character and moral education from myriad perspectives.  We found much common ground with other academics attempting to measure virtue quantitatively and evaluate curricula and character education programmes, and drew on wisdom from the latest developments in the psychology of virtues and ethical decision making.

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Mere Education and Narnian Virtues at the Wade Centre

Prof Mark Pike visited the Marion E. Wade Centre at Wheaton College, Illinois, to give two lectures in December 2016. The Wade Centre hosts a major collection of materials by several British authors, including C.S. Lewis. Prof Pike explained the foundations of the Narnian Virtues curriculum and his recent book, Mere Education.

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Narnian Virtues in the Media

Harrogate High School, one of the eight schools part of the Narnian Virtues curriculum, have been talking to the Harrogate Advertiser about their involvement in the project. The lead teacher on the project described the benefit to the school of taking part, and how it fits with the ethos of the school and the English Literature curriculum.

We are still looking for schools to take part in the larger field trial – please get in touch with Kate on NarnianVirtues@Leeds.ac.uk

http://www.harrogateadvertiser.co.uk/news/education/harrogate-high-school-pilots-project-teaching-students-to-show-values-and-virtues-from-the-c-s-lewis-chronicles-of-narnia-series-1-8115019

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