Character Education in New Zealand Schools - A Follow-up Study [2007]

Executive Summary

A questionnaire was designed in 2004 to capture the effects of implementing character education on New Zealand institutions. A similar questionnaire was sent out in 2007 as a follow-up study to the initial analysis. There were no significant differences in the demographics of the respondents between the two study periods and the key findings are as follows:

The majority of institutions implementing character education are primary schools. The average number of teaching staff for schools with character education is 13 and the average number of students ranges from 245 (2007) and 278 (2004).

With a good spread of decile rates and an average decile rating in both study periods of 5, the decile classification of a school does not appear to influence or be an impediment to the adoption of character education.

There are now a number of schools who have had the experience of character education for more than 4 years.

The key approaches to character education remain as being:

In comparison to the study in 2004, however, there was a decline in 2007 in the following approaches to character education:

An interesting trend is the increased emphasis on the use of the disciplinary process to support core values. The lowest emphasis (in both the initial and follow-up analysis) is placed on A Board of Trustees policy supports character education.

Instigation and continuation of character education is still primarily dependent on the principal of the school (81-86%), followed by staff members (14-31%).

Relationships between staff and students, and between students, were perceived to have seen a positive improvement as an effect of character education, but not necessarily between the principal and staff, and the school and parents.

Positive effects were noted in both studies in overall student behaviour and playground behaviour.

The use of cornerstone values was seen to make a positive improvement on discipline particularly in regard to discipline within the school and on the number of stand-downs.

A majority of schools noticed that having cornerstone values has resulted in a decline in vandalism by 60–75 percent. The biggest changes have been in terms of there being less graffiti, less destruction of property, and students being more aware and having a greater respect for property.

In regard to student attendance, in neither study were notable improvements observed.

There was agreement in both study periods that cornerstone values had a positive effect on the school being perceived as a caring community.

Character education was seen to yield no improvements on: staff turnover, retention of good staff or increased staff stability. It did, however, have a positive effect on staff morale.

In both studies no notable improvement had been observed in enrolments, however, positive comments in ERO reports were directly attributed to the character education programme and a decline in the need for specialist services was commented on.

To the question, How would you rate the impact of character education on the school?, for the study conducted in 2007, 48% of the schools have seen a ‘significant’ effect with the implementation of character education. While the general opinion in the 2004 study was that character education had a ‘highly significant’ effect on the schools.

Schools have identified that the presence of character education in the curriculum has improved relationships between staff and students and, as a result of this, the overall school culture can now be focused on learning rather than on behavioural issues.

In 2007, almost 75% of the schools (compared to ~50% in 2004) consider that the implementation of character education has shown a ‘significant to quite significant’ effect on the easier management of the school, where the general comment is that there is more co-operation between staff and students, and that the whole school works as one team.

Schools also noticed a ‘significant’ improvement in teaching effectiveness since the implementation of character education.

In 2007, an additional question was included in order to capture parental responses. The comments made in the survey suggest that parents/caregivers intrinsically believe in values and are very supportive of the programme.

To conclude comparatively, the presence of character education has enhanced the overall qualities within the schools, and there is no evidence of a difference in the effect of character education between the two studies (initial versus follow-up).

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