As part of its five-year strategic partnership with a Connecticut public school district to design and implement a K-12 initiative to cultivate deeper levels of 21st Century Global Capacities, Studies in Educational Innovation at CPET, founded by Suzanne Choo, (PhD, 2012), Deb Sawch (EdD, 2013) and Alison Villanueva (PhD, 2013) in 2011 has been focusing specifically this year on character--what it is; what it looks like; and how to cultivate it in curriculum, instruction, assessment, and school culture, as well as how to engage the larger community.
To that end, SEI is working with district leadership and a teacher-led task force, whose responsibilities include internal and external research and outreach, to understand both the research literature and best practices around how schools and communities cultivate character. SEI is helping the task force to establish partnerships, engage in primary and secondary research, and establish protocols for enlisting and engaging their K-12 colleagues in this work. Their first public initiative was a Community Conversation for all parents and community members. In order to ground the evening in a more real-world context, SEI shared global research and their on-going work in schools that focuses on character cultivation. Parents then attended focus groups where they shared their thoughts and ideas around how schools, parents, and the larger community can work together to help nurture character in all stakeholders, not just students.
This works dovetails with SEI's global work on cultivating character in schools in Singapore and Australia. While each site approaches this work a little differently depending on country context and curricular focus, all sites believe that engaging every stakeholder--school leaders, teachers, support staff, students, parents and the larger community--is essential to any program or initiative rooted in cultivating character. One Singapore school identifies "Caring Thinking" as one of three essential thinking domains (the other two being Critical Thinking and Creative Thinking), and an Australian school focuses on character as part of global citizenship and has develop programs both within and beyond the curriculum that offer students opportunities to engage in service learning and internships.