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Building Schools of Character: The Development, Implementation, and Evaluation of a School-Based Character Education Programme Designed to Promote Cooperative Learning and Reduce Anti-Social Behaviour

WHITE, ROBERT,MICHAEL (2010) Building Schools of Character: The Development, Implementation, and Evaluation of a School-Based Character Education Programme Designed to Promote Cooperative Learning and Reduce Anti-Social Behaviour. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The issue of behaviour management, particularly as it pertains to addressing anti-social behaviour and improving learning and life outcomes for children and adolescents in schools has become a primary topic of discussion among educational stakeholders. The current perception among educational stakeholders is that as schools and society in general continue to experience an increase in anti-social behaviour, general indiscipline is becoming the normal behavioural pattern within classrooms. This study considers the relationship between personality, behaviour, and educational outcomes rooted in a socio-cultural perspective that emphasizes the role of socially mediated learning in the development of prosocial behaviour, resilience, personality, and character adaptations that support positive life outcomes. With this in mind, the primary aim of this study focused on developing an understanding of personality, behaviour management, and pro-social development through a synthesis of psychological and educational research and theory within the framework of the socio-cultural perspectives to design a character education programme targeted at improving prosocial behaviour within schools. Therefore, the primary question of the study is: Can a holistic programme be designed, effectively implemented in schools, and facilitated by teaching staff to enhance pro-social development and decrease anti-social behaviour among school-aged children?

A sequential approach was used to address the complexity of the phenomena under investigation. The cycle of enquiry developed for this investigation was based on a grounded theory perspective within an action research framework. The cycle of scientific research used for this study was an in-depth investigation that informed real-world field investigations, followed by the simultaneous collection of both quantitative and qualitative data from archival records, open-ended and semi-structured interviews, observations and surveys. This process achieved data saturation and allowed for the emergence of descriptive themes that were used to develop analytical themes so that each subsequent phase of enquiry was informed by the data.

Cycle of enquiry:
The first phase of the research design involved a systematic literature review that focused on the discovery and formulation of the theory underpinning the development of the educational innovation that became the central avenue of investigation This phase was directed by asking the question; What is the relationship between personality, educational outcomes, and the ability to overcome adversity, and what role can a teacher-mediated cooperative-learning programme focusing on the development of social competence, cooperative communication, restorative processes, and inclusive practice play in supporting the development of beneficial character adaptations in children? To test the initial theories that arose from the literature review, the second phase of study involved a quasi-experiment that investigated the relationship between self-concept and social competence and how these could be influenced by mediated adventure-based learning (MABL) within an outdoor education framework. This quasi-experiment used a control-group, pre-test/post-test, mixed-methods design. The second quasi-experiment investigated the role of Mediated Activity-Based Cooperative Learning (MABCL) on cooperative communication during activity-based group problem-solving challenges and task completion. Following a synthesis of the findings from the MABL and MABCL investigations and a further review of the literature, a multiple-component character education programme was designed. Following the design of the character education programme a pilot study was designed and conducted. Upon concluding the pilot study data analysis, a Random Control Trial (RCT) was designed and participant recruitment conducted. Of the 10 schools that volunteered to take part in the RCT, five were assigned to the control group and five to the experimental group. However, the RCT proved impossible to complete for a variety of reasons and therefore this investigation used a multiple case study design to conclude the cycle of research, with the five schools assigned to the experimental group becoming the cases of the study. Data collected from the multiple case studies were analysed to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of the character education programme.

Data collected in the final cycle of research, which included 5 schools participating in a multiple case study investigation showed that a character education programme designed within a sociocultural understanding of development can have a positive effect on teacher talk, pupil on and off task behaviour and antisocial behaviour. Both qualitative and quantitative data evidenced an increase in pupil on-task behaviour during lessons and an improvement in the teachers‘ ability to focus their time on content delivery during lessons. In addition, office referrals to senior staff for inappropriate behaviour showed a statistically significant decrease following the implementation of the character education programme.

Previous research into the impact of character-education programmes has yielded neither a clear guideline regarding what character education should provide nor discussed how a character-education programme can be effectively implemented school wide to promote pro-social development among school-aged children. The data collected in this study from school staff and pupil interviews, observations, and school records indicate that following the implementation of the designed character education programme, Building Schools of Character (BSC), in five primary schools, pupil behaviour and school climate improved. This study found that a socio-culturally framed behaviour-management programme facilitated through the delivery of mediated cooperative-learning activities and designed to enhance responsibility, respect, trustworthiness, fairness, caring, and honesty can have a positive impact on pupil behaviour and self-regulation. This finding, coupled with an understanding of the importance of self-regulation, suggests that future school-based behaviour-management programmes and socio-emotional learning initiatives should consider the role of mediated cooperative-learning activities in developing beneficial character adaptations that promote self-regulation and positive educational and life outcomes.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Education, School of
Thesis Date:2010
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:20 Apr 2010 09:43

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