Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Education

Date of Defense

5-1-2012

Graduate Advisor

Marvin W. Berkowitz, Ph.D.

Committee

Robert Ricklefs

Helene Sherman

Debbie Tully

Abstract

Research on pre-service teacher training in character education is minimal at best, as is the case with research on best practices in pre-service education in general. What does exist suggests that there is a lack of pre-service training about specific character education strategies. There are few empirical studies investigating the effects of pre-service character education training as it applies to later practice in K-12 school settings. This study explored the perceptions of beginning teachers regarding their past preparation and current implementation of character education. Each participant graduated from a university in a Northwest state that currently implements character education in its pre-service curriculum. The research question was: Does the character education initiative at West University’s undergraduate pre-service program have an impact on its teacher education graduates’ current classroom practices? From this question four hypotheses were formed: (1) Graduates from West University’s pre-service undergraduate program perceive their pre-service character education as being effective for them as character educators; (2) Graduates from West University’s pre-service program feel competent to implement character education; (3) Graduates from West University’s pre-service program report using effective character education strategies in their current classrooms; and (4) Graduates from West University’s pre-service program perceive that they are effectively impacting their students’ character, citizenship and critical thinking skills. A mixed-methods design was employed starting with quantitative analysis of a survey that was distributed to teachers in their first five years of teaching after having graduated from the targeted university with a total of 31 respondents. The researcher then interviewed eight survey participants. The study revealed a mixed picture regarding the subjects’ sense of preparedness to implement character education. Quantitative data suggested that subjects felt competent to implement character education, as manifested in positive scores on the Character Education Efficacy Belief Instrument, but the qualitative data revealed the opposite. There was also a mixed picture of the use of character education strategies within their classrooms, with subjects reporting usage of some strategies but in a non-directive approach. The subjects also felt that they were affecting their students’ character, citizenship, and critical thinking skills but with limitations.

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