Implementing a literature-based character education program in a special day class

Since 1991, many persons have been concerned with teaching students moral values in public schools. One popular approach to teaching values has been a literature-based character education program. This study examined the effectiveness of a literature-based character education program in a special education class. Following the collection of baseline data from two elementary school Special Day Classes, the program class (Class A) was taught the moral values of honesty, caring, hard work, and sharing for four weeks using a literature-based approach. The control class (Class B) had no formalized character education program. The classes were then compared by examining changes on three scales: the number of disciplinary referrals, student examples of living out the values, and teacher surveys about student behavior. During the testing period, students in Class B reduced their rate of disciplinary referrals by a greater amount than the students in Class A. On the other hand, the students in Class A showed a greater improvement than the Class B students in their ability to write personal examples of the moral values, demonstrating that the Class A students learned to relate knowledge about the four character values to their personal lives. The teacher surveys documented that student behaviors, especially honesty, were positively changed by the character education program in Class A. The daily reinforcement of character-based literature, conversation, role-playing, and writing helped the students in Class A to improve their behavior. Overall, the results of the study were mixed, indicating the need for further research about how best to teach character values to students in a Special Day Class.