11 Principles of Character

Character.org teaches that there are 11 basic principles to effective instruction of character in schools. The 11 principles are as follows:

Principle 1: Core values are defined, implemented, and embedded into school culture.

Principle 2: The school defines “character” comprehensively to include thinking, feeling, and doing.

Principle 3: The school uses a comprehensive, intentional, and proactive approach to character development.

Principle 4: The school creates a caring community.

Principle 5: The school provides students with opportunities for moral action.

Principle 6: The school offers a meaningful and challenging academic curriculum that respects all learners, develops their character, and helps them to succeed.

Principle 7: The school fosters students’ self-motivation.

Principle 8: All staff share the responsibility for developing, implementing, and modeling ethical character.

Principle 9: The school’s character initiative has shared leadership and long-range support for continuous improvement.

Principle 10: The school engages families and community as partners in the character initiative.

Principle 11: The school assesses its implementation of character education, its culture and climate, and the character growth of students on a regular basis.


For this week’s discussion post we are assigned to choose one to discuss in depth. I am choosing the first principle because it seems logical to start my in depth understanding at the beginning.

Principle 1: Core values are defined, implemented, and embedded into school culture.

According to Dr. Josephson there are six core values or pillars of his Character Counts! program. They are: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship.

In last week’s discussion post several people said that in order to be a good citizen online, one must first be a good citizen in person (IRL). This is where Character Education comes into play.

What you think the principle means?

Principle 1: Core values are defined, implemented, and embedded into school culture. 

Part one is to define: What are the school’s core values?

According to Dr. Josephson there are six core values or pillars of his Character Counts! program. They are: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship.

On Character.org this article  discusses how to choose core values (Sipos, 2019). This is much more difficult than it appears on the surface. How do you choose? The Virtues Project has a list of 54 excellent values, but you can’t possibly focus on that many, so it would be necessary to narrow this down.  (Kavelin & Popov)

How a school or library could address this principle?

For the school to define the core values, they must first choose them. It would seem logical for the staff or administrative team to choose values the same way you might write the mission statement, but values change or shift slowly over time. I might pose that each year the student body vote on which values they wish to perfect. Each group of students is unique and might hold certain values more important to them based on where they are personally and according to the times in which they live. So perhaps as the librarian I could send out a google form with perhaps 20 choices and then take the top 5-6 most popular values as the focus for that year.

Define and Implement

The librarian could create a lesson for each one, or one lesson for all 6 to be given in the library. Although, it would be more efficient if it were given through something like what my current school calls Bobcat Academy. This is a 30 minute time in which across the whole school we teach various non-curricular lessons. Sometimes it is just study hall, sometime brain games, digital citizenship lessons, Clifton Strengthsfinder academy, and more.  

How could this be embedded in the school’s culture?

Frequent discussion about the topic would bring this to the forefront of the minds of everyone. If the students chose the values, then hopefully there will be a large number of them interested in emphasizing those in the school culture. The chosen values could be on posters in the halls as a reminder. Perhaps those posters could be made by the students. We have a phrase they repeat at the end of each of the daily announcements about school spirit, perhaps the core values could be said after the announcements. Or maybe during the announcements, students who exemplified those values could be mentioned periodically. So if perseverance is one of the values, when they announce how the football game went, they could mention how the team persevered until the very end and won or lost.

Potential sensitive areas within this principle?

There are some potentially sensitive areas that may come up in discussion. Some virtues that may get chosen like modesty will get wildly different definitions from different religious viewpoints. For example, a Muslim might define modesty as covering up all the way to the wrists and ankles, while others may argue that definition as extreme. These could be very good discussions if handled with tact and care. Students tend to feel very passionate about dress code and being told what they can and cannot wear.

Some people might question why the school chose to emphasize one value rather than another. Some parents or religious leader may disagree with a definition assigned to the value that disagrees with what they have told their child.

I can’t imagine that many parents would argue with the desire to reinforce these values.


Kavelin, J.H, Popov, L.K. & Popov, D., The virtues project list. Retrieved fromhttps://virtuesproject.com/virtueslist.html (Links to an external site.)

Ribble, M. (2015). Digital citizenship in schools: Nine elements all students should know. Oregon: ISTE.  

Sipos, B. (2019). Choosing your core values. Retrieved from  https://www.character.org/choosing-your-core-values/ (Links to an external site.)


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