Educating Character: from virtue ethical theory to practice

Research output: Contribution to conference (unpublished)Paper


This paper explores the relationship between theory and practice in Character Education. If Character Education truly aims to transform young people and by extension the societies they are grow up in, then this relationship must be carefully nurtured and managed. Adopting virtue ethics as the theoretical underpinning of character education has the potential to bear many fruits. Perhaps most significantly it requires teachers to question the purpose of education. Furthermore, cornerstones of Aristotelian virtue ethical theory such as arête, phronesis and eudemonia provide solid foundations for the development of character education interventions that can be brought to life in classrooms. Successful programmes such as the Knightly Virtues and primary and secondary Programmes of Studies developed by the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues have demonstrated this to be the case.

The relationship between theorists and practitioners cannot be unidirectional. A naturalist position on virtue ethics allows for the theory to be informed and / or shaped by empirical research. It is ‘findings from the classroom’ that enable researchers to go beyond Aristotelian textual analysis and to reconstruct virtue ethics to reflect present day realties. The persistent challenge is how best to carry out this empirical vision. The challenge appears to be two-fold; firstly, how to get beyond the often perceived researcher / practitioner divide; secondly, how to proceed on well documented gaps between theory and practice. This paper will discuss two significant and well known ‘gaps’; i) the lack of a universally acknowledged and empirically tested model or stage theory of character education; and, ii) the deficiency of robust methods and tools available for teachers to measure the effectiveness of character education interventions. The paper will explore the activities currently being undertaken by the Jubilee Centre to address these gaps. In doing so, it will argue that it is not enough to simply to leave the relationship between character education theory and practice to chance; action must be taken if character education is to flourish.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016
EventThe fourth annual conference of the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, University of Birmingham - Oriel College, Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
Duration: 7 Jan 20169 Jan 2016


ConferenceThe fourth annual conference of the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, University of Birmingham
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address

Bibliographical note

Cultivating Virtues: Interdisciplinary Approaches, Oriel College, Oxford, January 7–9, 2016


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