Yesterday, I read this great article from Tom Harrison for the Greater Good Science Center about character education and its utility for changing the online behavior of children and adolescents. While I hope you’ll all read the article directly–as I’d do both Harrison and Aristotle an injustice by summarizing them here–I will say that what got me most excited about the article was the emphasis on explicit and direct instruction of character skills. In the case of Harrison’s work, this centers around four categories of “wisdom” relevant to cyberspace: literacy, reasoning, self-reflection, and motivation. He posits that directly teaching young people about character development will change the way they behave in the online space far more than any of the more common carrot or stick approaches to controlling cyber behavior.
At Pilot, we are beginning to roll out a program for the explicit teaching of prosocial behaviors called Skillstreaming. The program leverages modeling, role-playing, performance feedback, and generalization to explicitly teach six categories of prosocial behavior: relationship skills, social comprehension, self-regulation, problem-solving, understanding emotions, and school related skills. It’s evidence based and has, at its core, a goal to generalize its lessons to all different environments and encounters.
In much the same way Harrison talks about the effects broad character education has on the online behavior of children and teens, the explicit teaching of prosocial behavior has implications for far more spaces than school yards and playdates. It is our hope that its reach will have consequences for the classroom, the kitchen table, the sports field, and the carpool too.
Wishing you all joyful family time this weekend with the coming snowfall!