Now that I’ve been selected as the chair of the character committee for my daughters’ school, I’ve devoted much of my mental energy to preparing for the job. I’ve been reading books, reviewing web sites, and consulting experts. When I give myself a project, I tend to bury myself completely and dig my way out.
The first person I wanted to consult was David Sloan Wilson, the author of The Neighborhood Project. David’s evidence-based advice for “The Good Behavior Game” was just the recommendation I had been seeking for an answer how to solve the disruptions in the classrooms. He was very kind to write me back and offer some suggestions…
- On the importance of play, he recommended this issue of The Journal of Play and Dr. Peter Gray’s “Freedom to Learn” blog at Psychology Today.
- On “The Good Behavior Game”, he recommended that I contact the Paxis Institute to learn about their workshops and instructional kits. (More on this later)
- He recommended two books: Intelligence and How to Get It by Richard Nisbett and Talented Teenagers by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
I took David’s advice and contacted the Paxis Institute, and I was quite surprised to have my phone call answered by Dr. Dennis Embry, the director of the organization. Dr. Embry is a passionate developmental psychologist who advocates for evidence-based approaches to classroom intervention. Dr. Embry was very persuasive about the GBG, citing evidence that disruptions can go down by 90% when the game is applied appropriately. Unfortunately, there was a point when my skepticism kicked in, which is natural when someone tells you that they have the perfect solution. My internal conflict was with the very fact that the most vocal proponent for the GBG was also the very person standing to profit from it’s widespread use by branding the “PAX” name, promoting workshops, and selling instructional kits. I also have some doubts about the evidence, such as whether there were controlled trials that compared the GBG with other structured interventions, or if the comparisons were between the GBG and status quo.
My skepticism aside, I’m still excited about the Good Behavior Game and the PAXIS approach to using “kernels” of evidence-based practices to maximize a school’s potential. But since I am not in charge of curriculum, I will leave the administration with my recommendation and let them decide if it’s worth it. They have a lot on their hands with training the teachers in Positive Behavior Support, which I hope will be an effective tool that is put to good use.
I was also pleased to have some advice on character education from one of my heroes, Dale McGowan, on his blog The Meming of Life. He recommended “Meditations for the Humanist” by AC Grayling and What Do You Stand For? by Barbara Lewis. He also recommended that I contact the Unitarian Universalist church, which has excellent resources for character education.
My next article will be my tentative plans for the character committee, and my goals for the future.