EDU 5400-600: Building Character in Youth

Course Syllabus: Summer 2009



James L. Kestner


2338 Buzzard Hall


Course Description

EDU 5400, Building Character in Youth, provides future and current P-16 faculty and administrators, as well as parents and other youth leaders, with research-based methods for building character and improving achievement in young people by teaching self-respect, self-discipline and responsibility. The course addresses some of the most challenging issues in teaching, discipline, and motivation. It provides a process for integrating strategies for dealing with these challenges into school curricula and other youth activities, leading youth along a path toward realizing their full human potential.


Course Objectives

Students who complete the course successfully will be equipped with effective strategies for
• Reducing the number of behavior-related challenges presented by young people
• Improving young people’s achievement in academic and other endeavors
• Improving young people’s respect for themselves and others
• Improving young people’s willingness to discipline themselves to pursue long-term goals over short-term gratification
• Improving young people’s willingness to take responsibility for their decisions and ultimately for their lives



A variety of web-based resources will be assigned as reading. No textbook is required.



Students work at their own pace to complete the modules and assignments. Assignments for all modules, as well as the final paper, are due no later than Friday, August 7, 2009. No late work will be accepted.


Descriptions, deadlines, and requirements for these assignments are detailed in the Assignments section of WebCT. See the last page of this syllabus for a summary list of all assignments and their point values.

Grading Scale
A: 90-100
B: 80-89
C: 70-79
D: 60-69
F: Below 60


Course Outline

The course is delivered entirely through WebCT and as such is taught in as a series of modules. Time for each module is identified in terms of units, with each unit requiring approximately one hour of computer time. The entire course, then, consists of 45 units of time, the equivalent of a traditionally taught 3 semester-hour course. An outline of each content module follows:


Module 1 (1 unit): Introduction to the course, its requirements, rationale, etc.


            Activities: Students will read the course syllabus, post introductions to themselves and respond to the introductions of their classmates. They will also identify what interested them in the course and what they hope to take away from its completion.


            Assessment: Students will post their introductions to an electronic bulletin board (1 point) and respond via the bulletin board to at least three other students (1 point for each response; 3 points total).


Module 2 (3 units): Research on Character Development


            Activities: Students will explore readings on and web sites devoted to character development, as well as relevant topics in student motivation and classroom management.


            Assessment: Students will submit two to four journal entries that document familiarity with assigned readings, as well as analyze articles for significant practical applications of theory (7 points).


Module 3 (3 units): Case Study Method and Character Development Application


            Activities: Students will read articles on case study method and practice writing case studies of their own experiences.


            Assessment: Students will post a written case study to course bulletin boards and write a reaction to the case study of one of their peers (10 points).


Module 4 (3 units): Roadblocks that hinder youth leaders’ character development efforts


            Activities: Students will explore and analyze influences on youth, beginning with the prevalence of violence in modern society (media, music, impact of celebrities). They will examine the roles of young people and their parents and teachers and how to communicate those roles to youth. They will survey the common types of problem behaviors that young people exhibit.


            Assessment: Students will explore their own experiences in relation to course readings and bulletin board postings of their peers, then submit one to three journal entries reflecting on their efforts (7 points).


Module 5 (5 units): Clearing a path for effective character construction


            Activities: Students explore problem student behaviors they previously identified, classifying them by the extent to which they relate self-respect, self-discipline and/or responsibility. Students will consider the benefits of considering these three critical areas as a triad of skills that together form a foundation for character. Students will examine the importance of orchestrating opportunities for youth to experience success as a starting point for improving these skills and will experience a demonstration of the power of progressive skill development technique as a sequential model for building self-respect, self-discipline and responsibility.


            Assessment: Students will submit a case study project that explores a problem student behavior in terms of self-respect, self-discipline and responsibility (10 points).


Module 6 (6 units): Improving youth achievement


            Activities: Students will examine the relationship between character and achievement as it applies both to academic achievement and achievement in other areas of life. Students will consider an area of achievement from their own work with youth and arrive at specific strategies for improving youth achievement in those settings.


            Assessment: Students will post information about their challenges in improving youth achievement and share experiences with each other as they attempt to implement course strategies with youth (10 points).


Module 7 (6 units): Teaching self-respect


            Activities: Students will explore the construct of self-respect in depth and discover methods for teaching self-respect to young people, including variations to follow based upon youth’s ages. They will review case studies and examples to help them become proficient in customizing their approach to their own students’ circumstances.

Module 8 (6 units): Teaching self-discipline


            Activities: Students will explore the construct of self-discipline in depth and discover methods for teaching self-discipline to young people, including variations to follow based upon youth’s ages. They will review case studies and examples to help them become proficient in customizing their approach to their own students’ circumstances.

Module 9 (6 units): Teaching responsibility


            Activities: Students will explore the construct of responsibility in depth and discover methods for teaching responsibility to young people, including variations to follow based upon youth’s ages. They will review case studies and examples to help them become proficient in customizing their approach to their own students’ circumstances.


            Assessment for Modules 7, 8, and 9: Students will work in groups to develop a case study and propose responses to it (15 points). Each student will then individually submit one to three journal entries that reflect upon what other groups have posted (7 points).


Module 10 (6 units): Establishing an effective, positive environment for building student character


            Activities: Students will examine the importance of creating an environment conducive to character development, including recommendations for modeling appropriate behaviors, emphasizing efforts made in the regular course of daily communication with youth. Students will develop strategies for making the school, home, or other environment a place conducive to character building.


            Assessment: Students will post suggestions for creating an effective environment along with a case study that analyzes the role of the environment in building character in youth (5 points).


Final Paper


            Activities: Students will write a paper (approximately 3,000 words) that provides an analysis of how the course will be useful to them as they work with youth. They will use references to course readings and resources, as well as outside resources that they find helpful. Students have the freedom to select a topic that is of interest to them and that will provide them with some insight into working with youth wherever they are.


            Assessment: The final paper is worth 25 points.


Assignments Summary

To assist students in keeping track of assignments, point values, deadlines, following is a summary of course assignments (100 points possible):

Module 1
• Posting your introduction (1 pt.)
• Responding to others' introductions-3 required (1 pt. for each response; 3 pts. total)

Module 2
• 2-4 journal entries on the articles & web sites (7 pts.)

Module 3
• Case study & response to one fellow student's case study (10 pts.)

Module 4
• 1-3 journal entries on the news story (7 pts.)

Module 5
• Case study on THG 500 (details provided on the course web site) and identification of self-respect, self-discipline, & responsibility issues (10 pts.)

Module 6
• Achievement challenges and response case study. (10 pts.)

Modules 7, 8, & 9
• Group work: posting of case study, how to address the situation, steps to lead the youth forward, and how to involve others in helping the young person (15 pts.)
• Individual work: 1-3 journal entries reflecting on the postings from the groups who completed the 2 modules your group did not do (7 pts.)

Module 10
• Bulletin board posting of suggestions on how to create an effective environment, plus case study of a situation that might be influenced by environmental factors, as well as involvement of other adults (5 pts.)

Final paper (25 pts.)