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Teaching and assessing character: Part 1

favicon Reading How Children Succeed has gotten me interested in how teachers could teach, build, assess, and grade students on their character skills.

The first step is to get the original list of 24 skills down to a manageable size. I’m hoping you could help me with this task.

Here they are:

  1. zest
  2. grit
  3. self-control
  4. social intelligence
  5. gratitude
  6. love
  7. hope
  8. humor
  9. creativity
  10. curiosity
  11. open-mindedness
  12. love of learning
  13. wisdom
  14. bravery
  15. integrity
  16. kindness
  17. citizenship
  18. fairness
  19. leadership
  20. forgiveness
  21. modesty
  22. prudence
  23. appreciation of beauty
  24. spirituality

Which ones do you vote for? Which character skills do you find most important and related to students’ academic success?

From that list of 24, KIPP chose seven to include on its Character Report Card:

  1. zest (approaching life with excitement and energy, feeling activated)
  2. grit (finishing what one starts despite obstacles)
  3. self-control (regulating what one feels and does, being self-disciplined)
  4. social intelligence (being aware of feelings of other people)
  5. curiosity (taking an interest, finding things fascinating)
  6. optimism (not on the list of 24)
  7. gratitude (being aware and thankful of the good things that happen)

What about that list? Do you think KIPP made good choices from the original 24?

For me, I’d like to get the list down even further, maybe to three or four. Here is my current thinking.

In general, I like what KIPP has done. Zest is one of my favorites, and I think optimism and curiosity both fit into zest nicely. Grit is great because it captures having a goal and not giving up, even over large periods of time. The concept of self-control is crucial, but I prefer the term discipline. And social intelligence is important, too, but it seems too long and not powerful enough. Maybe empathy instead? Finally, I’d like to add integrity from the original list of 24.

So this is my working list:

  1. zest
  2. grit
  3. discipline
  4. empathy
  5. integrity

What do you think? Any I’ve missed? Should I go fewer? Any better (and perhaps four-letter) synonyms for these terms? I appreciate all feedback!

Next step: Where does this go in my grading scheme? And how to assess it? favicon


  1. Mark Isero

    In conversations and tweets this weekend: One reader suggests “self-awareness.” Another reader likes ARISE: adaptability, resilience, integrity, self-awareness, and empathy.

    Interesting that self-awareness came up twice! It’s a tough one for me to define. Ideas?

  2. Meg Griswold

    I find it interesting that you added “discipline” which was not on the original list. I think that someone can appear “disciplined” but actually be a complete jerk, excuse my language. Discipline can be superficial and misleading. And can also be a way to just phone it in and do the minimum, but at least you were well behaved. I think that self-control is a part of discipline and is more specific. And true “discipline”–what it takes to train for a marathon for example, requires grit. I would vote for taking “discipline” off.

    I like zest, but I think maybe curiosity is more important. You aren’t going to do everything with zest (there is a subject or activity we all have to do, but don’t necessarily relish) but curiosity can serve you even where you do not flourish.

    Maybe it is my personal bias, but I like bravery.

Please share your brilliant insights!