Date of Award

3-2005

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Degree Program

Global Leadership - with a specialization in Educational Leadership

Department

College of Education

First Advisor

William J. Leary

Second Advisor

Cheryl Serrano

Third Advisor

Adria Karle

Abstract

The Florida state legislature has mandated that all elementary school students receive character education instruction as part of the regular curriculum. In accordance with this requirement, the purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of a character education program on fifth-grade students' prosocial competence.

Three hypotheses governed this study: (a) There is a statistically significant difference in fifth-grade students' prosocial competence as a result of participation in a character education program. (b) There is a statistically significant relationship between gender and students' prosocial competence after participation in a character education program. (c) There is a statistically significant relationship between ethnicity and students' prosocial competence after participation in a character education program.

A program in character education was implemented over 18 weeks to 116 fifth grade students in a middle-class public elementary school. A social competence survey instrument measuring social competence and antisocial behaviors, the School Social Behavior Scales (SSBS), was administered to students and rated by teachers as pretests and post tests. Data analysis was conducted by descriptive statistics, t tests, and Pearson's correlations.

Results showed that Hypotheses 1 and 2 were accepted: a statistically significant difference was found after students' participation in a character education program, and between students' gender and post test scores. Moreover, female students scored significantly higher than males on both pretests and post tests. Hypothesis 3 was rejected: no statistically significant difference was found between students' ethnicity and post test scores.

These results can help school administrators recognize the importance of character education in the schools and its capability to reduce behavioral disruptions and disciplinary referrals. Results can also aid schools leaders in the design of character education programs to meet the special needs of male and female students and multicultural student populations.

Recommendations for further research included replication of the study with a larger and more heterogeneous sample, socioeconomically, ethnically, and geographically. Additional studies also could include replication with middle-and high school students and program implementation and assessment of the same students through different grade levels.

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