Human behavior is complicated and may be based on conflicting drives and emotions. For example, an individual may donate to a charity in order to help the poor and/or to receive recognition. Similarly, a student may work hard to master calculus out of love for the subject and/or to receive an exemplary grade. We are interested in uncovering children's motivation for acting virtuously, both within and outside of school. By examining the antecedents of virtue, we empower educators to deeply embed character and virtue into their academic programs.
Our starting point is self-determination theory (SDT), a meta-theory of human motivation that posits three basic human needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. According to Ryan and Deci (2017), individuals internalize motivation along a continuum, ranging from amotivation to external, introjected, identified, and intrinsic. To extend the SDT categories, we contribute our own construct called virtuous motivation, which involves doing things not just for enjoyment, but also for their own sake, for self-development, and to benefit others.
Through our research, we explore the antecedents of moral behavior and how habituated virtue becomes internalized into the child's sense of self. Drawing on the framework adopted by the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues and previous SDT research on self-regulation and prosocial behavior, we seek to determine the antecedents of children’s moral behaviors and how cultural factors, including parenting and schooling, foster or impede the internalization of virtue.
In our new survey, we assess for dimensions of virtue, including intellectual, moral, civic, and performance. In addition, we include items on incentivized environment and school culture, allowing us to leverage the research in a pre-test post-test intervention model.
Ahart and the Canyon Center for Character Education have formed a 3-year partnership to deploy the Ahart Virtuous Motivation Survey as a pre- and post-test to assess the efficacy of their character education program.
The Kern Family Foundation has awarded a $2.27 million grant to Grand Canyon University to launch the Canyon Center for Character Education. The three-year grant will be used to elevate character formation among Pre-K -12th grade students and support current and aspiring educators to advance character education. The GCU center will enhance the curriculum and deepen the emphasis on virtue and character education in GCU’s master’s programs in educational leadership. A virtual professional learning lab will be launched for students, alumni and partner schools as well as character education conferences and summits on campus.