Bring Character Education, Social and Emotional Learning to Your Classroom

Enhance Your Skills, Help Your Students with Online Certificate Program

Boy in class who's teacher has completed the Character Education Development Certificate

Character education — emphasized as vitally important in the writings of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and other founders — has arguably fallen by the wayside in the modern era. However, the benefits of focusing on character education, and social and emotional learning, in public school education are profound.

Our online Character Education Development Certificate program is a golden opportunity to enhance your skills in this essential yet often overlooked discipline, giving you the opportunity to take an individual course or work toward earning a certificate with multiple courses.

Offered through the University of San Diego’s Division of Professional and Continuing Education in collaboration with the university’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences – Character Education Resource Center, the program prepares you to apply best practices to plan, deliver and assess character education in the classroom.

What Is Character Education? [Definition]

The U.S. Department of Education describes it as follows: “Character education teaches the habits of thought and deed that help people live and work together as families, friends, neighbors, communities and nations.”

In practice, the federal agency says: “Character education is a learning process that enables students and adults in a school community to understand, care about and act on core ethical values such as respect, justice, civic virtue and citizenship, and responsibility for self and others. Upon such core values, we form the attitudes and actions that are the hallmark of safe, healthy and informed communities that serve as the foundation of our society.”

Historically, America’s public school’s used to focus on character education and civic virtue,” according to the Department of Education. “The founders of this country, including John and Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Benjamin Franklin, wrote about the importance of character education in maintaining the new republic. Those founders would likely be horrified by the loss of this goal, as they all cite character education as the way to create an educated and virtuous citizenry.”

Principles of Character Education

Character.org, a national organization founded in 1993 to foster character development in U.S. schools and communities, lists the following 11 Principles of Character Education, which it describes as guideposts for schools and educators seeking to implement character education:

  • Principle 1: Core values are defined, implemented, and embedded into school culture.
  • Principle 2: The school defines “character” comprehensively to include thinking, feeling, and doing.
  • Principle 3: The school uses a comprehensive, intentional, and proactive approach to develop character.
  • Principle 4: The school creates a caring community.
  • Principle 5: The school provides students with opportunities for moral action.
  • Principle 6: The school offers a meaningful and challenging academic curriculum that respects all learners, develops their character, and helps them succeed.
  • Principle 7: The school fosters students’ self-motivation.
  • Principle 8: All staff share the responsibility for developing, implementing, and modeling ethical character.
  • Principle 9: The school’s character initiative has shared leadership and long-range support for continuous improvement.
  • Principle 10: The school engages families and community as partners in the character initiative.
  • Principle 11: The school assesses its implementation of character education, its culture and climate, and the character growth of students on a regular basis.

Who Should Attend?

The University of San Diego’s online Character Education Development Certificate program is designed to engage and inspire K-12 teachers and administrators who are interested in learning how to plan and implement character development education in their classroom, school or district.

Certificate Requirements [Courses and Fees]

To earn the USD professional development certificate in character education, students are required to successfully complete four individual courses, which can be accomplished in as few as two semesters. See course titles and tuition fees in the chart below:

Schedule & Fees

Course # Courses (9 units) Duration SP SU FA Fee
EDU-X731A Instructional Strategies in Character Education
(2 units)
up to 6 months

OSP

OSP OSP $307
EDU-X702A Teaching Positive Social Skills to Students
(3 units)
up to 6 months OSP OSP OSP $489
EDU-X723J Character-based Classroom Management: Strategies & Practices
(2 units)
up to 6 months OSP OSP OSP $307
EDU-X726L Social-Emotional Learning and Teaching: Home, School, Work
(2 units)
up to 6 months OSP OSP OSP $307
One Time Certificate Fee $45
Total Certificate Cost (4 courses) $1455
C = Classroom; OFD = Online Fixed-Date; OSP = Online Self-Paced; IS = Independent Study Self-Paced  *Schedule and fees subject to change

Benefits of the Character Education Development Certificate Program

The benefits of character education in public schools and classrooms are incredibly significant, according to Jessica Lahey, a writer and English teacher who relates her experiences teaching character education and “core virtues” in an article in The Atlantic. Schools that teach character education, she says, report the following positive outcomes:

  • Higher academic performance
  • Improved attendance
  • Reduced violence
  • Fewer disciplinary issues
  • Reduction in substance abuse
  • Less vandalism

Additionally, she notes, “From a practical perspective, it’s simply easier to teach children who can exercise patience, self-control and diligence, even when they would rather be playing outside.” Such teachings, she says, make a huge difference in children’s “emotional, moral and intellectual development.”

Character Education Teaching Guides

Some of the most helpful educational resources and teaching guides supporting the practice of character education and the related discipline of “social emotional learning” come from GoodCharacter.com, which describes itself as “a great place for educators to find support, resources, information and ideas to launch or enhance their character education and youth guidance efforts.”

For example, the site offers themed teaching guides to assist educators at all grade levels designed to engage students in such fundamental concepts as respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, fairness and justice.

Character Education Development Certificate Learner Outcomes

Educators who complete the online Character Education Development Certificate program will greatly enhance their ability to:

  • Help students develop good character habits and good citizenship
  • Utilize a variety of instructional strategies for teaching character
  • Deploy best practices and instructional strategies for teaching positive social skills
  • Build a character-based discipline plan and use effective classroom management techniques
  • Strengthen student social and emotional skills and behaviors
  • Become a local character development resource for your school and district

Character Education Development Certificate – Curriculum

The four courses that comprise the University of San Diego’s Character Education Development Certificate are:

Enroll in individual courses of your choice or start the certificate program with any course to earn graduate level extension credits. Online self-paced courses are available anytime and allow for six months from enrollment date for completion. Key points about your online learning experience include the following:

  • You can go online whenever is most convenient, completing your course or courses within six months of enrollment
  • As long as you have access to the Internet you can complete assignments
  • You'll read articles and watch videos, and interact with educational resources provided by your instructor
  • Instructor interaction and feedback are provided between assignments

Experienced Instructors

Our instructors, most of whom hold advanced degrees, are experienced subject matter experts who engage each student in a stimulating and participative learning environment. Click on individual course listings to learn more about our primary Character Education Development Certificate program instructors.  

Testimonials

“I can't say enough good things about the opportunities for character education offered by USD. For me, personally, they have changed my approach to teaching and reinvigorated me for a long-lasting career in education.”

– Bill S., Director of High School Placement, Teacher

“Taking this course has been an amazing journey. It is my third course in the certificate. I have gained so much knowledge, insight and motivation to pursue my goals in character education. … This course provided me with the academic opportunities and the personal foundation necessary to grow and develop my skills.”

– Character Education program participant

“I would describe this course as a pathway to leadership. Using the knowledge I have gained has given me the confidence, desire and the ability to lead where I had not led before. I want to lead educational reform in my community. I can be a leader to teachers so that they can provide an outstanding character education to their students. I believe these students will experience authentic learning so that they can become active members in the community.”

– Character Education program participant

Accreditation

The University of San Diego’s Division of Professional and Continuing Education is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges – Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is character education?

According to the U.S. Department of Education: “Character education is a learning process that enables students and adults in a school community to understand, care about and act on core ethical values such as respect, justice, civic virtue and citizenship, and responsibility for self and others. Upon such core values, we form the attitudes and actions that are the hallmark of safe, healthy and informed communities that serve as the foundation of our society.”

How do I enroll in a course?

You can enroll in individual courses of your choice at the course description page, or start the certificate program by signing up for any of the courses and paying a one-time $45 certificate fee. You can also enroll by calling us at (619) 430-4147 or toll free at (888) 321-6658 during business hours, M-F, 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM (PST).

What type of credit am I earning?

The credit earned is considered Graduate Level Extension Credit, in semester hours, meaning that the credit earned is usually good toward salary advancement, credential renewing and/or recertification and is not usually good toward a degree. Prior district approval is highly recommended and the responsibility of the student if using the units toward salary advancement, credential renewing and/or recertification.

Is online learning right for me?

Our online courses offer the same high-quality content and expert instruction as the courses held on-campus at the University of San Diego. Instructors facilitate courses through engaging multimedia presentations and provide prompt feedback to questions within a 24-48 hour timeframe. This online format allows students to interact with classmates worldwide and replicate in-classroom interactions through weekly discussion forums, chats and email communication. See more information about online learning through the University of San Diego.

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