Comprehensive character development is a holistic approach to teaching and developing character. It focuses on the development of the whole child, from social emotional learning to moral, performance, intellectual, and civic character.

Angela Duckworth, Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania) has proven that, "there is scientific evidence that positive character traits are more important for academic achievement than IQ or socioeconomic background." Through comprehensive character development, school cultures improve, and children are provided safer educational environments in which they can flourish.


Unlike most character education programs, comprehensive character development focuses on more than just social emotional learning (SEL). While SEL is an important part of comprehensive character development, it is only one piece of the puzzle. As we say, character is not just another item on the plate, it is the plate.


Comprehensive character development programs include, but are not limited to:

  • Moral character

  • Performance character

  • Social and emotional learning (SEL)

  • Pro-social behavior

  • Interpersonal skills

  • School climate development

  • Academic improvement

  • Growth mindset and positive psychology

  • Anti-bullying

  • Parents and community outreach

  • 21st century learning models

The visual below illustrates comprehensive character development and its components.

The visual below represents how programs that teach only social emotional learning do not adequately focus on two vital aspects of comprehensive character development: moral and performance character.


Ultimately, comprehensive character development is both the gateway and journey students need to become responsible, respectful, caring, and successful citizens. Through Comprehensive Character Development frameworks, schools can create sustainable environments and cultures of character.


Comprehensive Character Education is a holistic, integrated approach to teaching and developing character. It is educationally challenging, systematic, continuous, broad and in-depth, and incorporates many different strategies. Ideally, it is integrated and evidenced throughout the entire school or youth organization (top to bottom) with the ultimate goal of creating an enduring and robust “culture of character.”

Studies and experience have shown that a comprehensive approach to character education and development, leading to a strong “culture of character,” yields the best long-term educational and behavior results. The goal is for the child to grow up to be a smart, responsible, caring and other-centered individual. According to long-time, recognized experts in character education, Lickona & Davidson (2005), this approach will help a child become a:

  • Lifelong Learner and Critical Thinker

  • Diligent and Capable Academic Performer

  • Socially and Emotionally Skilled Person

  • Ethical Thinker

  • Respectful and Responsible Moral Agent

  • Self-Disciplined Person Who Pursues a Healthy Lifestyle

  • Contributing Community Member and Democratic Citizen

  • Spiritual Person Engaged in Crafting a Life of Noble Purpose


Comprehensive Character Education covers not only “performance character” (teaching a student to perform better), but also “moral character” (teaching a student to be a good person). Ideally, it begins in a child’s earliest years and continues throughout adulthood with a “growth mindset”. Since children are always growing and changing, tailored programming is required for children of different ages and developmental stages.

A Comprehensive Character Development program must include, but is not limited to:

  • Vision for Character Development and Leadership Learning

  • In Depth Study of Virtues Vocabulary

  • Curriculum Design and Implementation

  • Integration into the Whole School

  • Development of a School Climate

  • Social Emotional Learning

  • Positive Psychology

  • Strengths Learning and Development

  • Peer Interaction

  • Family/Community Involvement

  • Parental Education and Training

  • Direct Teaching

  • Experiential Learning

  • Motive(s) Analysis

  • Use of Multiple Strategies

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