Our character curriculum is centred on building four key character traits discussed in relation to human flourishing and success since the times of Classical Greek Philosophy: resilience, self-control, good judgement and fairness. Why do we focus on these traits? This series, called “The importance of”, explores the importance of each of these four traits.
Good judgement includes considering the consequences of one’s decisions, thinking before acting and speaking and having the tools to make good decisions in a variety of situations.
Good judgement and well-being
Good judgement includes prioritising, meeting deadlines and carefully planning, which are tools that enable us to effectively cope in difficult and stressful situations. Making decisions which fail to consider the future can lead to high levels of stress when we have to rush deadlines and deal with pressing problems.
Good judgement and achievement
Making wise decisions is also key to unlocking our potential. These can guide the goals that we set for ourselves. Duckworth and Mischel found that exercises in self-regulatory skills only improved school performance when young people had thought through their decisions of why and how they wanted to achieve a certain goal (Tough, 2013). This requires considering the consequences of our decisions, prioritising, carefully planning and thinking before acting, as well as day-to-day application of good judgement to be motivated to complete school tasks (e.g. to know when to decline an invitation for a play-date due to schoolwork).
Good judgement and moral behaviour
Good judgement is related to the concept of phronesis, also called practical wisdom, good sense, or moral reasoning. The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues (2013) follows Aristotle in viewing this character trait as the “integrative” “master virtue”, meaning that it unifies all other positive character traits.
This is related to work by Piaget (1965) and Kohlberg (1989) who suggested that the final stage of moral development consists of complex moral reasoning, which should be the primary aim of character building strategies (Kohlberg & Hersh, 1977).
This stage includes the ability to differentiate between right and wrong in situations without clear guidelines, where different values may collide. It requires critical ethical thinking, and recent research has suggested that it also requires emotional processing and being able to put ourselves in others’ shoes (Decety, Michalska, & Kinzler, 2012; Cowell et al., 2017).
Cowell, J. M., Lee, K., Malcolm‐Smith, S., Selcuk, B., Zhou, X., & Decety, J. (2017). The development of generosity and moral cognition across five cultures. Developmental science, 20(4).
Decety, J., Michalska, K.J., & Kinzler, K.D. (2012). The contribution of emotion and cognition to moral sensitivity: a neurodevelopmental study. Cerebral Cortex, 22, 209–220.
Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues (2013). A Framework for Character Education in Schools. Retrieved from https://uobschool.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Framework-for-Character-Education-2017-Jubilee-Centre.pdf
Kohlberg, L., & Hersh, R. H. (1977). Moral development: A review of the theory. Theory into Practice, 16(2), 53-59. doi:10.1080/00405847709542675
Piaget, J. (1965). The moral judgment of the child. New York, NY: The Free Press.
Tough, P. (2013). How children succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character. Random House.