What is Character? Virtue Ethics in Education

There is a growing interest in character and character education– it is increasingly being talked about by politicians, employers, teachers, parents and young people across the world.  This course will tap into this increasing interest and answer important questions such as what is character and character education, why is it important and can it be taught?  You will learn from academics from the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham, all leading experts in the fields of character education and virtue ethics, as well as from teachers and head teachers who have experienced first-hand the transformative power of implementing character education in day-to-day practices within a school.

The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues is a unique and leading research centre for the examination of how character and virtues impact on individuals and society.  Based within the School of Education at the University of Birmingham, the Centre also seeks to promote the practical application of its research evidence through various development projects.  A key conviction underlying the existence of the Centre is that the virtues that make up a good character can be learnt and taught. 

What is a MOOC?

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course - these are free, open, online courses designed to offer a taste of Higher Education to learners from across the UK and the world. The University of Birmingham is delivering new MOOCs in partnership with FutureLearn, the UK’s first MOOCs provider established by the Open University.

Delivered by world-class academics from the University of Birmingham, the courses enable learners worldwide to sample high-quality academic content via an interactive web-based platform from a leading global University, increasing access to higher education for a whole new cohort of learners.

The courses have been developed by senior academic staff and their content is quality-assured in line with our other programmes. The courses do not offer credits towards admission to the University of Birmingham.

Course knowledge requirements

No previous knowledge necessary.  This MOOC will cover a range of material designed for a diverse audience and has been developed on the assumption that learners have no previous knowledge.  If they wish, learners will have the flexibility to explore the topics in more depth.

Course duration and week by week content

You will be able to explore the theoretical and philosophical basis for character education, including a background to virtue ethics and gain practical knowledge on taking character education into educational settings.  Throughout the course, you will debate if and how character might be taught in a conscious, planned and reflective way.

Duration: 2 weeks

  • Week 1: In this first session, we will examine what character education is, what it is not and why it matters.  One of the big questions we will look to answer is ‘Should character be taught in schools?’
  • Week 2:  In the second week, we will look at the implications of this on the ground.  How can character be caught, as well as taught, in schools and where does the responsibility of teachers come into this?

Lead academic

Tom HarrisonTom Harrison is the Deputy Director of Development at the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues where he works to enable the Centre’s work to be transformative.  Tom has spent many years working on research and development programmes mainly relating to character and citizenship education. His specialist interests are character and virtue ethics, citizenship, community development, student leadership and volunteering and he has written extensively on many of these areas, as well as developed a range of resources and training programmes for schools.

How to apply

This next start date for this free online course is currently to be confirmed. You can register your interest in participating now at the FutureLearn website.

Related courses

If you enjoy this course, why not take your studies further.  For those interested in extending their learning it will also provide a taster course for the new MA in Character Education which has been developed by the University of Birmingham.

Degrees and Courses in the School of Education