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Character Development: Connecting Peers to Improve Practice

In July 2016, the National Research Council’s Board on Testing and Assessment hosted a workshop to review research and practice relevant to youth character development – with a particular focus on ideas that can support the adults who plan and run out-of-school programs. More than 100 practitioners, representing an array of youth-serving organizations, participated. The session included consideration of challenges and opportunities for measuring character, and for assessing the efficacy of character development programs.


A free PDF of workshop proceedings is available for download.



The two-day event took place in Washington, D.C., and was sponsored by the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation. All of the Foundation’s grantees involved with character development and social-emotional learning (SEL) were invited; this group stayed together for a third day to further reflect on research findings, and to exchange their own lessons and perspectives as peers in this work.

Building on that experience, and fueled by the continued energy and interest of grantees, the Foundation is launching a national community of practice. The intent is to connect peer organizations and facilitate their knowledge sharing and growth in character development arenas including programming and practice, research and evaluation, and policy. Related, the Foundation is supporting twice-a-year gatherings by a group of chief executives from 13 national youth development organizations. This group met last summer, in conjunction with the workshop, and values the ability to periodically share strategies and perspectives on their work.

Recognizing that adults – both in and out of the classroom – play a pivotal role in building character in young people, the Foundation is investing to deepen the capability, and peer learning networks, of our grantees.

Photo courtesy of NatureBridge.