Framework & Principles

Throughout our efforts to build a School-wide approach to Character and Leadership Education, we have explored different teaching methods to help our students learn and practice essential concepts and skills. As with all good teaching, varied instruction achieves lasting results since each student learns material differently.

To support the teaching of character and leadership education, the School developed guiding principles for teachers to use as reference points for instruction and curriculum design. The lists below are abbreviated to provide an example of the principles guiding the program’s development.

List of 4 items.

  • Principles of Character and Leadership Education at St. Mark’s

    • The goal of Character and Leadership Education at St. Mark’s is to educate and prepare every boy to be an excellent leader of character.
    • Every St. Mark’s student has the potential to become an effective leader of character and deserves the opportunity to do so.
    • Character and Leadership Education at St. Mark’s offers grade-appropriate opportunities for every boy to engage his communities, serve his fellows, and coordinate the actions of others toward shared goals.
  • Principles of Proposing, Questioning, and Knowing

    • It is not enough for students to be exposed to ideas; students need to develop clear answers to important questions and skills to put into practice that will improve the well-being of their communities.
    • Character and Leadership Education at St. Mark’s is grounded in principles complementary to the practice of the world’s major religions.
    • The primary goal of teaching and learning is the development of understanding in students’ long-term memories. Critical thinking and lively debate are essential means to achieve the end of long-term understanding; they are not, however, the goals of teaching and learning. Our pedagogical goal is developing effective leaders of character, not mere critics.
  • Principles of Instruction

    • Just as boys in the same grade display a range of preparedness and interest in reading, writing, math, athletics, and the arts, so too in the development of their character and leadership. Just as we do not allow the existence of a range of preparedness and interest to exempt boys from learning in the other disciplines, so too in their education as leaders of character. As always, good teachers meet their students wherever they are in their development and help move them forward as fully as possible.
    • As is true in every discipline, students forget what they learn, and they need regular review and practice for knowledge to enter long-term memory – so too in Character and Leadership Education.
  • Principles of Assessment

    • Because we can better teach boys to be leaders of character when we understand their level of knowledge and skill, it is vital that we develop accurate, appropriate modes of assessment.
    • Because research shows decisively that improving and applying strengths is significantly more effective and efficient in developing character and leadership than correcting deficiencies, the communication of assessments should focus predominately on leveraging strengths.
    • Assessment of student character and leadership has only one goal: helping each boy move toward his potential as a leader of character. Accurate assessments that cannot be communicated to a student in a helpful way should not be communicated at all. All assessments and communication of a student’s progress should be made explicitly with a growth mindset that acknowledges a student’s on-going development.


    • While a student at Harvard University, Dean Itani ’11 returned to St. Mark's to share his college experience with his former teachers.

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