About the Civic Virtues Project

The Civic Virtues Project is a partnership between the Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing and Norman High School, Norman North High School, and Irving Middle School.

The Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing promotes three civic virtues: Civility, Fairness and Compassion. (Below these are referred to as the “target virtues.”) Each of these civic virtues is necessary for sustaining the political and social communities in which humans can flourish. Schools, and especially public schools, play an especially important role in fostering civic virtues. Education involves exposure to new ideas and sustained interaction among people who hold different perspectives on a range of issues. Successful learning in this context requires the cultivation of civility. School life also typically involves navigating complex social norms, hierarchies and power dynamics, affording rich opportunities for developing fairness and compassion.

Because of this, we believe any educational community that provides a welcoming but challenging learning environment will end up developing civic virtues in its students to some extent. We hypothesize, however, that deliberate exposure to civic virtues in the classroom can increase the extent to which students understand, appreciate and practice civic virtues. The purpose of the Civic Virtues Project is to plan and execute a pilot study to gather empirical data to test this hypothesis.

To this end, we will adopt Rest’s fourfold component model (Rest et al., 1999) of distinct moral outcomes: moral awareness, moral judgment, moral motivation, and moral behavior. We will take a multi-method approach to providing students experience with considering and practicing these outcomes. Specifically, teachers will be trained to 1) model desired outcomes in their own actions, 2) encourage deliberate consideration of the desired outcomes in their students, and 3) promote, and provide opportunity for, prudent expression of each of the Civic virtues. Predictive validity of the effectiveness of this approach to modeling and encouraging positive attitudes toward virtue, as well as the development of a moral identity (Weaver, 2006) proceeds from theory regarding attitude formation, namely that direct experience with an attitude is more influential than indirect experience, and indirect experience through firsthand knowledge from observation is more influential than non-firsthand knowledge (Fazio, Powell, and Williams, 1989).

Specifically, we hypothesize that deliberate exposure to our three target virtues in courses has the potential to: (a) increase students’ understanding of these virtues; (b) increase their appreciation of the importance of these virtues in public life; and (c) increase their desire to act in ways that express these virtues; (d) increase their civic identity; and (e) be exhibited in their behavior. If borne out, this study would provide a basis for more extensive empirical research and could provide an empirical basis for improving curricula and/or pedagogical practice.

Project Plan

In the first nine months of the funded period, a working group of subject matter experts will be formed and tasked with developing a complete project plan and key materials, including gathering or creating assessment instruments. Teachers from participant schools will be asked for their input. During the summer of year 1, three workshops, one on each of the three target virtues, will be held for teachers from participating schools. Teachers will be selected for participation in this project by the principals of their schools, and will be incentivized. The purpose of the workshops is not only to inform teachers and develop strategies for integrating the virtues into classrooms, but seek their advice on the development of a Teachers’ Guide to Civic Virtues: Civility, Fairness and Compassion.

Classroom implementation will begin in all three partner schools during the 2019-20 academic year. Assessments of students and teachers will be conducted, data analyzed, and reports written. Revisions of the intervention will be based on pilot 1 findings and will be completed in preparation for a second round of piloting with another teacher group.

Three workshops for these teachers will be held during the summer of 2020, and implementation of classroom strategies, assessments, data analysis, and reporting will take place again during the 2020-21 academic year. We will conclude this project with a comprehensive report, including suggestions for further research and recommendations for curriculum/pedagogical revisions in Oklahoma public education.


  • Fazio, R., Powell, M., & Williams, C. (1989). The Role of Attitude Accessibility in the Attitude-to-Behavior Process. Journal of Consumer Research, 16(3), 280-288.
  • Rest, J.R., Narvaez, D., Bebeau, M.J., & Thoma, S.J. (1999). Postconventional moral thinking: A neo-Kohlbergian approach. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Weaver, I.C.G., Meaney, M.J., Szyf, M. (2006). Maternal care effects on the hippocampal transcriptome and anxiety-mediated behaviors in the offspring that are reversible in adulthood. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 103, 3480-3485.
View our Civic Virtues Bibliography