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The National Liberty Museum wants to figure out how to measure character

Building character. April 4, 2016 Category: FeaturedResultsShort
Mission-driven organizations and businesses are rushing to figure out how to measure the immediate and rippled impact of their work. But how do you measure your impact when you’re working to improve something that’s totally intangible?

According to National Liberty Museum Vice President of Institutional Advancement Peggy Sweeney, it’s the “most cogent question that researchers and practitioners are struggling with” across the world.

“What you look for is the learning and the retention of knowledge,” Sweeney said. “So, the concepts, and the fact that young people are retaining those concepts. Then you look at attitudinal growth or changes.”

Sweeney co-authored a report, published by NLM in partnership with U.K.-based University of Birmingham and funded by the John Templeton Foundation, that aimed to evaluate the impact of character-based education “through the lens of liberty.” The study looked at 800 local Title I students age 9 to 13 who participated in NLM’s Young Heroes Outreach Program (YHOP).

“We’re really teaching kids 21st century skills,” Sweeney said. “Social skills that predispose young people to succeeding in school and the workplace — cooperation, compromise, critical thinking, goal-setting and follow-through.”

The report compares survey data of students in YHOP and students who are not. The findings are favorable for YHOP, but Sweeney said the researchers involved have suggested the study continue for “multiple years” and extend its reach to students in elementary, middle and high school across the country.

Read the full report

Here’s the takeaway: Through project-based education focused on empowerment, students showed an increased appreciation for empathy, responsibility and respect — three core virtues NLM believes encompass the practice of liberty.

But YHOP does more than that, Sweeney said. Students who participated in the program also showed an increased appreciation of civic engagement.

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“They will do better in school and in the workplace, contribute to stronger and more healthy communities and hopefully, the wellbeing of our democracy,” she said. “The study is confirmation that our programs are advancing the character development of the youth we work with.”

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