The Science Behind Character Coaching

“The literature supporting the efficacy of character coaching is exploding!"

- Lyle Labardee, MS, LPC, Board Certified Coach

Research Links

Character Matters

Character skills, the way a person THINKS, FEELS and BEHAVES (Webster),  determines to a great extent their success in school  the workplace and the community, (Farrington, et al., 2012; Bowles and Gintis, 2002; Farkas, 2003; Heckman, Stirred and Urzua, 2006; Lleras, 2008).  According to research recently conducted by Nobel prize-winning economist, James Heckman, "A growing body of empirical research shows that character skills rival IQ in predicting educational attainment, labor market success, health and criminality" (Heckman & Kautz, 2013). Character skills include attributes such as perseverance, growth mindset, self-control, self-efficacy and the ability to engage in a productive way in society.

               Character Skills Can Be Taught

Character skills are malleable traits, traits that can be taught, developed and improved.  Such skills enable people to shape their lives in the present in order to create skills for the future  (Heckman & Kautz, 2013).  Self-efficacy, an individual's belief that they have the ability to successfully complete tasks and reach goals, is both highly malleable and essential to character skill development (Gutman & Schoon, 2013).   A Report entitled, "Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century" published in draft form by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology (2013), finds that, "While the consensus across the literature review and interviews is that there is still a need for empirical evidence that grit, tenacity and perseverance can be taught as transferrable competencies, there is a wide range of programs and approaches that are already showing promise and positive results in this area ...".


Evidence-Based, Best Practices


Best practices in character coaching align with widely accepted, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) -informed approaches and positive psychology. Research shows that a positive mindset, facilitated through the application of CBT principles, is the key to consistently demonstrating the positive behavior associated with good character skills (Gutman & Schoon, 2013). Instead of attributing poor performance to a lack of talents and abilities, or otherwise uncontrollable environmental factors, students learn to think differently about themselves and their environment, feel better about themselves and experience greater success in achieving their goals. Progressions facilitates this learning by helping students develop the mindset that they have the talents and abilities to succeed, will work hard and improve, and can see themselves reaching their goals.  In short: Positive Mindset + Healthy Emotions +Success Behavior = Strong Character and Improved Student Outcomes.