One of the helpful but challenging features of undertaking significant virtue formation in liberal democracies pertains to a unique educational tension between two types of educational communities. We will call them the Secular Moral Communities (e.g., state universities, private secular universities) and Meta-Identity Moral Communities (e.g., certain private universities and military academies). Both models are morally formative in similar ways, but they also have key differences. We empirically investigate the affordances of these models and ask, can we identify communities of practice that harness these affordances well? We hypothesize Christian study centers adjacent to secular universities are well situated to capitalize on the capacities of meta-identity and secular moral communities. We further ask, how do Christian study centers influence moral identity and virtue development among students ? We will conduct a longitudinal mixed-methods study to explore the distinctiveness and mechanisms of virtue development among students in three religious educational institutions, five Christian study centers, and the five secular universities next to the centers. Through analyses of the qualitative data and program evaluations of five Christian study centers, we will examine how Christian study centers might offer students ‘thick’ religious and academic communities that mesh with the strengths of secular educational communities and, thus, aid the development of intellectual, moral, civic, and performative virtues. We will build a community of practice among Christian study centers through in-person gatherings, character inquiry groups, and toolkit creation to establish evidence-informed best practices for building virtues. Outputs include 10-16 peer-review articles, a book proposal, the formation of a community of practice among study centers’ leaders, virtue development/evaluation toolkits, program evaluation reports, and popular dissemination of findings.
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