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MEP learning pack

Masters in Educational Practice: Child and adolescent development 0-19

5

Social and emotional development

5.4

Moral development

  • Kohlberg’s work is generally acknowledged to be a useful starting point for reflecting on moral development.  He suggests that we move through six stages of development at different rates, and that not everyone progresses beyond Stage 3 or 4. He saw the last stage as something of an aspiration!
  • His research was based on responses to moral dilemmas. You could explore his theory yourself using the same (or new) vignettes (short, impressionistic scenes that focus on one moment or give a particular insight into a character, idea, or setting) with your class. Such an exercise might develop children’s thinking and thereby promote moral development. Galbraith and Jones also published a teaching handbook for adapting Kohlberg to the classroom (Galbraith & Jones, 1976).

For more information watch the following clip:

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What is our (instinctive or reasoned) motivation for conforming to a given rule?

  • Stage 1: To avoid punishement
  • Stage 2: To obtain rewards; to have favours returned
  • Stage 3: To avoid disapproval; to ensure others like us
  • Stage 4: To avoid censure by legitimate authorities (the state, our employer, the friends we respect); to avoid any feelings of guilt that might follow if we were to ignore the rule
  • Stage 5: To maintain the respect of an impartial onlooker; to support the wellbeing of our community (the ‘given rules’ are often self-generated)
  • Stage 6: To avoid self-condemnation (fully autonomous rule generation)

Activity

Think about the following.

  • How might you encourage moral and social development within your class?
  • Might girls and boys follow a different pattern of social and moral development? – What is the evidence for this?
  • What factors might contribute to atypical development in this area?

Learning pack contents

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