As educators, we need to understand the moral devel¬opment of our students. Why? The answer is, as a classroom teacher, we are confronted with hundreds of issues pertaining to our students’ moral reasoning each day. These may range from decisions they make about whether to cheat on a test to whether to be tolerant toward a classmate who is being picked on by others. Every day, our students make hundreds of comments and decisions that involve moral reasoning. Knowing how and when to respond, requires the teacher to understand the theory and principles underlying the process of moral development. There are several theories and principles by psychologists related to the process of moral development. Freud, a social theorist, proposed a psychoanalytic theory where children form a conscience or superego through identification with the same sex parent (Cole & Cole, 1996). A child would behave morally in order to avoid guilt and criticism from the internalized superego. The conscience was considered developed by age 6, with reinforcement during middle childhood. Erickson, another social theorist, modified Freudian theory by extending the idea that moral development continued into adulthood (Berk, 1994). The superego was viewed more positively with behavior motivated by ideals versus sanctions. In contrast, Bandura's social learning theory (1991) outlines moral development as a consequence of modeling, where children observe and imitate the moral behavior of the adults in their world. The model's characteristics are important as children tend to imitate those who are perceived to be caring, competent, and consistent. Damon constructed a theory whereby morality emerged from social experiences with parents and peers (Cole & Cole, 1996). Changes in reasoning after the age of eight reflect a child's increasing sophistication at logically examining a situation, while also taking into account empathy and emotional feeling in their evaluations as well. Piaget developed a two-stage concept of cognitive moral reasoning, where mental structures called schemas are adapted and updated over time (Berk, 1994; Santrock, 1998). This theory holds that young children perceive rules as unchangeable and requiring obedience. Around age eleven, the cognitive capacity is acquired for critical thinking and reasoning, and children then move to the second moral stage where rules are viewed as changeable and socially agreed upon (Berk, 1994). Kohlberg (1983) adapted Piagetian theory and outlined six sequential stages of thinking that motivate moral behavior. This major perspective on moral development pro¬posed by Lawrence Kohlberg (1958, 1986), as mentioned earlier, saw Piaget’s stages of cognitive stages of development serve as its underpinnings. Kohlberg arrived at his theory after interviewing children, adolescents, and adults (primarily males) about their views on a series of moral dilemmas. Here is an example of the type of dilemma he presented: A woman is near death and is suffering from a special kind of cancer. There is only one drug that doctors think might save her. It was recently discovered by a druggist living in the same town as the woman. The drug was expensive to make, but the druggist is charging 10 times what the drug cost him to make. The sick woman’s husband, Heinz tries to borrow the money to buy the drug from every place he can think of but he can’t raise enough money. He tells the druggist that his wife is dying and asks him to sell it to him cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist says, “No, I discovered it and I deserve to make money from it”. Later, Heinz gets desperate, breaks in to the druggist store, and steals the drug for his wife. Kohlberg constructed a theory of moral development that has 3 main levels with 2 stages at each of the level. Morality at the first level is known as Preconventional morality. It is determined by the consequences of an action rather than by the inherent goodness or badness of an act. The...
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