Adolescent Females' "Voice" Changes Can Signal Difficulties for Teachers and Administrators

By Wren, David J. | Adolescence, Summer 1997 | Go to article overview
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Adolescent Females' "Voice" Changes Can Signal Difficulties for Teachers and Administrators


Wren, David J., Adolescence


Male and Female Learning Preferences

Recent research in the area of adolescent moral development by Kohlberg and Gilligan, has noted different preferences in learning styles of adolescent females and males. Using Piaget's (1932/1965) genetic studies, Kohlberg (1977) found that in making decisions males frequently rely on a thinking process which tends to keep thoughts and feelings separate. Males often engage in deductive reasoning which uses logical arguments, questioning, and problem-solving techniques. Males' "test for truth" employs the use of consistency and logic to determine solutions. In essence, according to Kohlberg, Levine, and Hewer (1984) this so-called "male perspective" incorporates certain characteristics: (1) "the male world view is that of individuals who stand alone in their decisions, but are guided by the impersonal application of rules based on logical principles; (2) a deductive reasoning process that uses critical thinking, a search for logical contradictions and missing evidence in a positional, adversarial format" (p. 139). Thus, Kohlberg referred to males' preferred learning style/typical decision-making process as an autonomous or independent style.

In contrast, Carol Gilligan objected to Kohlberg's arguments because she realized that his almost entirely male subjects research had not adequately accounted for affective issues such as responsibility, care, and concern. Gilligan's research uncovered a "female perspective" on morality and decision-making which uses an interdependent thinking style consisting of complex, self-reflective, inductive reasoning processes that unite thoughts and feelings. According to Bruner (1986), the search for truth relies upon the concept of believability - analysis of a person's motives or reasons for telling someone something. In addition, the female perspective uses a questioning process in order to understand others' motives for actions, and suspends final decisions during this process of fact gathering. Last, it uses a narrative, interdependent thinking style which depends upon a network or "web" of personal relationships.

Kohlberg's Metaphysical Model [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED] uses an open systems model of permeable, tangential circles to illustrate how the autonomous moral self acts upon and is affected in its impersonal, rule-guided process of decision-making. A metaphysical view represents one's interpretation of reality. Other components of Kohlberg's vision include the use of the Hidden Curriculum, the unintended wide range of learnings that arise from the structure of the school's environment. His Just Community experiment was a model alternative school run as a participative democracy for adolescents.

For Kohlberg, the zenith of moral development consisted of the attainment of a self-principled sense of moral maturity by which final decisions are regulated by the criterion of Justice. Kohlberg's process of knowledge acquisition has been described as a correspondence between the mind and reality which forms a state of mind called Benevolence, the Greek ideal of knowledge (Gilligan, 1982, p. 173).

Gilligan's Metaphysical Model [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 2 OMITTED] centers around an interdependent moral self, as illustrated by a series of overlapping spirals, which represent the progression of women's moral development throughout various life crises. Therefore, a spiral model indicates a continuous progress in moral development which allows for the influence of life's experiences (Gilligan, 1982, p. 122).

This implies that there is no one best way to travel on life's path since the moral development process is relative and depends upon the situations in one's life.

Another component of Gilligan's view is the influences of biological maturation and the process of gender socialization. Ultimately, one may become a member of a caring community, described by the Greek word, Agape, wherein knowledge and values (there are no absolute values) apply a sense of caring to guide moral choices or decisions.

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Adolescent Females' "Voice" Changes Can Signal Difficulties for Teachers and Administrators
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