Academic journal article Education

Research Foundations of Moral and Ethical Education

Academic journal article Education

Research Foundations of Moral and Ethical Education

Article excerpt

American education is coming full circle as Character Building, Moral Education and Citizenship are all regaining prominence as viable subject areas. As we again approach these subjects, it's important we handle them on an informed basis. All too often educators base their attempts at instruction and curriculum development in these areas on rather simplistic notions of how positive behavior and moral reasoning develop. Typically, all that is ever mentioned is Kohlberg's research on moral development, but there is so much more to the field. In fact the field has been approached from three separate perspectives, all of which have a great deal of relevance to the classroom teacher or the curriculum developer. These three approaches include: 1. Research on child rearing, internalization, 2. Social-learning theory and 3. The classic Piaget/Kohlberg developmental perspective. Educational efforts have typically ignored the first two perspective, to the detriment of the curriculum and instruction. What educators need is a review of all three perspectives and the research upon which they are based. What follows is exactly that.

Moral Development Research

Three approaches have been taken in the literature on moral development Two, fall into the category of the moral internalization approach (Hoffman, 1960, 63, a,c, 70, 75) and (Bandura, 1962) (Bandura, 1969) (Bandura and Walters, 1963) (Bandura and Huston, 1961) (Bandura, Ross and Ross, 1963) (Bandura and McDonald, 1963) and focus primarily on internalization of moral values. Hoffman takes a psychoanalytic perspective. Bandura and his colleagues take a social-learning perspective. The third approach has taken a cognitive perspective and assumes that moral development involves progressive mental, structural changes (Turiel, 1966, 1969,1973) (Rest et al, 1969) (Kohlberg and Kramer, 1969) (Kohlberg, 1972).

The three approaches fall into two dimensions that have been used to define the nature of a moral decision (Turiel, 1969). These dimensions are: 1) the content used in making a moral decision, i.e., values, mores, etc., and 2) the nature of the thinking process, used to organize these values, and make the decisions. This second is sometimes referred to as the "Calculus of Moral thought" (Haan et al, 1968).

Moral Content and Internalization:

The internalization theorists have concentrated on moral development as a passive process of values, norms, and rules acquisition (Turiel, 1969). The individual's morality depends on the social environment around him. Two major approaches dominate this literature. On focuses on child rearing practices and family variables. The concept of power is central to the approach (Hoffman, 1960, 1963 a-c, 1967, 1970, 1975). The second conceptualizes moral development as a social learning process (Bandura, 1962), (Bandura, 1969). The child comes to acquire what is acceptable and moral through direct and/or symbolic stimuli and rewards for the learning processes (Bandura, 1974).

Two Types of Power Assertion

The Hoffman research has focused on the use of adult power in the family setting (Hoffman, 1975), power that is used without any explanations and power with explanations. Hoffman has postulated that the adults's inherent control of personal and physical power in, for example, the parent-child interacting process makes adults the critical factor in moral values internalization. How the adult uses the power not only determines whether or not a child behaves according the norms and standards set for him but also whether or not the child internalizes those standards (Hoffman, 1963). The assertion of large amounts of power, towards the child, without any explanations, e.g. yelling, or sending a kid to his or her room, will control behavior while he/she is in the presence of the adult, but will not cause the child to internalize the desired norms (Hoffman, 1960). In studies analyzing demands using power without explanations vs. …

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