Academic journal article Education

An Empirical Investigation of the Moral Judgment Development of a Sample of High School Kuwaiti Teachers

Academic journal article Education

An Empirical Investigation of the Moral Judgment Development of a Sample of High School Kuwaiti Teachers

Article excerpt

Recent years have witnessed a growing interest and concern among educationists, psychologists, philosophers and theologians in studying morality and moral development. Perhaps the major important contribution by a psychologist to the field of moral development, after Piaget, has been made by the late Harvard psychologists, Lawrence Kohlberg. While Kohlberg relies heavily on previous moral development theories of Piaget (1932), McDougall (1908), Baldwin (1906), Mead (1934), and Dewey (1895), he nevertheless builds a unique empirical framework that allows the observation of normative ethics, research hypotheses, and interpretation of results (Kohlberg, 1969; 1981). Kohlberg (1984) identified three levels and six stages of moral reasoning:

Preconventional Moral Reasoning level: is divided into two stages that are characterized by a responsiveness to cultural rules and notions of right and wrong. It is the way children and young adolescents typically think about moral issues. Individuals' reasoning at stage one, Punishment and obedience orientation, is to avoid breaking rules that result in punishment. Individuals at this stage have no internal standard for judging moral issues and are incapable of understanding another person's point of view. To those at stage two, Instrumental-Relativist Orientation, right is viewed as what is equal or fair. They tend to be concerned about reciprocity and fair exchange (doing something in exchange for something else). When a stage two individual's personal interests are fulfilled, he or she tends to follow established rules.

Conventional Level reasoning : It consists of conformity to personal and social expectations, and loyalty to maintaining, supporting, and justifying social order. The two stages at this level are typical of the moral reasoning of many adults. Interpersonal Concordance or "Good Boy-Nice Girl" Orientation is the third stage. At this stage, individuals perceive good behavior as pleasing or helping others and being "nice." Stage four, Law and Order, is characterized by concern for authority, rules, and enforcement of social duties. "Laws are upheld except in extreme cases where they conflict with other fixed social duties" (Kohlberg, 1984, p. 175).

Postconventional Level moral reasoning: is Kohlberg's highest level. It is characterized by "moral values and principles that have validity and application apart from the authority of the groups or persons holding these principles and apart from the individual's own identification with these groups" (Smith, 1978, p. 56). At stage five, Social Contract and Legalistic Orientation, individuals view right in terms of individual rights that have been examined and supported by society and they have a clear awareness of the relativism of personal roles and opinions. Stage six, Universal-Ethical-Principled Orientation, is defined as following self-chosen ethical principles that are comprehensive, universal, and consistent. The principles are abstract and ethical, not concrete rules or laws (Smith, 1978; Kohlberg, 1984).

Kholberg, Rest, and the Defining Issues Test.

Kohlberg's work was followed by that of James Rest (1941-1999), who concurred with the majority of Kohlberg's theory. However, while Kohlberg's primary interest was to devise a theoretical system to represent the logic of moral thinking, Rest was also concerned with the development of a valid, reliable measurement instrument that could be used to assess ethical reasoning and to test hypotheses about moral reasoning. Rest (1979) developed the Defining Issues Test (DIT) as an objective test of ethical development based on the six stages defined by Kohlberg. DIT research is based on the assumption "that developmental stages of moral judgment involve distinctive ways of defining social moral dilemmas and of evaluating crucial issues in them" (Rest, 1979, p. 85). The output of the DIT is a continuous variable, the P-score, that is "interpreted as the relative importance a subject gives to principled moral considerations in making a decision about ethical dilemmas" (Rest, 1975, p. …

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