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Kohlberg’s theory of moral Reasoning

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1 Kohlberg’s theory of moral Reasoning
The purpose of this research study is to investigate levels of moral reasoning correlated with different levels of education as determined by responses on a specified Kohlberg dilemma.   By Lindsey Busker and Sydney Thomson

2 Lawrence Kohlberg Born in Bronxville, New York on October 25, 1927
Attended high school at Phillips Academy and then served in the Merchant Marine at the end of World War II Earned his bachelor’s degree in 1948 Completed his doctoral degree in psychology in 1958 Died on January 19, 1987 in Massachusetts Kohlberg was raised in Bronxville, New York, and attended Phillips Academy, an elite boarding school. After World War II he assisted in smuggling European Jewish refugees to Palestine.  At the age of 21, Kohlberg enrolled as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago and earned his bachelor's degree within a year. Kohlberg continued studying at the University of Chicago in pursuit of a degree in clinical psychology; he was inspired by Jean Piaget's work to interview children and adolescents about morality, which was the focus of his dissertation. Kohlberg completed his doctoral degree in He held a faculty position at the University of Chicago department of psychology for six years before joining the Graduate School of Education at Harvard in Kohlberg was devoted to developing his research and mentoring students at Harvard until his death in On January 19, 1987, Kohlberg parked at the end of a dead end street in Winthrop, Massachusetts, across from Boston's Logan Airport. He left his wallet with identification on the front seat of his unlocked car and walked into the icy Boston Harbor. 

3 Six Stages of Moral Reasoning
Level I: Pre-conventional Stage 1: Obedience and Punishment Orientation Stage 2: Instructional Relativist Orientation Level II: Conventional Stage 3: “Good Boy/ Nice Girl” Orientation Stage 4: Law and Order Orientation Level III: Post-conventional Stage 5: Social Contract Stage 6: Universal, Ethical Principles The first stage in moral development is Obedience and Punishment Orientation.  It is here that the child assumes that powerful authorities, such as parents or teachers, hand down a fixed set of rules which they must obey. The children avoid doing wrong because of the consequences and punishments associated with such an act.   Stage 2 is the Instrumental- Relativist Orientation.  At this stage the focus is on individual interests.  The children act a certain way to meet one’s own interest. Many children at this stage feel that what is right is also what’s fair, what’s an equal exchange, a deal, an agreement. Stage 2 children may still talk of punishment, but it is different than stage 1.  In stage 1, punishment proves that disobedience is wrong.  At stage 2, punishment is something one wants to avoid. Stage 3 is the Good Boy/Nice Girl Orientation.  Children may enter into this stage between the ages of 10 and 13. Children now believe that they should live up to the expectations of the family and community.   Stage 4 is the Law and Order Orientation.  In this stage the children become more concerned with society as a  whole . The emphasis is on obeying laws, respecting authority, and performing one’s duties so that the social order is maintained. Stage 5 is the Social Contract.  People usually reach this stage between adolescence and adulthood. People agree that they do not favor breaking laws; laws should be upheld because they are of the social contracts that we agree to uphold. Stage 6 thinking deals with universal principles of justice; the principles of justice apply to all.  The individual has a sense of personal commitment to these universal principles. “God-like”

4 Problematizing Literature
Ford  and Lowery (1986) - young adults only Myyry, Juåujärvi, and  Pesso  (2013) - higher education  only White, Bushnell, and Regnemer (1978) - not contemporary Before forming our research questions and hypothesis we reviewed the previous literature which showed gaps in what we were looking for which was specifically gender differences as well as looking at the differences of elementary students compared to college students and how different their levels of moral reasoning would be. The research studies we found that replicated Kohlberg’s study on moral reasoning were either not contemporary or did not include elementary aged students, or did not look at gender differences. The first study that we looked at in order to form our research questions and hypothesis was by ford and lowery which researched people that were years old and found that there were no significant differences between levels of moral reasoning. However this study did not shed light on how 18 year olds would compare to younger students rather than the older students as well. The study did not look at gender differences as well . The next study by mmyry juujarvi and pesso only looked at a sample of college students and not gender differences within the college population. The last study that solidified the previous literature was by white, Bushnell, and regnemer which similar to the previous study only looked at students and not gender differences. This study was also conducted in 1978 which is almost f40 years ago and is not considered updated or Through looking at these three studies and at the gaps in each one, we formed our research questions that led to the development of our hypothesis.

5 Our Two Hypotheses Based on Kohlberg’s stage theory of moral reasoning, we predict that a higher level of education correlates to a higher level of moral reasoning. We predict that there are gender differences based on Kohlberg’s stage theory of moral reasoning. We predict that with regularly attending religious service, there would be an increase in level of moral reasoning We developed three research questions. The first one was if students who had achieved a higher level of education would achieve higher stages of moral reasoning. The second research question was if there are gender differences that are greater in variation between younger students than between those students whoa are at the collegiate level. Our third research question asked if attending a religious service regularly was positively correlated with higher levels of moral reasoning. So in light of these three questions we formed these hypothesis that are based on what we had found lacking in the literature. The first hypothesis was that

6 Methodology Participants convenience sample of 24 6 seniors 6 freshmen
6 eighth graders 6 fourth graders Setting Holy family classroom Braniff classroom, Anselm classroom Measures paper-based Gender, Age, classification, religious service Dilemma VIII  Procedure administer moral dilemma VIII The methodology of our research study was simple and drawing from Kohlberg we knew that it would be relatively easy to administer the moral dilemma like Kohlberg conducted in his first experiment with male students. However ours was different from his first experiment because we included more age groups. We drew our sample population  from 6  fourth graders and 6 eighth graders at Holy Family and a sample population of 12 students from UD, with 6 being freshmen and 6 being seniors The measure we used for conducting our study was a paper based moral dilemma created and according to Kohlberg.  On the first page we had a brief series of questions including age, classification, gender, and if students regularly attended a religious service. After these questions followed the moral dilemma and the preceding 6 questions. The procedure we used to carry out our research was different for Sydney and I. Sydney conducted the research at Holy family school and I conducted the research here at UD in a freshmen understanding the bible class and a senior politics seminar class. our procedure started with giving out consent and assent forms to students who wanted to participate and once the student had signed and turned in the form, we each passed out the moral dilemma to each student who volunteered, allowing them to turn it over and begin once each student had received the moral dilemma.

7 Moral Dilemma VIII In a country in Europe, a poor man named Valjean could find no work, nor could his sister and brother. Without money, he stole food and medicine that they needed. He was captured and sentenced to prison for 6 years. After a couple of years, he escaped from the prison and went to live in another part of the country under a new name. He saved money and slowly built up a big factory. He gave his workers the highest wages and used most of his profits to build a hospital for people who couldn't afford good medical care. Twenty years had passed when a tailor recognized the factory owner as being Valjean, the escaped convict whom the police had been looking for back in his hometown. This was the moral dilemma we used, written by Kohlberg himself that he used in his experiment with male students. Essentially Moral dilemmas are stories that that present two conflicting ideas about moral values. There is usually not a right answer because it is based on the individuals personal perception. It reads

8 Moral Dilemma VIII Questions
1. Should the tailor report Valjean to the police? Why or why not? 2. Does a citizen have a duty or obligation to report an escaped convict? It is important to note that Kohlberg stated that if1 student said yes while another student said no to question number 1, it does not necessarily mean that they are morally reasoning differently and also that it does not mean necessarily that one has achieved a higher level of moral reasoning than the other. Kohlberg moreover asserts that those two students could both potentially reach stage 5 depending on how they answered it even though one said no and one said yes to reporting Valjean.

9 Questions 3 & 4 3. Suppose Valjean were a close friend of the tailor. Should he then report Valjean? Why or why not? 4. If Valjean were reported and brought before the judge, should the judge send him back to jail or let him go free? Question 3 Question 4

10 Questions 5 & 6 5. Thinking in terms of society should people who break the law be punished? Why or why not? 6. Valjean was doing what his conscience told him to do when he stole the food and medicine. Should a lawbreaker be punished if he is acting out of conscience?  it is important to note that when he tested levels of moral reasoning, he used many more questions for dilemma VIII however we had to adapt our questionnaire to only these 6 questions by Kohlberg because we had a concern with time allotted for students to take it as well as taking time out of the professors classes. Therefore our study is not an exact replication of Kohlberg’s study

11 Glossary of Terms Choice Freedom Reversibility Constructivism
Autonomous choices support and justify the solution to a dilemma that is just and fair from the standpoint of post-conventional stages of moral judgment (i.e., they are based on principles of justice, fairness, equity.)  Hierarchy Autonomous judgments reflect a clear hierarchy of moral values and prescriptive duties that supersede pragmatic, descriptive, consequential or aesthetic considerations. Freedom Autonomous judgments are made without reference to external parameters (such as authority, tradition, or law) for justification or validation Reversibility judgments are characterized by the ability to engage in mutual or reciprocal role taking. Heteronomous judgments are constrained by considering only one perspective on a problem. Constructivism Autonomous judgments consider rules and laws as humanly constructed guidelines, and as such are flexible and adaptable to special situation and circumstances. Heteronomous judgments construe laws and rules as emanating from some higher authority and therefore must remain rigid and inflexible From all the data that Kohlberg collected he found critical concepts embedded in the topic of justice. These are the subtopics embedded in our particular dilemma.

12 Grading Rubric Stages of Moral Reasoning Defined by Kohlberg
How we determined which stage each student is in Stage 1 Concern on a fixed set of unchanging rules Worry about what authorities will permit and punish Gave a very black and white answer Did not explain or justify their answer Stage 2 Punishments are now a risk Fair exchange policy Mentioning what benefits others listed in the dilemma Stage 3 Character traits described Motives of each party involved Mentions redemption/lesson learned Stage 4 Emphasis on obeying laws, respecting authority, and preforming one’s duties so social order is maintained Explore the reasons why we say something is wrong Solely focused on law and order Stage 5 Stress on basic rights and democratic procedures to change unfair laws Student is primarily concerned with the individual rights, and how citizens agree as a whole. Anything to do with Valjean making a difference, benefiting society, promoting social justice, Stage 6 Look at problems through all eyes- clear concept of universal principles We did not look at this stage In our case we understood what those terms were but not separately. We holistically addressed those topics when assessing what stage each student was in. This is how we synthesized information surrounding all of those terms to get what would be stage 1, 2, 3, 4 5 Talk about me about how we

13 Stage 1: Obedience and Punishment
We created 5 slides to illustrate examples of our students responses and based our own understanding of Kohlberg and why we placed each student in one stage over another. So with keeping to our grading rubric this student who answered “because it was a bad thing to do” would be placed in stage 1 because it is a very black and white answer entailing a good versus bad mentality. The answer does not exactly pertain to the question as they do not explain why a citizen has a duty to report an escaped convict. It shows no understanding of the greater complexisities and is a very simple response showing how the student does not go beyond their own understanding. A student in this stage dresponds to what they think is right--according to what he/she wants to do and can do without getting into trouble.

14 Stage 2: Instructional Relativist
This answer reads ______The student was placed in stage 2 because we noticed how they had moved beyond a simple black and white or good and bad answer that is characteristic of stage 1 and also noticed that the student mentioned that Valjean had learned his lesson, which is representative of stage 3. yet even while displaying evidence for being in stage 3, he goes on to mention that it would benefit the workers in getting money for their families which is evident of stage 2. Students in this stage tend to be self-serving. They lack respect for the rights of others but may give to others on the assumption that they will get as much or more in return. It is more a matter of what is in it for a person instead of loyalty, gratitude, or justice

15 Stage 3: “Good Boy/ Nice Girl”
This student wrote down “ let him go free because he has made up for his felony”. While not spelling felony right, this senior failed to recognize that laws and rules of a society and is only thinking of how Valjean has redeemed himself through his good actions, which is characteristic of stage 3. People at this stage (age 8-16) have shifted from pleasing themselves to pleasing others, often parents, teachers, or friends. They seek approval and want to conform to someone else's expectations.

16 Stage 4: Law and Order Freedom Male Senior, 22, regularly attends religious service Since stage 4 is solely focused on laws and order, that was why we placed him at this stage. And this student did not reach stage 5 which is social contract because they are implieying that athey are solely bound by the legal system, nothing else, to do so.

17 Stage 5: Social Contract
This student responded by saying _____ therefore we placed the student at stage 5 because the student is primarily concerned with the individual rights, and how citizens agree as a whole. Level 5 is about serving the social ideal or harmony therefore anything to do with Valjean making a difference, benefiting society, or promoting social justice was placed at level 5. People at this stage recognize the underlying moral purposes that are supposed to be served by laws and social customs; thus, if a law ceases to serve a good purpose, they feel the people in a democracy should get active and change the law. Thought of in this way, democracy becomes a social contract whereby everyone tries continually to create a set of laws that best serves the most people, while protecting the basic rights of everyone. There is respect for the law and a sense of obligation to live by the rules, as long as they were established in a fair manner and fulfill an ethical purpose.

18 Results: Seniors Participant Gender Age Classification
Religious Service Moral Reasoning 1 Male 22 Senior Yes 4 2 Female No 3 21 5 6 Females overall scored lower for the higher education group (freshmen and seniors)

19 Results: Freshman Participant Gender Age Classification
Religious Service Moral Reasoning 7 Male 24 Freshman Yes 4 8 18 9 Female 10 3 11 12

20 Results: Eighth Graders
Participant Gender Age Classification Religious Service Moral Reasoning 19 Female 13 8th Grade Yes 4 20 21 Male 14 No 3 22 23 24 In the 8th grade class, 3 students scored a 3 overall, and the one male student scored a 3 3 students scored a 4 overall, all being female. females scored the same and better than the 1 male fourth grader so we cannot claim that females scored better because the data does not support it overall.

21 Results: Fourth Graders
Participant Gender Age Classification Religious Service Moral Reasoning 13 Male 10 4th Grade Yes 1 14 Female 9 15 3 16 2 17 18 No Overall 4th grade students scored the lowest. This class was the only one that represented moral reasoning levels of 1. females scored the same and better than the 1 male fourth grader so we cannot claim that females scored better because the data does not support it overall.

22 Averaged college group & elementary group
Treatment of Data Hypothesis 1 Hypothesis 2 Averaged each class Seniors 3.83 Freshmen 3.66 Eighth graders 3.50 Fourth Graders 1.66 Averaged college group & elementary group Freshmen & Seniors Males - 3.8 Females 4th & 8th graders Males – 2.00 Females – 2.70 For assessing hypothesis 1 in which we predicted that higher levels of education would correlate with higher levels of moral reasoning, we averaged each classes final moral reasoning stage. So To come up with average of the senior scores we took all seniors final score and divided by 6 to get 3.83. For assessing hypothesis 2 we averaged all of the males in the college group and all the females in the college group to get 3.8 and We then then averaged in the same way for 4th and 8th graders and got_____ We had to take out of consideration our third hypothesis which stated that we predicted that with regularly attending religious service, there would be an increase in level of moral reasoning. We found

23 Conclusion Accept our first hypothesis in which we predicted that a higher level of education correlates to a higher level or moral reasoning. Accept our second hypothesis that there would be gender differences for the college population, reject for based on Kohlberg’s stage theory of moral reasoning. So in conclusion we……… For our 1st hypothesis - Overall our results illustrated that  higher education correlated to great achievement of moral reasoning between those of fourth and 8th graders. However there was a very small significant difference between freshmen and seniors however and as the results showed the greater difference was between fourth and eighth graders and between the fourth graders compared to the freshmen and seniors. 2nd hypothesis -   we accepted our second hypothesis for seniors and freshmen only because males performed slightly better than females for both seniors and freshmen.. And since there were only two males total in the fourth and eighth grade classes we did not think we could make an accurate claim based on two boys and claim that females outperformed them so we rejected our second hypothesis for the fourth and eit And besides our two hypothesis We also noticed that there was greater variation in final scores of moral reasoning in the 4th and 8th classes between the males and females, and there was a lesser variation in the freshmen and seniors with the females performing closer to the males. However as mentioned earlier there was not enough data to support the claim for gender differences in 4th and 8th graders.

24 Limitations Convenience sample Understanding of the questions asked
Misinterpretation of religious service Time Control of extraneous variables Participant bias Our limitations included that we had a convenience sample which means that our results are not generalizable to the population of all fourth and eighth graders as well as freshmen and seniors because we only took a sample of what was convenient to us since we know professors at UD who let us in to their classes as well as through dr Khirallah in going to holy family school. The next limitation to our study was the students’ understanding of what the word conscience meant, one of Sidney's students asked her what it meant and even after explaining the student seemed still confused so we thought that not everyone’s understanding of the words could have been the same which would effect how they answered each question. Moreover, students could have misinterpreted what was meant by regularly attending religious services- it was not clarified what was meant and some might have read it as meaning every Sunday and then another student might have understood it as meaning only going once a month, and because of this we did not use it as a hypothesis that religious service attendance was positively correlated with moral reasoning -Next, the time that freshmen and seniors had for completing the questions was not equal for fourth and eighth graders. We also had the limitation of extraneous variables that were uncontrollable and left up to the students such as worried about another exam or class therefore they didn’t answer truly the questions, or even a lack of sleep could have affected their participation. Finally, Participant Bias was our last limitation which referrers to the fact that participants may act in ways they believe correspond to what the researcher is looking for. Thus, the participant may not act in a natural way

25 Works Cited Ford, M. R., & Lowery, C. R. (1986). Gender differences in moral reasoning: A comparison of the use of justice and care orientations. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 50(4), doi: / Myyry, L., Juujärvi, S., & Pesso, K. (2013). Change in values and moral reasoning during higher education. European Journal Of Developmental Psychology, 10(2), doi: / White, C. B., Bushnell, N., & Regnemer, J. L. (1978). Moral development in Bahamian school children: A 3-year examination of Kohlberg's stages of moral development.  Developmental Psychology, 14(1), doi: /

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