Chapter 11: Peer Status

Chapter 11: Peer Status

Drew Ibendahl

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The ways in which students are accepted or rejected by their social group is referred to as peer status. The text describes five categories in which students may fit based on the perceptions of their peers. Students may be classified as popular, rejected, neglected, controversial, or average (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).  The term popular, however, is not necessarily synonymous with being well liked.  When teachers or students are asked who popular students are in the classroom, they may refer to students who are controversial or rejected students, students who are “bully-leaders” or students who are “tough/popular.”  Peer status for many students remains stable, meaning students who are popular are likely to remain popular and students who are rejected are likely to continue to be rejected from kindergarten through high school (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).

Rejection may cause aggression in students, as well as disruptive classroom behavior, hyperactivity and distractibility, and lead to delinquency.  Students exhibiting these behaviors will often face more rejection, continuing the cycle.  However, students who showed aggression, but were categorized as having average peer status were more to exhibit social adjustment, similar to their nonaggressive peers (Dubow, 1988).  Because of this, it is important when working with aggressive children to understand their peer status, in order to better provide intervention targeting the social skills these children lack (Dubrow, 1988). In addition to aggression, rejected students often have lower GPA, IQ, and test scores than peers who are accepted within the classroom setting (Bergin & Bergin, 2012). In a sample of 901 students transitioning from grade school to middle school and through eighth grade, peer status and GPA were studied. The study revealed that peer rejection in fourth grade through middle school was associated with lower GPA’s and lower GPA’s predicted greater peer rejection from grade school into middle school (Bellmore, 2011).  Similar to aggression, academic achievement (GPA) and rejection have the ability to go hand-in-hand, creating a vicious cycle without intervention.

Peer acceptance or rejection is usually a result of students’ social skills or lack thereof.  Students exhibiting prosocial behaviors are often well-liked and accepted by peers. Conversely, students who are often withdrawn from the group will tend to be rejected from the group (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).  Parenting influences and SES also have an influence on peer status.  Parental negativity, abuse, marital conflict, and divorce are all risk factors of peer rejection.  In addition, parents have an influence over their child’s peer status in that they, to some extent, select the child’s “peer world” through their choice in neighborhoods, daycare and community activity and involvement (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).

How then, do we as educators help to break the vicious cycle of rejection and provide intervention for our students who lack peer acceptance when we cannot control external factors, such as parental influence or socioeconomic status? The text lists six steps for helping students improve peer relationships by focusing on behavior within the classroom(Bergin & Bergin, 2012):

-Help the student reduce aggression and increase prosocial behavior.

-Help the student better regulate emotions.

-Promote the student’s academic skills.

-Capitalize on student strengths.

-Pair the student up with a buddy.

-Arrange for the student to work or play with younger students.

In a study done consisting of 24 middle school teachers and their middleschool students, intervention strategies were introduced, consisting of cooperative, teamwork-based group activities for, both, academic instruction and non-academic activities. The purpose of the cooperative learning activities was to promote a socially accepting environment and reduce peer rejection. Through self-reporting from the this study, it was found that The results of this study indicate that interventions intended to change, both, the perception of peers, as well as the classroom climate may be effective in discouraging rejection among peers (Mikami A.Y., Boucher M.A., & Humphreys, K., 2005)

Discussion Questions:

  1. In your classroom experiences, have you seen the five categories of peer status mentioned in the text, and what effects (positive or negative) have these categories of students had on your classroom environment?
  2. What social skill intervention strategies have you used in your classroom to help students who are perceived as rejected or neglected?
  3. Do you use opportunities for Cooperative Learning, and if so, what positive influences do these opportunities have on peer relationships in the classroom?
  4. Do you feel peer status has a greater effect on students at certain grade levels? If so, what grade levels are students most affected by peer status, and why do you feel this way?

Resources:

  • Bergin, C.C. & Bergin, D.A. (2012).  Child and Adolescent Development in Your Classroom.  Belmont, CA:  Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
  • Dubow, E. (1988). Aggressive Behavior and Peer Social Status of Elementary School Children. Aggressive Behavior, 14(5), 315-324.
  • Bellmore, A (2011). Peer Rejections and Unpopularity: Associated with GPA’s Across Transition to Middle School. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103(2), 282-295.
  • Mikami, A.Y., Boucher, M.A., & Humphreys, K. (2005). Prevention of Peer Rejection Through a Classroom-Level Intervention in Middle School. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 26(1), 5-23.

 

 

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Concept Map for “Benefits of Play” below

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The Benefits of Play

Title: The Benefits of Play

 Submitted by Mary Decker

 From Chapter 11 – Peers, Friends, and Play

 

            Play is an integral part of every child’s life.  It makes for happy, imaginative kids.  Surprisingly, its benefits are bountiful in the academic realm as well.   The text defines play as, “behavior that has no immediate function and is pleasurable, spontaneous, flexible, and internally controlled” (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).  There are many types of play that vary in their cognitive involvement and amount of social involvement.  These range from functional play with repetitive movements, to prearranged, rule-based games.  A child could simply passively watch someone play, or play cooperatively with a group goal.  The particular kind of play in which a child participates can be an indication of his/her cognitive and social development (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).

            Some researchers advocate scaffolding play to help students develop the skills inherent in more mature recreation.  They posit that, due to our changing cultural constructs, students have less natural opportunities to develop play skills.  “Massive changes in the culture of childhood—such as the disappearance of multiage play groups, the increase in time children spend in adult-directed activities after school, and so on—mean that, for many young children, early childhood settings are the only place where they have the opportunity to learn how to play” (Bodrova & Leong, 2012).  This theory is quite Vygotskyan in nature and suggests that modeling play allows students the opportunity to advance through the stages and thus gain skills more quickly than in an unstructured setting.

            There are other things that educators can do in the school setting to promote healthy levels of playtime.  One is to promote and support recess.  This can be difficult when a child has unfinished work that must be completed, or when the removal of recess is one of the only effective punishments for a child.  However, the benefits of recess far outweigh these advantages of restricting it.  These include cognitive, social-emotional, and physical advantages.  For example, research shows that recall is improved when instruction is chunked, instead of given in lengthy doses.  Recess provides an opportunity for previous knowledge to be organized within the brain.   At recess, children can also practice their prosocial skills, such as negotiation during free choice situations and conflict resolution when issues arise (Jarrett & Waite-Stupiansky, 2009).           

            Despite these positive outcomes, recess is definitely not a certainty in all schools, even at the elementary level.  A 2006 survey given by the Centers for  Disease Control found that daily recess is only provided in 79% of elementary classrooms (Adams, 2011).  Recess time may be restricted due to new demands on schools through No Child Left Behind.  Administrators want students to have more time to learn the core subjects.  Recess is also frequently withheld for behavioral reasons.  However, the disparities inherent in the statistics are frightening:  “You are less likely to get recess if you are African-American (39 percent don’t have recess, compared to 15 percent of whites), living below the poverty line (44 percent of poor children don’t have recess versus 17 percent of others), or struggling academically (25 percent of kids who scored below the mean on a standardized test versus 15 percent of those above did not have recess), according to research in a 2003 issue of Teachers College Record” (Adams, 2011).  On an individual level, teachers must be very careful about their use of taking away recess as a punishment.  This opportunity for play is necessary for the well-rounded development of all children.

 

References:

Adams, Caralee.  (2011).  Recess makes kids smarter.  Instructorhttp://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/recess-makes-kids-smarter#top.

 Bergin, C. C., & Bergin, D. A. (2012).  Child and adolescent development in your classroom. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.

 Bodrova, Elena and Leong, Deborah. (2012).  Assessing and scaffolding make-believe play.  Young Children.  28-34.  http://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/201201/Leong_Make_Believe_Play_Jan2012.pdf

 Jarrett, Olga and Waite-Stupiansky, Sandra.  (2009).  Recess – it’s indispensable!  Young Children.  66-69.  http://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/200909/On%20Our%20Minds%20909.pdf

 

Discussion Questions:

1.  What sorts of information have you been able to glean about your students through your observation of their playtime?

2.  How do you feel about scaffolding playtime for young children?  Is it beneficial or micro managerial?  Why?

3.  How do you feel about the current amount of recess given in your school setting (if any)?  Can you detect a difference in behavior and learning in your students post-recess?

4.  Have you even taken away recess as a punishment?  What was your reasoning?  Do you regret that decision or stand by it?

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Antisocial Behavior and Aggression

J.T.

Chapter 10: Social Behavior

chap 10 concept map

With our best efforts at creating a safe, warm, and consistent environment at school we will continue to observe students with antisocial and aggressive behavior.  Our textbook defines antisocial behavior as “behavior that disrupts the functioning of society, such as aggression and delinquency” (Bergin, Bergin. 2012).  Students that continue to demonstrate aggressive behavior into middle childhood may be diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder.

Children with conduct disorder exhibit behavior that shows a persistent disregard for the norms and rules of society. Conduct disorder is one of the most frequently seen mental disorders in adolescents (www.psychiatry.org). Conduct disorders commonly coexist with other mental health problems: 46% of boys and 36% of girls have at least one coexisting mental health problem.  The coexistence of conduct disorders with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is particularity prevalent (Nock, Kazdin, Hiripi, and Kesslor 2006).   Those who commit crimes as children are more likely to remain career criminals through age 40 (Bergin, Bergin. 2012).  However, not all students that are antisocial or aggressive will continue to demonstrate this behavior into adulthood.  Our textbook identified three qualities that will diminish the likelihood that antisocial children will become antisocial adults and they include: having at least some prosocial behaviors, developing an admired skill, and becoming part of a healthy social network (Bergin, Bergin. 2012).

Aggression is behavior that is used with the intention to harm others.  There are three types of aggression described in the class textbook which include physical aggression, verbal aggression, and social aggression.  Examples of physical aggression include hitting, kicking, biting, pinching, and pulling hair.  Verbal aggression would include cussing, calling names, and threatening others with harm.  Examples of social aggression would include starting or spreading of rumors, excluding peers from a group, or refusing to acknowledge a peer.

Students that exhibit these behaviors tend to be hard to form positive relationships with in the classroom.  However, there are things we can do to help teach these students prosocial skills.  Many programs have been established to address concerning behaviors in the school setting. One of the most popular programs addressing behaviors is the Positive Behavior Support System (PBS).  PBS is a systematic approach in which students experience supports based on their behavioral responsiveness to intervention.  Most schools use a three tiered approach with all students receiving universal support in the first tier.  If a student is not responsive, they may receive more intense intervention with small group instruction at the second tier.  If the student continues to exhibit undesirable behaviors, a more individualized plan may be implemented at the third tier (www.pbis.org).  Systems such as PBS, provide schools with the opportunity to provide specialized assistance to students with mental health, behavioral, or emotional disorders.  One treatment that is currently being used to address symptoms is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).  CBT is a form of treatment that focuses on examining the relationships between thoughts, feeling, and behaviors (http://www.nami.org).  Students can use the strategies to modify the way they think to increase their coping ability.  A few strategies using CBT include asking oneself, “Is this fact or fiction?” and asking questions such as, “Am I seeing the bigger picture here?  Are my behaviors/actions worth the consequences?”  Teachers can also conduct a functional assessment to better understand why the student is engaging in a particular negative behavior.  Once the teacher has a better understanding of the function of the behavior, they can implement interventions or a behavior support plan to help increase the student’s success.

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.  What strategies have you used to develop relationships with students that are demonstrating antisocial behavior in your classroom?
  2. In your experience, do you feel mental health issues are being adequately addressed in school?
  3. What additional resources are available to you in order to address antisocial behavior and aggression at school?

 

Resources:

Artesani, James A. (2001). Understanding the Purpose of Challenging Behaviors. Columbus, OH: Merrill Prentice Hall

Bergin, C.C. & Bergin, D.A. (2012). Child and Adolescent Development in Your Classroom. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.

Conduct Disorder. Retrieved on October 23, 2013 from http://www. Psychiatry.org

Continuum of SWPBS. Retrieved on October 23, 2012 from http://www.pbis.org

Nock M. , Kazdin, Alan, Hiripi E. and Kessler, R. (2006). Prevalence, subtypes, and correlates of DSM-IV conduct disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Psychological Medicine, , pp 699-710. doi:10.1017/S0033291706007082.

 

 

 

 

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Caring to Care

Caring to Care

Submitted by Brooke Goldschmidt

From Chapter 10 – Prosocial Behavior

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Prosocial behaviors are those that are positive and demonstrate the ability to think and act beyond the individual and their own needs. Students with prosocial behavior exhibit good morals, empathy and responsibility for others (Bergin & Bergin. 2012). Students exhibiting such behaviors are are not looking to gain personally, but are behaving in this in way in order to help someone or something outside of themselves. I think any adult, either teacher or parent, would agree that prosocial behavior is something that is extremely important and it should be a priority to instill this value in our children.

All humans are born with some innate ability to empathize or emotionally bond with other humans. As people grow older, their ability to demonstrate prosocial behaviors also increases. Teaching and demonstrating prosocial behavior to children should start and be promoted an early age because the behavior is more likely to continue on into primary grades (Hyson, 2011). The textbook explains that “The frequency of prosocial behavior does not appear to increase with age, but children’s competence at enacting prosocial behavior does improve with age.” Students become more aware of the behaviors as they get older and have the ability to choose the way they act.

Prosocial behaviors can predict many things, some of which include: happiness, popularity, more academic success and fewer discipline issues (Bergin & Bergin, 2012). Students who are able to positively demonstrate these behaviors are likely to be well-adjusted students and individuals. The natural rewards that come with positive behavior and the idea of putting others first, is typically guaranteed to yield positive results. While socially students benefit, they also benefit cognitively. According to a study conducted by Head Start (a program designed for children ages birth age five) a student’s ability to demonstrate prosocial competence can also predict other areas of strengths. The study showed a direct correlation between students with high assessments for prosocial competence and also being the most “cognitively ready” for school (Hyson, 2011).

There are also factors that can predict individual differences in prosocial behavior. These include: emotional competence, parental responsiveness, parental views, discipline reinforcement, and practice (Bergin & Bergin, 2012). Students are more likely to demonstrate these abilities if they have self-control and have emotional intelligence. The parental role and style of child rearing also influences these types of behaviors. A student with an uninvolved parent who is not responsive to their needs is not as likely to exhibit prosocial behaviors as a peer who has an authoritative parent who is warm and responsive. Children of warm and responsive parents typically are more likely to demonstrate these traits themselves (Fleischman & Kidron, 2008).

As adolescents move through school, they are also exposed to more opportunities to exhibit and demonstrate this behavior. Teachers should strive to create a classroom where students understand and actively demonstrate prosocial behaviors. Using victim-centered induction and asking students to put themselves in another person’s shoes is very common and effective way to promote build empathy and promote prosocial behavior. Teacher’s can also work on building students emotional competence by examining and reflecting on the emotions students feel at particular times. Exposing students to more situations that force them into moral reasoning and discussing these situations is another way to build prosocial behaviors. Teachers can also simply establish warm and caring relationships with students and model these types of behaviors as well (Bergin & Bergin, 2012). In the classroom, another easy way is to make a regular practice of using the “buddy system” in class. When checking homework, reviewing for a test, or having learning conversations, ask students to pair up and work with other students (Fleischman & Kidron, 2008).

Schools should also develop and implement strong character education programs into curriculum to promote prosocial behaviors as the norm of the school climate. These programs should be student-centered and avoid lectures by teachers and adults. The more student-centered the approach, the more effective these programs will be (McDaniel, 2009). Community service clubs, peer tutoring sessions, and community service opportunities are all ways that schools can help promote this positive behavior in all students and help students learn to care to care.

Sources:

Bergin, C.C. & Bergin, D.A. (2012).  Child and Adolescent Development in Your Classroom.  Belmont, CA:  Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.

Hyson, M. (2011). Caring about Caring: National Association for the Education of Young Children. Retrieved October 19, 2013 fromhttp://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/201107/CaringAboutCaring_Hyson_http://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/201107/CaringAboutCaring_Hyson_OnlineJuly2011.pdfOnlineJuly2011.pdf.

Fleischman, Steve & Kidron, Yael (2008). Educational Leadership:Teaching the Tweens: Promoting Prosocial Behavior. ASCD. Vol 63(7). Retrieved October 18, 2013, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/apr06/vol63/num07/Promoting_Adolescents’_Prosocial_Behavior.aspx.

McDaniel, AK. “Character Education: Developing Effective Programs.” 2009. <http://www.joe.org/joe/1998april/a3.php>

Discussion Questions:

Do you believe students exhibit more prosocial behaviors in certain grades or periods of schooling? What have you noticed in your experiences?

Discuss a student that you have experience with who did not demonstrate prosocial behaviors. What steps did you take to help correct this behavior?

Discuss a student that you have experience with who was overly prosocial. What steps did you take to help correct this behavior?

What activities and opportunities do you plan in the classroom for students to exhibit prosocial behavior?

What types of clubs or activities does your school offer that help students exhibit prosocial behaviors?

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Theory of Mind: Information for Teachers

Theory of Mind: Information for Teachers

Submitted By: Michelle Peterson

From Chapter 9: Social Cognition

Chapter 9 blog concept map

Theory of Mind (ToM) “refers to students’ understanding that other people have mental states-beliefs, desires, knowledge and intentions- that are different from their own and the ability to infer or figure other people’s mental states (Bergin and Bergin, 2012).” Theory of mind has a large role to play in the classroom setting. Students use ToM to help them makes predictions about the behavior of others around them.  This can be viewed as a reflexive process.

Theory of Mind has many different stages. Early stages develop joint attention (where the child and adult can talk about an object.  “Recent studies reveal that the theory of mind abilities of young children predict their later academic performance as adolescents” (‘Theory of Mind’ Skills in the Classroom, 2010). By the time a child reaches school age, theory of mind continues to improve. One major thing that happens is that children become able to establish intentional and unintentional acts. In the classroom setting it is especially important to be aware of this stage of understanding.

Into adolescents, children’s ToM development slows down, but there is still some room for learning. Sometimes at this stage, children make mistakes about people reading. When this happens, it is helpful for teachers to foster opportunities for peer interaction.

What does this mean for the classroom? ToM is relative to each individual. It is important for the educator to understand that each person’s ability read people, situations and to interact based on those readings will be different. Many students struggle with concepts related to theory of mind, (particuallry studnets with Autsm Spectrum Disorders). The following is a list (from  http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/tool-kits/asperger-syndrome-and-high-functioning-autism-tool-kit/executive-functioni)  of difficulties you may notice in your classroom if a student is struggling with ToM concepts:

1. Difficulty explaining ones behaviors

2. Difficulty understanding emotions

3. Difficulty predicting the behavior or emotional state of others

4. Problems understanding the perspectives of others

5. Problems inferring the intentions of others

6. Lack of understanding that behavior impacts how others think and/or feel

7. Problems with joint attention and other social conventions

8. Problems differentiating fiction from fact

What teachers can do to help create opportunities for working on these skills is:

  • Start slow when building social skills. Focus on one skill at a time.
  • Teach direct instruction to social interaction skills.
  • Role play scenarios that will help the student process possible outcomes for social interactions.
  • Practice body language ques. Students may need to be told specifically what to look for when someone is happy, sad, mad etc.
  • Teach the student to ask questions when they do not interpret something. This is tough to do, but with repeated practice and structured opportunities, the child will likely progress.
  • Be clear about facts and fiction. In your daily teaching, be sure to structure your lessons to explain facts and fiction. This may need to be many times.
  • Encourage times when it is okay to talk with a peer in the classroom. Students need opportunities to interact together within their learning environment to foster learning from each other socially.

Resources

Alic, M. (2009). Theory of Mind. Retrieved from http://www.education.com/reference/article/theory-of-mind/

Avise J.C,  Ayala F.J., Conde C., Lombardo J.C., (2013).  In the light of Evolution VII: The Human Mental Machinery. Retrieved from http://www.pnas.org/content/110/Supplement_2/10339.full

Bergin, C. C., & Bergin, D. A. (2012). Child and Adolescent Development in your Classroom. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.

Executive Functioning and Theory of Mind. Retrieved from http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/tool-kits/asperger-syndrome-and-high-functioning-autism-tool-kit/executive-functioni

Goldstein, T.R and Winner, E. Enhancing Empathy and Theory of Mind. JOURNAL OF COGNITION AND DEVELOPMENT, 13(1):19–37. Retrieved from http://webpage.pace.edu/tgoldstein/Site/Publications_files/GoldsteinWinner11EnhancingEmpathy_JoCD.pdf

Theory of Mind, Skills in the Classroom. University of Hertfordshire. Published June 17, 2010. Retrieved from http://www.sciencenewsline.com/articles/2010061700008917.html

Discussion questions:

  1. Have you ever worked with a student who struggles with ToM concepts? If so, how did you help the child overcome the difficulties?
  2. Do you believe “people reading” is important at the early stages of learning?
  3. What are some challenges that may arise from having deficits in ToM skills/concepts?
  4. What would be a way to create social skills learning in the classroom setting and how would you structure it?
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Moral Judgement: Moral and Character Education in Schools

Submitted by Melinda Mathay

From Chapter 9: Social Cognition 

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When the forefathers Washington, Jefferson, and Webster advocated for public education, they presupposed the necessity to educate the spirit as well as the mind, asserting, in Webster’s words, that “an acquaintance with ethics and with general principles of law . . . is necessary for the yeomanry of a republic state”, and, according to Washington, the “basis of public happiness” was achieved, in part, by educating the citizenry not only in the value of its own rights, but also in “self-control and forbearance” (Klee, 2003).  Thus were established the dual principles of “diffusion of knowledge” and “cultivation of virtue” forming the cornerstones of American education, which remained intact until after the industrial revolution. The latter twentieth century found political theorists and moral philosophers urging a return to the concept of “civic virtue”, leading to laws mandating or encouraging moral and character education in our public schools again (Klee, 2003; Hirsch, 1999).

Two basic schools of thought regarding the development of civic virtue exist.  The first, generally regarded as “moral education” (“constructing morality”), aligning with Kohlberg’s views, asserts that the purpose is to stimulate and encourage the development of autonomous moral judgment, not indoctrination of values (Bergin & Bergin, 2012; Kohlberg, 1981).  The second, referred to as “character education” (“handed-down morality”), advocates the inculcation of extrinsic virtues such as honesty, kindness, courage, obedience, and politeness as “habit” (Bergin & Bergin, 2012; Klee, 2003).  Both approaches have detractors and supporters.

Critics of constructivist morality argue that the successful development of the child as an autonomous moral agent requires that teachers remain neutral, necessitating atypically refraining from indicating ‘acceptable’ responses, whereas critics of the character development approach argue that behavior without principled reflection is nothing more than rote obedience, not self-determined, sustainable moral principle (Bergin & Bergin, 2012; University of Kentucky, 2013).  Justifying their position, moral constructivists such as Kohlberg maintain that discussion of moral issues and joint decision-making, despite teacher influence (and only absent of authority assertion) create the foundation for justice, the end-goal of moral education (Bergin & Bergin, 2012; Kohlberg, 1981).  However, advocates of character building believe that children must develop a collection of virtues through practice, modeling, and explicit goal-setting, asserting that ‘self-determination’ based on moral principles is meaningless if not accompanied by prior well-established habits of moral behavior (Bergin & Bergin, 2012; Hirsch, 1999; & Klee, 2003).

Understanding either approach necessitates clarifying some terminology, specifically morals, values, ethics, and virtues.  As defined by Merriam-Webster, “morals” are principles of, teaching the conceptions of, or conforming to standards of right and wrong behavior.  These are abstract, subjective, and often personal or religion-based, whereas “ethics” are principles of right conduct and are more practical, conceived as a shared set of moral values or principles of conduct governing and promoting fairness in a group or society (Grammarist, 2009-2013; Miriam-Webster, 1963).  “Values” are the basic or fundamental beliefs that an individual holds to be true (Navran Associates, 2010), which include morals and ethics, but can vary according to cultural norms (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).  Overlapping in definition, these three terms are often used erroneously interchangeably.  The last, “virtues”, refers to standards of “right” or the observable behaviors/characteristics of moral excellence, such as respect, honesty, responsibility, courage, generosity, etc., which also vary culturally (Klee, 2003; Mirriam-Webster, 1963).  Whereas morals, such as “it is wrong to kill” are reasonably universal, individual values influence the nuances of implementing that moral standard (hence capital punishment controversies).  Likewise, both morals and virtues dictate honesty, but varying ethical standards within communities or businesses might allow for or even encourage “white lies” for the benefit of an individual or an organization, as in the political arena (Bergin & Bergin, 2012; Klee, 2003; & Kohlberg, 1981).

Regardless of the terminology or the approach, however, teachers have a responsibility to act as moral educators.  According to modern educator-philosopher Nel Noddings, “It is a human responsibility – one that belongs to all of us” (Bergin & Bergin, 2012), the ultimate goal of which is student awareness of morality in situations, the ability to judge right and wrong, the desire to do the “morally right”, and the strength of character to act accordingly (Bergin & Bergin, 2012; Klee, 2003; Kohlberg, 1981).

References:

  • Bergin, C.C., & Bergin, D. A. (2012).  Child and adolescent development in your classroom.  Belmont, CA:  Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
  • Grammarist.  (2009).  Ethics vs. morals.  Retrieved from grammarist.com http://grammarist.com/usage/ethics-morals
  • Hirsch, E. C., Jr. (1999).  The schools we need and why we don’t have them.  New York, NY: Anchor Books.
  • Klee, Mary Beth.  (2003).  Core virtues: a literature-based program in character education.  Liberyville, IL: The Link Institute.
  • Kohlberg, Lawerence. (1981). The philosophy of moral development: moral stages and the idea of justice (essays on moral development).  New York City, NY: Harper and Row. 
  • Navran, Frank J. (2010).  Defining values, morals, and ethics. 2010 Navran Associates.  Retrieved from http://www.navran.com/article-values-morals-ethics.html
  • Merriam-Webster seventh new collegiate dictionary. (1963).
  • University of Kentucky Leadership Development.  (2013).  Values and ethics. Retrieved from University of Kentucky website  http://getinvolved.uky.edu/Leadership/pdf/ValuesandEthics

 Discussion Questions:

  1. If, in your practice, you adhere to the moral education (constructing morality) model, what measures do you take to maintain your neutrality while encouraging students to learn to act as autonomous agents of moral judgment in their discussions or activities?
  2. If you apply the principles of character education (handing down morality) in your practice, what measures do you employ to encourage the assimilation of consistent habits of moral behavior beyond the structure of your classroom?
  3. If your practice includes principles of both constructivist and handed-down morality, which morals, ethics, values, and/or virtues do you feel require inculcation, and which do you feel are better developed through principled, autonomous reflection, and why?
  4. What materials or programs are provided and/or required by your district or school, and do you feel they encourage rote obedience to rules, autonomous moral judgment, or both, and in what ways?

 

 

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