Moral Dilemma Discussions in EducationJune 27, 2021
The purpose of moral dilemma discussions is to enable students to realize the hierarchy of reasons through which moral choices are made and to develop their own rational reasoning accordingly.
Moshe Blatt led the first pilot project of Kohlberg’s moral education practice. Blatt’s work is the first to construct a moral education program based on a cognitive-developmental perspective. Blatt has run this program on middle school students in Chicago and Boston, performing it several times for about a third of the year. In practice, the class was divided into small groups of 9-13 people by the teacher, moral dilemmas were presented to the class audibly by the teacher, and then there was a class discussion on the dilemma. After one semester, Blatt concluded that there was a significant change in the moral steps of the students, but no change in the control group. Based on Blatt’s findings, the practice of moral education was further systematized and expanded in the work of Kohlberg et al.
The classroom environment with students from different levels is the most advantageous classroom environment for developing multiple thinking levels. Because in a class where moral development levels are heterogeneous; opposing ideas and hence interest in discussion are also more lively. Therefore, in such a classroom environment, almost every student has the opportunity to progress one step at a time. The teacher should follow the +1 pattern to ensure this. According to this model, the level of teacher’s explanations should be one level higher than that of the students, thus enabling the students to progress to the next level. In this method, first of all, it is ensured that the child is not satisfied / dissatisfied with the situation he is in regarding the knowledge of the good. The first way to achieve this is to put the student in a state of moral conflict that he cannot resolve on his own principles; secondly, it is to provide an environment where they can discuss this situation with their peers and disagree.
For this, the teacher can use normal classroom materials or present hypothetical moral dilemmas in a systematic way. According to this view of Plato, if a cognitive contrast is awakened in the child and his way to the next step is opened, the child will first understand that the way he thinks is incomplete and insufficient when he encounters the questioning of his peers above his level, and will try to grasp the more adequate way of understanding. So the main effort in moral education is to get students to rise to at least one level above their own level. For example, it is aimed to have a student in the 2nd level discuss with the student in the 3rd level and thus try to increase the level of understanding of this student. In this case, the teacher clarifies the understanding of this level by focusing on the 3rd step discussion, then, with a new dilemma, leaves the 3rd step understanding behind and tries to raise the students’ level of comprehension to this level by emphasizing the 4th step discussion.
Since the moral dilemma discussions in the classroom are held in a limited time, students’ step development is slow. In addition, students identified in a step can stay at the same level during childhood and youth. For this reason, according to some educators, dilemma discussions should be held from year to year, at certain periods, in courses, and thus the limits of students’ cognitive capacities should be developed.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook; ULUDAĞ UNIVERSITY FACULTY OF THEology JOURNAL Vol: 22, Issue: 1, 2013 p. 143-164