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Running head: MORAL REASONING AMONG DIFFERENT EDUCATION LEVELS
Moral Reasoning Among Different Education Levels
Austin D. Palmer
Missouri Western State College
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Moral reasoning is the individual or collective practical reasoning about what, morally, one ought to do. In using the DIT-2, which is based off Kohlberg’s three stages and six
levels of moral reasoning, researchers are able to understand where someone or a group of people are on that scale. The purpose of the study was to examine the relationship between education levels and moral reasoning, with a hypothesis that the higher one’s education level is the higher one’s moral reasoning will also be. The participants will be given the DIT-2, which is a defining issues test to score moral reasoning. The results found that senior level college students had higher moral reasoning then freshmen level college students. In conclusion, the hypothesis for the study was found to be correct that education was a predictor of moral reasoning.
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Moral Reasoning Among Different Education Levels
Moral reasoning is the individual or collective practical reasoning about what, morally, one ought to do. Jean Piaget was the first theorist to describe the development of moral reasoning, Lawrence Kohlberg has had the most powerful impact. Kohlberg researched the practice of assessing moral reasoning by giving subjects a series of hypothetical delimmas, each of which dealt with a specific moral issue. As a result of his research findings, Kohlberg concluded that there were three main levels of moral reasoning, with two stages within each level. Kohlberg’s ideas have been applied in many different settings and under many
In a different study involving moral reasoning across the life span, researchers were studying whether moral reasoning developed into adulthood (Armon, 1997). They used predominately white, well-educated, middle class participants, (44), and interviewed them four times at four year intervals. The results found that moral reasoning correlated with age strongly in children, moderately with adults and moderately correlated with education in all age groups. Advances in moral reasoning were correlated with increase in education in adults. These findings imply that education does have an impact on whether or not moral reasoning is advanced. It stated it found correlations in all age groups in regards to education levels affecting moral reasoning. Do only education levels play a role in moral reasoning?
The problem with moral reasoning is that you can reason anywhere you want on the six stages, but just because you are at the level six stage of reasoning, doesn’t mean you will act in accordance with that reasoning. In a study of moral decision-making in
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real life, the researchers found that many different stages of moral reasoning were used in various situations presented to them by the researchers (Haviv, 2002). Only three subjects were consistent in use of moral reasoning throughout the testing. The rest chose various stages to deal with different dilemmas in moral reasoning. They could not find a correlation of education level due to the closeness of the levels of education among the participants.
In all these studies education seemed to fluctuate in being important to not being important in moral reasoning. I believe one’s education level to be a significant depiction of one’s moral reasoning, but I am not positive if moral reasoning is a depiction of one’s moral behavior. However, for the present study will look at how education levels affect moral reasoning.
Two groups of subjects were used in the study. The first group consisted of 27 freshmen level college students from Missouri Western State College. The second group consisted of 17 senior college students from Missouri Western State College, in St Joseph, Missouri.
The test being administered is the DIT-2 ( Rest & Narvaez, 1998)
The DIT-2 was given to each participant in each of the two groups. The dependent variable in the study is the DIT-2. The independent variable is the participant’s education level. The test is a multiple-choice format and was completed in
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35-45 minutes once administered. The tests were then picked up and sent to be scored at the University of Minnesota.
An independent-samples t-test comparing the mean scores of freshmen college students and the senior college students found a significant difference between the means of the two groups (t (41) = -3.512, p < .001). The mean of the senior college students
was significantly higher (m = 33.1300, sd = 13.62) than the mean of the freshmen college students (m = 19.7749, sd = 11.05).
The hypothesis in the study was that the higher one’s education level the higher one’s moral reasoning will be. In conclusion, the study showed a significant difference in post-conventional moral reasoning between the two groups of participants; in such that, the senior level college students had a higher post-conventional moral reasoning then did the freshmen college students. The findings stay consistent with research in the area of moral reasoning and education levels. The majority of the research shows that as education rises so does the ability to reason at a higher moral level. From the study conducted here and other studies in the field of moral reasoning and education levels, you should be able to draw the same relationship derived from this study. The limitations of this study are that it didn’t take into account whether or not gender and education levels
have an effect on moral reasoning as well as needing more participants to have a stronger effect. The research in this area is still developing and with the new addition of the DIT-2, this will cause further research to be needed in verifying and to build a database.
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Armon, C. & Dawson, T.L. (1997). Developmental trajectories in Moral Reasoning
Across the Life Span. Journal of Moral Education, 26, 433-454.
Haviv, S., & Leman, P.J. (2002). Moral Decision-making in Real Life: factors affecting
moral orientation and behaviour justification. Journal of Moral Education, 31,
Maclean, A.M., Walker, L.J., & Matsuba, M.K. (2004). Transcendence and the Moral
Self: Identity Integration, Religion, and Moral Life. Journal for the Scientific
Study of Religion, 43, 429-437.
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Figure 1. Mean post-conventional scores of DIT-2 for both freshmen and senior participants.
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