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Moral Reasoning of Education Students: The Effects of Direct Instruction in Moral Development Theory and Participation in Moral Dilemma Discussion


by Rhoda Cummings, Cleborne D. Maddux, Aaron Richmond & Antonia Cladianos — 2010

Background/Context: Results of the few studies that have investigated moral reasoning in education students suggest that such reasoning may be less advanced for them than for college students with non–education majors and that education students do not appear to advance in moral reasoning from freshman to senior year.

Purpose: The purpose of the present study was to test an educational intervention designed to advance moral reasoning scores of undergraduate elementary and secondary education students.

Setting: The study was conducted in undergraduate classrooms at the University of Nevada, Reno, a Western Land Grant institution.

Participants: Participants were undergraduate elementary (n = 94) and secondary education majors (n = 98) and undergraduate students majoring in English literature and philosophy (n = 42).

Research Design: The study was a quasi-experimental design.

Data Collection and Analysis: Undergraduate education students enrolled in four sections of an introduction to educational psychology course received interventions designed to advance moral reasoning. English and philosophy courses were chosen as control groups. Over a period of 5 weeks, students in the intervention groups were taught moral development theories and participated in online dilemma discussion. An additional 3 weeks were devoted to pretesting and posttesting activities.

Results: A 2 × 5 mixed analysis of variance (ANOVA; time by group) with repeated measures on time was conducted to analyze pre- and posttest2 DIT P-scores for all five subgroups. Significant increases in mean DIT P-scores were found for the elementary and secondary intervention groups but not for the control groups. Gains in both the elementary and secondary groups were maintained at posttest2 at the end of the semester, but there were no significant differences from posttest1 to posttest2. To determine the effectiveness of hypothetical versus real-life dilemma discussion on moral reasoning, a 2 × 3 mixed ANOVA (time by group) was conducted. The ANOVA main effect for time and the interaction were significant, whereas the main effect for group was not significant.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Results of the present study support findings of previous studies providing evidence that principled moral reasoning can be advanced by deliberate educational interventions. Future studies should investigate whether gains will be maintained over longer periods of time than a single semester and whether mere gains in moral reasoning scores translate to a broader range of moral behaviors.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 112 Number 3, 2010, p. 621-644
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15770, Date Accessed: 10/18/2017 9:15:49 AM

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About the Author
  • Rhoda Cummings
    University of Nevada, Reno
    E-mail Author
    RHODA CUMMINGS is a professor of educational psychology in the Counseling and Educational Psychology Department at the University of Nevada, Reno. Her research interests are in the areas of cognitive and moral development. She has conducted research in the area of moral reasoning of teacher education students. Research interests – cognitive/moral development; Recent publications: Cummings, R., Dyas, L., Maddux, C D., & Kochman, A. (2001). Principled moral reasoning and behavior of preservice teacher education students. American Education Research Journal, 38 (1), 143–158; and Cummings, R., Wiest, L. R., Lamitina, D., & Maddux, C. D. (2003). Teacher education curricula and moral reasoning. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 7, 163–168.
  • Cleborne Maddux
    University of Nevada, Reno
    CLEBORNE D. MADDUX is a professor of educational psychology in the Counseling and Educational Psychology Department at the University of Nevada, Reno. He teaches classes in statistics and information technology in education and conducts research in counseling methods and cognitive and moral development. Recent publications: Maddux, C.D. (2008). The semantic web and educational technology. Educational Technology, 48(1), 3–9; and Maddux, C. D., & Cummings, R. (2007). WebQuests: Are they developmentally appropriate? The Educational Forum, 71(2), 117–127.
  • Aaron Richmond
    Metropolitan State College of Denver
    AARON RICHMOND is an assistant professor of psychology at Metropolitan State College of Denver. His research interests are in the areas of cognitive psychology and research and statistics. Recent publications: Cummings, R., Maddux, C. D., & Richmond, A. (2008). Curriculum-embedded performance assessment in higher education: Maximum efficiency and minimum disruption. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 33(6), 599–605; and Richmond, A. S., Krank, H. M., & Cummings, R. (2006). A brief research report: Thinking styles of online distance education students. International Journal of Technology in Teaching and Learning, 2(1), 58–64.
  • Antonia Cladianos
    University of Nevada, Reno
    ANTONIA CLADIANOS is a doctoral student in educational psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno. Her research interests are human growth and development.
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