Theory

The FACE Project curriculum is based on an integrated developmental model that takes into account the various bio-psychosocial maturational factors. Developmental theory (Erikson 1950, Piaget, 1932/1965, Freud, 1920) including systems theories (Bowen 1985, Minuchin, 1998) and group dynamics (Yalom, 1995), social-cultural perspectives (Bowles and Gintis 1977), inter- and intra-personal processes (Dewey 1916), behavioral (Bandura, 1997), emotional (Gilligan 1987, Goldman 2001) and cognitive (Kohlberg 1984) aspects all are examined in organizing the most effective grade level approach that facilitates the acquisition, maintenance and reinforcement of students’ Character Education. The Functional Approach to Character Education (FACE) Project constructs and expands upon a system to teach character education in educational institutions. In 1999 the Virginia Legislature passed into law Senate Bill 817 that mandated that Character Education be taught in all classrooms in Virginia. Educators, parents, legislators and a majority of the population at large agree on the need for an increased emphasis on human values and character education. The next question to be addressed is how to go about it. The obvious course in teaching virtue is first to have a valid measurable method based on a useful theory of morality. Unfortunately there has not been one theory that has resulted in an applied, consistent and measurable methodology. Instead there has been a diversity of theories and methods, none that has by itself endured consistently above the others.

Definitions of Morality.
Scientists have used a variety of criteria as indicators of a person’s morality:

  1. Behavior that helps another human being.
  2. Behavior that conforms to social norms.
  3. The internalization of social norms.
  4. The arousal of empathy or guilt.
  5. Reasoning about justice.
  6. Putting another’s interest ahead of one’s own.
  7. Demonstration of 6 pillars of virtue.
  8. Mutually beneficial behavior.

Each of these is a part of morality, yet none constitute a complete definition or morality; each has its limitations. The concept of character education is evolving and making strides in education and political will as a reaction to the immoral behavior seen on many fronts: education, politics etc. Character Education is an issue at the individual level as well as at the systemic level. Morality is defined in terms of ever increasing parameters and of larger systems in society. Morally responsible action by individuals and institutions is presently under-emphasized. Morality will only proliferate in a system requiring the mutuality of individual and systematic moral and ethical action.

Cognitive Development Theory
Kolberg’s cognitive development theory of morality is based on moral judgments. Support for Kohlberg’s (1984) theory that moral development proceeds through a stage hierarchy in a step-wise, invariant sequence regardless of sub and cross-cultural variation in moral norms and beliefs, is supported by a depth of research and numerous studies. Kohlberg’s theory includes two basic premises. First, that by asking participants questions as to how they would resolve a moral dilemma, the experimenter can determine at what stage the person’s moral reasoning functions. The goal of this interpretative, standardized exercise is to reconstruct the logic or inferential relations and transformation of just reasoning. Second, the theory is based upon ethical stage theory that enables one to formulate a position regarding the greater or lesser moral rationality of the reason being interpreted. Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development included the following:

Stage 1: the punishment-and-obedience orientation. One acts morally as they fear punishment if they do not.
Stage 2: the instrumental-relativist orientation. One acts morally for personal gain.
Stage 3: the interpersonal concordance or “good boy, nice girl” orientation.” One acts morally because one wants to be seen as a “good person.”
Stage 4: the “law and order” orientation. One acts morally because it is the law.
Stage 5: the social-contract, legalistic orientation, generally with utilitarian overtones. One acts morally based on good laws and beliefs and will try to change laws that are not moral.
Stage 6: the universal-ethical-principle orientation. One acts morally based on universal principles.

Kohlberg’s emphasis is on basic cognitive structures that are said to underlie and organize moral reasoning, not upon learning specific moral rules. As Kohlberg (1975) and Paolitto (1977) point out, changes in thinking at each stage of development cannot be directly taught. Evidence shows that a person’s pattern of thinking is self generated in interaction with the environment and changes gradually. When people are confronted with experiences that cannot be understood adequately, it creates a disequilibrium. People attempt to change their way of thinking to “accommodate” the new information. The new experience interacts with the previously established cognitive structure and the building of a new structure begins. A teacher of moral judgment would therefore create the disequilibrium associated with an unresolved issue to facilitate cognitive developmental structural change and stimulate the student to resolve the issue by taking a broader social perspective.

Blasi (1980) reviewed 75 studies that used Kohlberg’s methods of assessment. Fifty-seven of these studies showed a significant relationship between moral judgment and behavior. However, Blasi warns that the strength of the relationship is necessary to determine other variables that explain moral behavior. Thoma (1985) compiled 30 studies that attempted to relate DIT scores with moral behavior. Similar to Blasi’s findings, Thoma found a correlation in the .3 range. There does seem to be a consistent, although somewhat low, correlation between moral judgment measures and moral action. It seems clear that what we do not know about moral behavior is greater than what we do know. Cognitive developmental theory has become more realistic about its limitations. Cognitive developmental theory has also broadened its perspective to include a more interactive model of emotional and behavioral factors as important influences in moral understanding.

Emotional Factor
Carol Gilligan, a student of Kohlberg’s, perceived the importance of an emotional factor that determines morality – especially for women. Gilligan (1982) formulated two general modes of operation in making moral judgments. One is the ‘responsibility’ mode that focuses on caring, responsibility and nurturance in accordance with people’s needs. Second, the ‘rights’ mode stresses reasoning based on moral principles, particularly principles of justice, equality and individual rights. The responsibility mode, according to Gilligan, typifies the ‘female voice,’ although she suggests that this mode applies to all persons male and female. Morality in this mode is based on the highest premise of care and sensitivity to the needs of others. Kohlberg’s initial, direct connection between moral judgment and action has been altered. Blasi (1980), after reviewing the available studies, concluded that people functioning at higher judgment stages tended to act in more honest, altruistic and pro-social ways. He still believed, however, that no theoretical light was cast on moral judgment explaining moral action. Blasi suggested the bridge between moral judgment and moral action might be found by focusing on judgments of self-responsibility in determining how to act or not act in moral situations.

Group Influence (Behavioral)
The social context in which moral action takes place has a profound influence on the moral decision-making of individuals. The norms, standards or rules that develop in a group arise from the group’s shared expectations. The sense of community, solidarity and cohesion that develops as well as the collective norms in a group form a “moral atmosphere” (Kohlberg, 1983). Moral atmosphere in the form of collective norms and a sense of community can be a strong influence in determining group development.

Mutually beneficial action is a behavioral definition of morality that emphasizes what a person does, not just what a person feels or thinks. This important behavioral realization is a pressing social priority for our schools. FACE promotes win-win action of mutually beneficial action throughout schools. What is good for the individual and good for everyone else is the higher good and is what is at the core of Character Education.

An Integrative Model
Kohlberg’s justice approach worked in his cognitive developmental perspective. However, there is more to moral action than can be explained by this mode of reasoning. In combining his justice reasoning (cognitive), with Gilligan’s conception of care and love (emotional) and the schema of mutual beneficial action (behavioral), a more integrated and holistically explainable method of morality can be offered. Recognizing the importance of group influence and the value of the group regarding collective norms, the school is a logical and beneficial place to incorporate and teach Character Education.

Character Education in the Classroom
Kohlberg’s cognitive developmental model helps us understand how one acts ethically in part by understanding widening social parameters. Teachers can teach students to understand and act with a high degree of character in the hidden curriculum and in a formal curriculum of character education as delineated in Senate Bill 817 passed in Virginia (1999). Broadening Character Education to include a cognitive, behaviorist, and emotional perspective can bring Character Education back into the classroom. A Character Education program is meant to be interwoven into the school procedure and environment, and structured to instruct through example, illustration and participation. Character Education should be taught in specific lessons that supplement the standard curriculum. Cultural, social, religious and political diversity must also be taken into consideration and instilled “values and virtues” should be common to all groups.

A distinction lies in teaching children how to think, not what to think; not only how to think but how to articulate their views and, equally important, how to listen with respect to the views of others. The curriculum can thus be geared to generate learning and communication. This can lead to resolving conflicts and negotiating agreements and is also viable as an end in itself. When Character Education is seen as an integral part of the school curriculum many possibilities open up for deepening the learning experience. In ‘real life,’ the ethical dimension is essential to every discipline; similarly Character Education can be interwoven within all school subjects. Learning takes place throughout the school day –not just in the classroom but also in the hallways, cafeteria, gym and playground. These settings are as important for experiential learning as the material presented more formally in the classroom and they can provide a transition to the world beyond the school grounds.

“When properly implemented it has produced dramatic results. Drug problems have decreased, teen pregnancies have dropped significantly, absenteeism has gone down, discipline has improved and more importantly, all this has been accomplished while academic performance has gone up. That’s because when you teach kids to really care about others, they feel better about themselves and work harder. The teachers are happier, the students are happier, the parents are happier, and the community is happier. Everybody wins. There is no question that character education should be an integral part of the entire formal education system from kindergarten through university level.” (McDonnell, 2006)