A Mixed-Method Study of Educator Knowledge and Practice Related to Student Socio-moral Development
Rizzo, Kelly Joelle
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The purpose of this study was to explore elementary educators’ knowledge of moral development, how this knowledge relates to their beliefs and sense of efficacy pertaining to character education practices and the socio-moral reasoning of their students. It was hypothesized that educators’ beliefs and practices related to character education would reflect their pedagogy rather than knowledge of moral development theory. It was further hypothesized that there would be differences in student socio-moral reasoning specifically the beliefs and desires that guide actions would differ based on grade and gender. This mixed-method study employing self-report questionnaires, open response vignettes, and semi-structured educator interviews yielded quantitative and qualitative data. Findings indicated socio-moral reasoning of students differed according to grade (age) and gender. Knowledge of moral development theory was found to vary among participants however some practices employed by educators did align with a social cognitive approach to moral development. Significant variables identified consistently among educator and student participants included, autonomy, social competence, sense of school community, and supportiveness. These variables, in conjunction with a sense of fairness, have been identified elsewhere as foundational to moral development (Nucci, 2009), and intrinsic motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000) and are relevant to educators working to develop student socio-moral reasoning as an aspect of character.