Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development – Free CTET Study Notes

If you are preparing for the upcoming CTET entrance exam, which is scheduled in December this year, you probably have a fair idea about the syllabus. Both the papers cover an array of topics related to Child Development and Pedagogy and so, it is important that you focus on the ones that are of utmost importance. Going by previous years’ question patter, one such topic that has been repeatedly marked important is Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development. Read on to get a deeper understanding of the theory and its various stages.

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What is Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development?

Lawrence Kohlberg was an American psychologist, best known for his theory on children’s moral development. His theories drew inspiration from Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory. Kohlberg believed that like cognitive development, moral development to goes through stages. He used the idea of moral dilemmas to teach boys age 10 to 16 about values and morality. The most popular of the moral dilemmas that Kohlberg formed is the ‘Heinz’ dilemma, which talks about the idea of saving a life versus abiding by the law. He stressed that it is in this way that an individual thinks rationally about a dilemma, which ascertains positive moral development.

Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development – Stages of Development

Kohlberg identified three phases or levels of moral reasoning – Post-conventional, Conventional, and Pre-conventional. Each of the levels is linked with complex moral development stages.

Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development – Pre-Conventional Stage

During this phase, the child’s moral sense is highly controlled. Kids accept the rules set by an authoritarian figure, such as a teacher or a parent. A child who has pre-conventional morality is yet to adopt or internalize society’s conventions regarding right and wrong. Instead, it focuses on external consequences brought on by certain actions.

  • Stage One: Punishment-Obedience Orientation

The first stage is focused on the child’s desire to abide by certain norms and avoid punishment. For example – we perceive an action as morally wrong when we see the offender being punished. The worse the punishment, the more ‘bad’ the action is perceived.

  • Stage Two: Instrumental Orientation

This stage expresses ‘what’s in it for me?’ position, where the appropriate behavior is defined by whatever the person believes is in his/her best interest. In this stage, reasoning shows limited interest in others’ needs, to the extent where it might stimulate the person’s own interests. For example – when a parent asks a child to do a chore, the child may ask ‘what’s in store for him/her’ – to which the parent will likely offer an incentive by providing him/her with an allowance.

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Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development – Conventional Stage

Throughout the second stage, the child’s moral sense is tied to societal and personal relationships. Kids continue to follow the rules set by an authoritarian figure, but it is only due to the belief that following rules is important to ensure societal order and positive relationships. In stage 2, adherence to conventions and rules is rigid, and the fairness or appropriateness of a rule is questioned seldom.

  • Stage Three: Nice Girl, Good Boy Orientation

Children in this stage seek others’ approval and behave in specific ways to avoid disapproval. Much emphasis is put on people behaving nicely to others and on good behavior.

  • Stage Four: Order and Law Orientation

The child accepts convention and rules blindly due to their significance in maintaining a functional society. The rules are the same for all, and abiding by the rules as one is supposed to be doing is considered important and valuable. If an individual violates the law, others are likely to do the same – thus, there exists a duty and obligation to uphold rules and laws.

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Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development – Post-conventional Stage

Here, the moral sense of the individual is defined with regard to more abstract values and principles. People believe some laws to be unjust and that these should be eliminated or changed. This phase is marked by an increasing realization that people and society are two separate entities and that people may not obey rules that are inconsistent with their principles. Moralists in the Post-conventional phase live by their own ethics that include fundamental human rights, like justice, liberty, and life.

  • Stage Five: Contract-Social Orientation

We view the world as holding various values, rights, and opinions. These perspectives should be respected as mutually as unique to every community or person. Those, which do not contribute to the overall welfare of people, should be altered whenever required to greatly benefit the people.

  • Stage Six: Ethical-Universal Principle Orientation

In this stage, moral reasoning depends on abstract reasoning with the use of an ethical universal principle. Usually, rather than concrete, the selected principles are abstract and focus on specific ideas, like respect, dignity, and equality. People select the ethics that they wish to follow. Failing to do so invokes a feeling of guilt in them. Thus, individuals act in ways that are morally correct, are in their best interests, are expected of them, and legal.

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Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development – Criticism

Kohlberg’s theory has been criticized on many grounds. One of the several criticisms is that although the theory concerns moral thinking, the difference between an individual’s actions and knowing what ought to be done is vast. Therefore, moral reasoning may not always lead to moral behavior.

Moreover, critics have pointed out that the theory puts too much emphasis on justice when making moral choices. Certain factors, like caring, compassion, and other interpersonal feelings can play a vital role in moral reasoning.

CTET study materials and notes on Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development are available online. You can go through them to get detailed and comprehensive knowledge. Additionally, it is recommended that you take regular CTET mock tests on Oliveboard to ensure that your exam preparation is at its best. These mock test questions are designed in the actual exam pattern so you will have a fair idea about the probable questions. CTET exams are quite tough to crack, as the competition is high and seats limited. However, with proper resources, top-notch preparation and regular mock tests, you can score well above the minimum cut-off. All the best!

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