Lawrence Kohlberg was born in Bronxville, New York, October 25, 1927. He earned a degree from the University of Chicago in just one year and received a PhD in 1958. While studying the moral decisions of teenage boys, he became a professor at Yale University and later back at the University of Chicago.
Stages of Morality
Kohlberg conducted his research by telling people stories of moral dilemmas. After telling the stories he would then proceed to ask questions about the dilemma and "present the choice to be considered for example between the rights of some authority and the needs of some deserving individual who is being unfairly treated" (McLeod). By observing the responses of people from different age groups, "Kohlberg hoped to discover how moral reasoning changed as people grew" (McLeod).
- Make decisions based on what is personally best, regardless of others' needs
- Only obey rules by established adults
- May disobey if there is no possibility of getting caught
Stage II: Exchange of Favors
- Recognize others have needs
- May satisfy others' needs if own needs are met
- Define right and wrong by personal consequences
- Make decisions based on what will please others
- Concerned about keeping healthy relationships (sharing, trust, and loyalty)
- Take other's perspective into account when making decisions
STAGE IV: Law and Order
- Look at society as a whole for rules and guidelines
- Know rules are necessary and believe they have the duty to follow them
- Don't realize that as society's needs change, rules should change as well
- See rules as agreements among individuals
- Rules seen as useful tools in keeping social order
- Recognize that rules are flexible
STAGE VI: Universal Ethical Principle
- Ideal stage that few people ever reach
- Stick to universal principles like equality for all, respect for human dignity, and commitment to justice
- Answer to inner conscience
- Willing to disobey laws that conflict with own ethical beliefs
In the Classroom Today
Students become natural teachers through their experiences in the classroom. Teachers can apply Kohlberg's theory to their classroom environments by...
- Incorporate scenarios
- Allow students to work in groups
Creating ways to promote moral development can be difficult for teachers. They often find turning objectives into discussion questions tricky, but it is well worth the effort.
"Lawrence Kohlberg Biography." Lawrence Kohlberg Biography. GoodTherapy.org, 25 Sept. 2013. Web. 10 Nov. 2013.
McDevitt, T. M., and J. E. Ormrod. "Kohlberg's Three Levels and Six Stages of Moral Reasoning." Education.com. Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall, 20 July 2010. Web. 01 Nov. 2013.
McLeod, Saul. "Kohlberg." Kohlberg-Moral Development. SimplyPsychology, 2011. Web. 01 Nov. 2013.
Psychology Notes HQ. "Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development." The Psychology Notes Headquarter RSS. N.p., 20 Jan. 2012. Web. 06 Nov. 2013.
Schemrich, Colleen M. "Applying Principles of Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development to Classroom Instruction, Classroom Discipline Procedures, School-Wide Discipline Procedures, District Programs and Community Programs." N.p., 2003. Web. 8 Nov. 2013.