Kohlbergs Theory of Moral Development

The teacher who is cognizant of Kohlbergs theory and observant of student behavior might take the opportunity to help direct children who are beginning to make that transition to think about morality in ways that help them narrow their focus to understand basic concepts about why certain types of behavior may be moral or immoral. Without guidance, children may merely shift from the concern over doing what adults say to doing that which avoids negative consequences for themselves but without giving much thought to what specifically makes certain types of behavior right or wrong (Crain, 1985).

In some respects, Kohlbergs Level II (stage 3) is similar to Level I stage 1, in that the adolescent may substitute the messages and expectations of family and community for those of any adult; however, in terms of the degree of independent moral reasoning, there is not necessarily much difference in the process of absorbing moral beliefs. Whereas young children accept whatever adults tell them, adolescents accept whatever their family and community define as morality (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2007; Pinker, 2002). It is at this point in between stages 3 and 4 that teachers may have the opportunity to help students make the transition from defining morality in terms of local mores to appreciating the broader range of moral concepts.

Likewise, educators have an opportunity at this point to help students begin to think about the larger implications of various values and the objective reasons that certain actions may be morally innocent or morally reprehensible, completely independent of what society may teach in that regard (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2007; Pinker, 2002).

Finally, Kohlbergs Level III presents an opportunity for educators to help students begin to think about abstract concepts of social justice and political systems and theories that will contribute to their long-term moral and intellectual development as human beings. Ideally, these ideas could be related directly to various substantive academic areas such as history, social studies, sociology, religion, politics, and business. One could even argue that it is precisely at this point that teachers may have the greatest opportunity to help shape the direction of thought of students with respect to the way that their developing moral values will intersect with and play a role in determining what type of person they want to become. Ultimately, this may be the most important of all roles of educators.


Crain, W. (1985). Theories of Development. New York: Prentice-Hall.

Gerrig, R. And Zimbardo, P. (2008). Psychology.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *