Ethics and Morality:
Theory, Development, Teaching, and Instruction Notes

Theory related ideas

Four Moral Actions:

  1. Act altruistically - act for the benefit of another at ones expense, act with emotional empathy, or act with reciprocity;
  2. Act for retribution act by imposing punishment that is believed to fit the crime appropriate and deserved;
  3. Act with an intent to rehabilitate;
  4. Act to remove by shun, ostracize or kill.

Reasoning for these actions can be related to a person's belief and whether they think whether the offender meant to do it or didn't mean to do it and will act with a desire to throw the book at them, for the former, or let them off easy for the good of the individual, or the good of society, for the latter. See also different ways to respond to a wrong doing.

Development of Ethical behavior, Character, Values, and Conscience

Acting ethically or with character, values, or conscience requires - social competence and moral action or inaction. Moral actions include:

  1. Restraint from doing harm, or anything inhibiting aggression or hurtful actions,
  2. Initiation of actions to help based on caring or an altruistic action, or
  3. Commitment to an agreement or compliance of ethical actions.

"Moral progress only becomes possible when we don't believe everything we immediately think." Joshua Greene.

Which is fostered by social competence and dependent on three variables:

  1. Moral cognition: internalized thoughts and values based on a person's cognitive development across stages of moral development (see Kohlberg moral development theory).
  2. Moral emotion: empathy and compassion that foster care and pro-social activities which can result in guilt, discomfort, shame, or disgust that follow a transgression and may stop harm.
  3. Moral self: personal view as a good person who cares for others by regulating oneself behavior to do right, ethical, care.

Research Studies, Findings, and Suggestions:

Summary of research

Having an instinct to act morally doesn't mean a person will make and choose ethical actions. A person has to develop an understanding of self, understanding that people have different points of views and intentions, that there are different choices that can be made that are moral and maybe more moral then their personal thoughts and actions, develop ability to think morally, refrain from impulsive behavior, care for others, and have positive self-esteem and self-efficacy to take moral actions.

Videos on Morality and
Research to support an inherent basis for morality

Teaching and Learning Resources

Characteristics of learning environments for moral and ethical development

Moral reasoning is constructed by interacting with others who are moral in caring and just environment that supports the development of caring, cooperation, morality, and the social skills, resolve, and self-discipline necessary to be a moral and just person.

Environment that provides:

  1. Time where teachers assume a non authoritarian relationship and encourage students to resolve issues themselves in a democratic manner.
  2. If punishment is imposed, then it is by reciprocity rather than expiation.
  3. Social interactions in classrooms where questioning, examination of issues from multiple perspectives are examined, students are allowed to ask questions and raise issues, spontaneous moral issues are valued, dealt with openly and not swept under the proverbial rug.
  4. Moral issues are discussed in a manner that causes cognitive conflict and disequilibration necessary for reasoning to proceed and more moral and ethical positions are attained.
  5. Students are provided with, encouraged, and participate in a meaningful and active way in the school governance, which is cooperative, and truly democratic so that responsibility and self-discipline are required, not optional.
  6. Students must be provide opportunities to construct their own learning experiences.

Other resources

Dilemmas to initiate discussion on morality



Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes