Last week, I acknowledged the responsibility of parents in the moral development, and made three suggestions for parents to better educate moral reasoning. Fundamentally however, it is notable that not every pair of parents has a proper understanding of right conducts themselves, and the composition of moral education is complex which requires other parties, such as school and religion to be involved (Oladipo, 2009). This got me thinking: what is the importance of moral education in school and how to implement it consummately?
McCambridge (2004) proposed moral education, critical thinking and imagination (creativity) as the determinants of an ideal educational community. He believed that moral education not only restricts individuals to inhibit crime commitments, that individuals being truthful are also necessary to the accretion of science, to admit the misrepresentation of evidence and re-investigate with a real passion. Besides, an understanding to respect others helps promoting a healthy mental status and reduces social problems; in other words, such respect preclude bullying, deceiving and various issues caused from irreverence to life (McCambridge, 2004; Oladipo, 2009).
Since the importance of critical thinking is evidential in academic and life success (Butler, 2012), starting to establish a deeper form of thinking at a younger age would increase the likelihood of success; whereas moral education can be viewed as an aid in fostering it. Currently, there is a low opportunity for students to develop critical thinking skills under the teaching curriculum of formal education, because its main aim (i.e. Chinese, English, Mathematics, and History) is to provide a wide fact sheet on basic knowledge as to build up a solid foundation for higher education.
“Reminiscing the Chinese Literature, I found myself incompetent to remember or apply any knowledge I learnt from the lessons; laughably the mere ancient language I recall is “bird” in Cantonese because it was used as a swearword in the old times.”
Nevertheless, an appropriate assessment in moral education provides opportunities to practice critical thinking skills as it requires more flexibility and individuality while understanding and accepting different transmitted values (family and public) of right conducts. Any Evidences?
Before suggesting a change on moral education, it is central to point out the problems in the current teaching curriculum. A study in Jiangxi (a province of China) indicated that school moral education has two main problems: examination-based assessment and content-based teaching strategy (Liang, n.d.). The way the moral education is taught generally reflects the perceived educational objectives by educators, which is indoctrination, without any attempts to increase engagement in learning. The heavy examination-based evaluations also influence the teachers’ priority of thinking in education, since their main concern is to ensure students achieving a good grade in the examination and conform to the expectation of top management and parents (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, 2000).
It is important for teachers to meet students’ affective needs for successful moral reasoning to occur (Power, 2007), because moral education requires students not only to have a high comprehension of knowledge but as well as acceptance to others’ moral value. Suggestions that I would make for improving teacher quality are:
- Understand the multi-roles of teacher – Alter their viewpoint on the single role of teacher as being an instructor but as well as a co-learner with their students, mostly because students can be active creators of knowledge (i.e. technology use) that teachers never know (Holbrook et al, 2012). In such way, this new role facilitates teachers to enhance self-competency when they seek challenges in co-learning with students (Fischer & Rustemeyer, 2007), and also promote their intrinsic motivation (Bieg, Backes & Mittag, 2011).
- Learn the psychological knowledge base – Help them to understand the mental and physical characteristics and study status of students, to increase the sensitivity to students’ need; arranging psychological experts to give lectures for teachers.
- Update the notions of moral education – A regular update (i.e. 1-2 years period) of notions in moral education is necessary, since the ideal right conducts in each society change across time and politic consideration (Dorn, 2012). For example, corporal punishment is prevalent during kindergarten and primary school (Kilimci, 2009) whereas it is given that school corporal punishment is not likely to enhance moral character or awareness of respect (Society for Adolescent Medicine, 2003). Therefore, it is pivotal to prohibit wrong notions from happening and research into alternatives for change (National Association of School Psychologists, 2006).
The use of imagination is deemed to foster both moral education and critical thinking (McCambridge, 2004), where it has affinity with the theory of creativity although the definition of creativity varies. While imagination refers to “the ability to conceive of that which is not” (McCambridge, 2004, p.15), creativity generally means the creation of new ideas from existing concepts (Ray, 2005). Therefore, some policies that I suggest for modifying teaching strategies or curriculum of moral education would try to comprehend the application of creativity into it:
- Increase the openness to change – Emerging research in relation to the moral education system from different regions would help to acknowledge their success, identify the existing problems and adapt to a modified system. Aside from this, enriching knowledge from different aspects or cultures can improve educators’ creativity because mental jumping requires the access to abundant information (Strong, n.d.). Kiva anti-bully program from Finland education would be a good example to learn from.
- Stimulate the use of “psychological distance” questions in group discussion – Discussing problem solutions in group provides opportunities for students to access a greater understanding of their peers. The use of psychological distance (Construal-level Theory) is suggested to induce creativity by generating solutions to problems attributing in a long distance or future time to the individual (Kruglanski & Higgins, 2007; Trope, 2010). In other words, the logic force is more likely to detach under those conditions. Some online sources give many interesting sample moral questions (Get to Know U, n.d.); as an example “Would you volunteer to be one of the first colonists on Mars if it meant you could never return to earth?” (related to long distance). Aside from psychological distance, I would suggest to ask more realistic questions such as the here and now in the updated news, so students can apply their moral values practically.
- Utilize computer-mediated learning tools as alternative assessment of examination –Sidek and Yunus (2012) indicated that blog has become the most popular among all online tools (i.e. Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Weibo) to be implemented in classroom. This blog assessment is also found to promote learning autonomy, critical and reflective thinking skills (Yang, 2009). This makes blogging suitable to start in secondary school as young adolescents are more inclined to be concerned with social relationship and seek for peer acceptance in order to fit in groups (Almas, 2009), which actually happened to me when I was a high schooler. Allowing students to explore learning through blogging can also provide teachers a great insight into their diverse opinions and experiences, as well as enhancing teachers’ critical thinking (Deng & Yuen, 2011). Personally, I think its implication can extend to help teachers who have a good psychological base to identify bullies and/or victims among students through reading their blog entries and comments.
- Co-operations between schools (as stimulation of a real community) – It is acknowledged that in China, economic inequality is a serious concern (my week 4 blog), individuals from rural areas and cities (different fabrics of society) are not likely to have clear understanding of the similarities and differences of their fellow-citizens due to the “Hukou” household registration system (Afridi, Li & Ren, 2012). I would say that promoting short-term exchange programs (i.e. for one semester) between schools in different regions allow students and educators to experience domestic diversity (especially differences in socio-economic status and education level) and support the integrity of the society (Castania, 1996).
- Afridi, F., Li, S. X. & Ren, Y. (2012). Social Identity and Inequality: The Impact of China’s Hukou System. Retrieved from: http://ftp.iza.org/dp6417.pdf.
- Almas, A. N. (2009). Adolescents’ Disclosure and Advice-seeking Behavior about Peer Dilemmas: Characteristics, Maternal Parenting Predictors, and Adolescent Social Outcomes. Doctor Thesis: University of Toronto.
- Bieg, S., Backes, S. & Mittag, W. (2011). The role of intrinsic motivation for teaching, teachers’ care and autonomy support in students’ self-determined motivation. Journal for Educational Research Online, 3(1), 122-140.
- Butler, H. A. (2012). Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment Predicts Real-World Outcomes of Critical Thinking. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 26, 721-729.
- Castania, K. (1996). Diversity Fact Sheet #1: What is Diversity?. New York: Cornell University. Retrieved from: http://counties.cce.cornell.edu/chemung/general/publications/what-is-diversity.pdf
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- Dorn, J. A. (2012). The Rise of Government and the Decline of Morality. Retrieved from: http://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/cl-12.pdf
- Get To Know U. (n.d.). Life Lessons (30 Moral Quandaries). Retrieved from: http://www.gettoknowu.com/LifeLessons/Hypothetical_Moral_Quandaries.php
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- Kilimci, S. (2009). Teachers’ Perceptions on Corporal Punishment as a Method of Discipline in Elementary Schools. The Journal of International Social Research, 2(8), 242-251.
- Kruglanski, A. W. & Higgins, E. T. (2007). Social Psychology Handbook of Basic Principle. New York, U.S.A.: Guilford.
- Liang, M. (n.d.). Problems, Causes and Solutions in a School Moral Education Course – Research in a School in Jiangxi. Retrieved from: http://www.ioe.ac.uk/about/documents/About_Overview/Mingyue_L.pdf
- McCambridge, T. R. (2004). Imagination, Critical Thinking, and Moral Education as Essential Elements of an Educational Community. Retrieved from: http://www.ierg.net/confs/2004/Proceedings/McCambridge_Thomas.pdf
- National Association of School Psychologists. (2006). Position Statement: Corporal punishment. Bethesda, MD: Author.
- Oladipo, S. E. (2009). Moral Education of the Child: Whose Responsibility? Journal of Social Science, 20(2), 149-156.
- Power, F. C. (2007). Moral Education. U.S.A.: Greenwood Publishing Group.
- Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) (2000). Curriculum guidance for the foundation stage, QCA/DfEE.
- Ray, K. (2005). What is Creativity?. Retrieved from: http://www.nyu.edu/cas/ewp/raycreativity05.pdf
- Sidek, E. A. R. & Yunus, M. M. (2012). Students’ Experiences on Using Blog as Learning Journals. Social and Behavioral Sciences, 67, 135-143.
- Society for Adolescent Medicine, Ad Hoc Corporal Punishment Committee (2003). Corporal punishment in schools: Position Paper of the Society for Adolescent Medicine. Journal of Adolescent Health, 32, 385–393.
- Strong, A. B. (n.d.). How Do You Think – Creative or Logical. Retrieved from: http://strong.groups.et.byu.net/pages/articles/articles/creativity.pdf
- Trope, Y. (2010). Construal-Level Theory of Psychological Distance. Psychological Review, 117(2), 440-463.
- Yang, S. H. (2009). Using Blogs to Enhance Critical Reflection and Community of Practice. Proceedings Ascilite Melbourne 2008: Full Paper. Educational Technology & Society, 12(2), 11-21.
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