Moral development and children's literature

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The Kohlberg theory of moral development was the basis of a program designed for use in the sixth grade classroom of the public schools. Results of the Kohlberg research and related research were translated into fifteen theoretical assumptions. These assumptions were the foundation or primary consideration in the designing of five activities which could be conducted in the classroom. The five activities were associated with selections from children's literature and arranged to constitute a program which operationalizes the Kohlberg theory of moral development. The program was reviewed for theoretical consistency.

The program includes the following types of children's literature: fable, fairy tale, animal story, family story, realistic fiction, minority literature, historical fiction, science fiction, and fantasy. Each unit of literature includes an introduction to the particular type and to the work itself, objectives for the unit, directions for the teacher and five activities which are based on the theoretical assumptions in accord with the particular literary work under study. These activities include: (l) Question/answer—paper/pencil, (2) Peer-led discussion—literature based, (3) Discussion—analogous situation, (4) Role-taking opportunities, and (5) Individual— concrete expression. The literature units also include a method of student evaluation, aids to teacher interpretation and a list of materials needed.

An analysis of the curriculum indicates the criteria for adherence of a unit to the theoretical assumptions, an in depth analysis of a sample unit, and a review of the remaining eight units according to the established criteria.