Schooling and Moral Development

Educational Psychology


Schooling is very important to every human being because it does not only mean academic development but also stimulate students to develop personally, socially, emotionally and morally.. This statement has been supported by famous psychologists and scholars through their development theories. Most people agree with the fact that the school curriculum should include moral and personal education such as the installation of virtues such as hard work and chastity. The aim of this paper is to demonstrate how schooling leads to  personal, social, emotional and moral development with reference to theories of development from scholars such as Jean Piaget, Vygotsky, Erikson and others (Tuckman, 2011).

Moral development is the acquisition of values and principles that regulate human behaviors by enhancing positive character that benefit others and curtailing negative behavior that hurts others in the community. Social development is enhancing behaviors such as sharing, caring and supporting and restriction of selfishness, harming and hating. Personal development is personal assessment and self-maintenance. Individuals who have undergone personal development are more likely to act accordingly to their moral judgments and follow cultural and societal limits. Emotional development, on the other hand, is the acquisition of moral sensitivity. Moral sensitivity is the first step in moral functioning and most psychology theorists have agreed that education is vital in implanting emotions and sensitivity.

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According to Vygotsky, learning and development occur when there is the interaction between a student and an experienced teacher. It means that moral, social, personal and emotional developments occur when a student is equipped with comprehensive information from their teachers and is guided in the application process to ensure that their messages are  correctly presented. Teachers should encourage emotional and social development through creating a conducive learning environment and effective curriculum that expose students to moral, emotional, social and personal developments. Besides, the classroom interaction in school fosters social and emotional development. Teachers should help students to emulate good behavior from characters of each other. By doing so, teachers assist students to acquire and copy the virtues, manage and develop good principles (Newman, 2012).

Moral and social learning occurs through various contexts such as schools and education centers and also through various methods such as instructions from tutors and teachers.  According to Kohlberg’s cognitive model, moral development means the ability to solve complex moral dilemmas that requires people to make a choice between competing interests and values. Moreover, to draw effective judgments while giving consideration to one’s own welfare, law and acceptable principles of judgment. In order to develop these capacities in students, teachers and other education stakeholders should engage students’ discussions on moral-dilemma and enquire from students to choose and justify a course of action. Students should also be involved in discussing contradicting choice with the principles of justice and fairness. Moral motivation is another component of moral development that can be enhanced by teachers.

Moral motivation is the will to act, and students who have been well coached on moral identity are more likely to act. Teachers can enhance moral identity by exposing their students to virtues such as courage and honesty and creating opportunities for students to understand and acquire moral values and set particular goals. Teachers can also create class and culture within the school environment in order to enhance moral identity and development. Teachers should also ensure that they teach their students to apply moral lessons in their everyday lives. This includes solving conflicts with their peers, challenging discrimination and others. Educators can teach this by involving their students in community services and encouraging them to contribute to forums that discuss moral, legal and political topics (Daniels, 2011).

Lessons on social, personal, emotional and social development in school do not occur through the formal lessons but are included into the ‘hidden’ curriculum of the school. According to Philip Jackson, the ‘hidden’ curriculum involves norms, culture and policies that are applied in an institution of learning. School rules, discipline measures, school governance, rewarding procedures, teacher versus student interactions, and school culture all contribute in the hidden curriculum of education that contributes to social and moral development. How the teachers handle the issues of fairness equality, respect and rewarding also contribute to the development of moral and social virtues. Teachers should set certain rules and procedures, which the students have to follow.. They should also involve their students as much as possible in setting the school rules and different afterschool procedures. It is great importance to give enough sense of responsibility for the students in order to ensure that their environment is fair and just. According to the Integrative Ethical Education model developed in 2006, teachers can use five steps to enhance moral and social development in their students. The first is to establish a good relationship with each student. This will enhance moral education by providing the child with a caring relationship with the teacher. Secondly, the tutor should try to cultivate a friendly environment to support ethical character.

This environment could be the cultural behavior in a school or classroom. A caring classroom environment enhances moral growth where any discipline is not viewed as punishment but rather as the training of the development of a character. Thirdly, the teacher should include moral and social lesson into the curriculum. They can do this by teaching ethical skills and coaching them on how to develop socially, morally, personally and emotionally. Teachers can instruct the students to help them develop knowledge by designing lessons that teach through examples, facts and skills, practical lessons and application of knowledge into practical. The last is that, the teacher can coach the student on how to carry out self-assessment tests and self-regulation. Students learn how to use the lessons from their tutor to solve the problems effectively, to avoid tempting situations, so encourage and cheer themselves, to achieve their goals. The tutor should also encourage the students to apply their acquired knowledge within their communities. This enables them to co-exist with their communities (Kail, 2010).

Schools can also generate personal growth by reinforcing important aspects such as teamwork, self-esteem and care through both theoretical and practical methods of learning. According to a report carried out in 1997 on a group of adolescent youth, it was discovered that when students understand and they are treated well in their schools, they not only become emotionally stable and mature, but they also perform better in their studies. Teachers should have confidence; hope and trust in their students for this will enhance their social, emotional and personal maturity. Schools can achieve this through interaction with their students in their normal academic lessons and also outside normal classes such as in the guidance and counseling lessons which have now become common in schools. For example, a group of students can be assigned to a particular teacher to meet regularly and discuss on topics such as their academic improvements, ethical issues, their future aspirations and practice good citizenship by engaging in a community projects such as visiting the orphans and making a difference in the community. Students can also be engaged in teambuilding and cooperation activities to enhance their moral, personal and emotional growth which occurs when students interact, negotiate and solve any conflicts around them. As students learn and interact in school, they experiment with virtues such as fairness, justice, responsibility and morality and by doing so, they expand their thinking capacities resulting into emotional, personal, social and moral development (Shaffer, 2010).

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Teachers can also encourage cognitive development by establishing a ‘mentorship’ program whereby they train and support students. Such a program would encourage implementation of the lessons learnt in school within a community. Apart from reporting to the teacher in case of a serious case such as abuse or rape, the student mentors learn to listen keenly to their peers and offer them moral and emotional support. They also get to practice empathy and to keep such information in total confidence. The program may also organize events such as orientation activities for the fresh students. Students also learn and develop by taking up duties and responsibilities commonly assigned to them in school such as being the class boss or being the captain of a team. This enables them to be responsible and to build teamwork and cooperation (Harmening, 2010).


Schooling is important because it not only encourages academic growth, but it also enhances moral, social and personal development. Since young people are in their cognitive as well as their social, emotional and moral development stage, the schools have come up with measures of enhancing such developments. These measures include the schools’ policies and structures that affect the way students behave and act. The teachers act as role models and through their interaction with students, they form a close relationship with everyone, which in its turn encourages the students to believe in themselves and develop both academically as well as socially, emotionally, personally and morally. Teachers should also incorporate into the school curriculum activities that help the students to apply the lessons learnt in class on emotional development and morality. Such activities include community services, assigning of responsibilities, teamwork and cooperation. Therefore, schools become not only grounds for academic development, but also day to day all round growing grounds for the kids (Sigelman, 2011).

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