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Moral Development and Values Education. Sue Walker. Moral development. How and when do children develop an understanding of standards and of right and wrong? How do interactions with parents and siblings in the family contribute to moral understanding?

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Moral development

  • How and when do children develop an understanding of standards and of right and wrong?

  • How do interactions with parents and siblings in the family contribute to moral understanding?

  • How do interactions with teachers and peers contribute to moral understanding?

  • What can parents and teachers do to nurture children’s moral development?

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Sense of Morality

  • Distinguish right from wrong (cognitive component)

  • Prepared to act accordingly (behavioural component)

  • How we feel about it (affective component)

It is not just prosocial behaviour – sharing, helping

It is not just habits of politeness – please, thank you

It is not just certain character traits – honesty, generosity

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Factors affecting moral development

  • Cognitive development

  • Interactions with peers

  • Use of reasons and rationales

  • Moral issues and dilemmas

  • Sense of self

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Morality in preschool interaction

  • What moral values and norms do teachers encourage children to develop?

  • How do teachers attend to the values that children express in their daily interaction with teachers and peers?

  • Morality is based on concrete experiences and develops as a result of interactions

    • Moral situations

    • Moral values and norms

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Promoting moral development

  • Clarify which behaviours are acceptable and which are not

  • Engage children in discussion about moral issues

  • Help children to understand a friend’s emotional feelings

  • Help children to understand others’ perspectives

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Values for Australian Schooling community. Participation in any community requires knowledge and understanding of its norms, rules, and values” (Katz & McClellan, 1997, p vii).

  • Care and compassion

    • Care for self and others

  • Doing your best

    • Try hard, pursue excellence

  • Freedom

    • Enjoy the rights and privileges of Australian citizenship

  • Honesty and trustworthiness

    • Be honest, sincere and seek the truth

  • Integrity

    • Moral and ethical conduct

  • Respect

    • Treat others with consideration and regard

  • Responsibility

    • Be accountable for one’s own actions

  • Understanding, tolerance and inclusion

    • Be aware of others and their cultures, accept diversity

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Educating young children for democracy community. Participation in any community requires knowledge and understanding of its norms, rules, and values” (Katz & McClellan, 1997, p vii).

  • What kind of education is most suitable in helping children learn to live in a democracy?

  • Education for a democracy demands that the individual be recognised

    • Valuing children’s individuality

    • Valuing different perspectives and opinions

    • Nurturing independent critical thinking

      • Ask questions that have many possible answers

      • Give children time to think and the resources to investigate

(Cincilei, David & Grob, 2000)

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Benefits of democratic participatory approaches in early childhood

  • Children can acquire the ability to:

    • Trust themselves to make meaningful decisions

    • Learn to trust others

    • Assume responsibility for their own actions

    • Acknowledge their own value by learning that opinions count

    • Build skill competence and independence

    • Respect authority

    • Understand that diversity is to be celebrated

    • Respect themselves and others

    • Value a sense of community membership

(Erwin & Kipness, 2000)

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Promoting democratic values childhood

  • Allow children to make important decisions that affect the whole group

  • Encourage children to address real challenges by problem solving and negotiating

  • Teach children to respect uniqueness and appreciate diversity

  • Assist children in assuming responsibility for the classroom environment

  • Respect children’s right to decide how they want to spend their time and with whom

  • Encourage children to try to do things independently even if they may have difficulty

  • Teach children that others also have rights

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Values for democratic participation childhood

  • Respect for diversity

  • Recognition of multiple perspectives

  • Welcoming curiosity

  • Critical thinking

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religion childhood








gender role

family composition


skin colour

Respect for diversity

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Respect for the environment childhood

  • “Think globally act locally”

  • Sustainability in early childhood

    • context-specific

    • natural play spaces and bio-diversity

    • water conservation

    • compost food scraps

    • waste reduction

(Davis & Pratt, 2005)

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Values in ECE childhood

  • Helping children to develop empathy

    • Encourage role playing

    • Help children understand how other people feel

  • Helping children learn to be generous, altruistic and able to share

    • Help children learn to share equipment

  • Help children learn that being kind to others feels good

    • Helping is one way of expressing kindness

(Hendrick & Weissman, 2006)

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Values in ECE childhood

  • Teach children that everyone has rights

    • …..and that rules apply to everyone

  • Emphasise the value of cooperation and compromise

    • Model cooperation and helping behaviour

    • Teach the art of compromise

  • Help children discover the pleasure of friendships

(Hendrick & Weissman, 2006)

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Moral classroom, moral children childhood

  • Creating a constructivist atmosphere in early care and education

  • Organising to meet children’s needs

    • Physiological needs

    • Emotional needs

    • Intellectual needs

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Constructivist alternatives to discipline childhood

  • Avoid sanctions/punishments

  • Encourage children’s ownership of logical consequences

  • When children suggest a consequence that is too severe, ask the wrongdoer to say how he or she feels (and support this feeling)

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Constructivist alternatives cont… childhood

  • Verbalise the cause-effect relation when natural consequences occur

  • Selectively allow natural consequences to occur

  • Offer opportunities for restitution

  • Avoid indefinite consequences

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Conditions for democracy childhood

  • Supportive conditions – a commitment to and support of democratic participation

  • The child is viewed as a competent citizen

  • Parents are seen as competent citizens

  • Educators are recognised as practitioners of democracy

  • Time to reflect upon, interpret and evaluate practice

(Moss, 2007)

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References childhood

  • Cincilei, C., David, J. & Grob, B. (2000). Changing to a child-centred approach: Teachers reflect on the Moldovan experience. Journal of the International Step by Step Association, 1 (1), 9-13.

  • Curriculum Corporation (2006). Implementing the national framework for values education in Australian schools. Curriculum Corporation: Carlton South, Vic

  • Davis, J. & Pratt, R. (2005) The sustainable planet project: Creating cultural change at Campus Kindergarten. Every Child, 11 (4).

  • Erwin, E.J. & Kipness, N.A. (2000). Fostering democratic values in inclusive early childhood settings. Journal of the International Step by Step Association, 1 (1), 18 – 21.

  • Hendrick, J. & Weissman, P. (2007). Total learning: Developmental curriculum for young children (7th ed.). Pearson: Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

  • Moss, P. (2007). Bringing politics into the nursery: Early childhood education as democratic practice. Working Paper 43. Bernard van Leer Foundation: The Hague, The Netherlands.