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Sponsored by the Center for ETHICS* University of Idaho. Trends in Moral Reasoning and Social Reasoning: Implications for Future Leaders in Sport Am ukela M. Gwebu, University of Idaho Sharon Kay Stoll, Ph.D., University of Idaho Jennifer Beller, Ph.D. Washington State University. Abstract

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Sponsored by the Center for ETHICS*University of Idaho

Trends in Moral Reasoning and Social Reasoning: Implications for Future Leaders in SportAmukela M. Gwebu, University of IdahoSharon Kay Stoll, Ph.D., University of IdahoJennifer Beller, Ph.D. Washington State University


The purpose of this paper is to discuss trends in character education of high school and college athletes, crucial issues in character education, and effective strategies for teaching values in formal and hidden curricula. Ten current studies conducted on high school and university populations using the Rudd Stoll Beller Hahm (RSBH) Values Choice Inventory indicate a decline in moral reasoning and social reasoning. The RSBH, a 20 question tool, is valid and reliable. The social character index has a Cronbach alpha of .72 and the moral character index has a Cronbach alpha of. 88. A repeated measures ANOVA was run to detect differences by Time and the main factors of Gender and Status (non-athlete, team, and individual sport). Scores for 7 high schools (2004) across the board for both moral reasoning and social reasoning are lower than normal in relation to 70,000 inventory base. Among the three university populations one institution is higher than the 60 000 inventory base, though not significantly higher – indicating that the higher score of this particular group maybe a statistical anomaly. Wilks’ Lambda were run. Between subjects ANOVA was run to detect differences by status. After a significant F, Fishers LSD post-hoc was run: team sport athletes scored significantly lower, than non-athletes and individual sport athletes but higher in social reasoning. Males scored significantly lower than females in both categories. The data sets from these institutions indicate the students have few reasoning tools to make good decisions about social and moral reasoning than at other time in our history of data collection – from 1987. In addition women’s scores that previously were higher are declining towards the levels of their male counterparts. Our educational system and our social environment have directly and negatively affected these students. The schools in the study have implemented a character education intervention program to increase the reasoning tools for these student athletes, and preliminary data suggests that a specific type of moral education intervention using role models as instructors appear to improve moral reasoning.

What is moral reasoning?

Moral Reasoning, as defined, is a systematic process of evaluating personal values and developing a consistent and impartial set of moral principles to live by (Lumpkin, Stoll, & Beller, 1995). Moral reasoning is imperative to accomplish is a philosophic process based on the laws and customs of philosophic reasoning. Moral reasoning is not ideology, or theology, or some mystical practice of making people become good. Rather moral reasoning is based on the assumption that as reasoning individuals, each of us can, through self-examination, cognitive dissonance, and a specific methodology, grow cognitively about our moral decision making process. Moral reasoning does not promise behavioral change, but it does promise individual soul searching and reflection on personal beliefs, values, and principles. Without this process, dissonance is impossible and cognitive moral growth will not increase.

Implications for Research and Interventions

We have been involved in long-term research intervention with Division I football teams. We develop curriculums based in moral reasoning in which the head coach and selected coaches teach the curriculum in 15-minute modules, three times a week during their season through spring ball. From the data gleaned from these populations, we know that success in moral reasoning is predicated on:

1. The coaches must be dedicated to the philosophy of intervention and believe in the moral bases of the intervention program.

2. The coaches in applying the curriculum and intervention must stay on task and follow the curriculum design.

3. The coaches must carry through and follow each lesson plan without drifting too far a field.

4. The coaches must finish the entire program.

5. The coaches or coordinator must pre-test and post-test.

Moral Reasoning in Athlete Populations a 20 Year Review

We have been studying moral reasoning and moral education intervention programs in athletic populations for 20 years. Below find what we know about the process of moral reasoning and moral development.

1. Athlete populations score significantly lower on moral reasoning inventories than do non-athlete populations.

2. Male revenue producing sport athletes score significantly lower than non-revenue producing sport athletes do.

3. Females score significantly higher than males, either revenue producing or non-revenue producing.

4. Female scores are dropping and we predict they will converge with the men’s scores if no intervention takes place.

5. Longitudinal studies of discrete competitive populations drop over a four-year period whether high school or college.

6. Moral reasoning scores of non-intervened athletic populations are decreasing at significant rates.

7. The longer one is in athletics, the more affected is one’s moral reasoning.

8. Intervention programs can have a positive effect on moral reasoning.

9. Effective intervention programs have a long-term effect on moral reasoning.

10. Moral reasoning is one facet of a highly complex process of moral development.

Moral Education: What it is and is not.

Moral education is the deliberate cultivating of moral growth and moral judgment that can be articulated through moral action. Moral education is the encouragement of a capacity for moral judgment. Moral education then is about the ability not only to form moral judgments but also to have the courage to act upon them. When moral judgment is translated into an appropriate moral action, moral education is most clearly expressed McIntosh in his 1979 work said, “[t]he morally educated person is expected not only to be able to make moral judgments but act upon them. (p. 167).

Moral education is beyond the scope of moral training, which implies drilling to encourage individuals to conform to moral rules without much understanding of the principles involved. In contrast, moral education encourages reflection about moral issues in light of moral principles which are translated to appropriate moral action (Arnold, 1994).

  • What this means for Coaches and Athlete populations
  • Coaches should teach athletes to value the experience of competition and movement without the emphasis on winning.
  • Model a total educational experience for student-athletes. Covering both objective- subjective purposes of athletics.. For example working with academics, not as a separate entity
  • Coaches and teachers believe passionately in the philosophy moral bases of intervention. Idealism rather realism “ought to, or should be” rather than relative practices. Walk the walk to talk to the talk!
  • The student-athletes have no formal character education. Student athletes need unique-dynamic curriculum to address lack of understanding of acceptable social and moral behavior.

Moral Education in the Development of Personal Character

Moral education is a lifelong endeavor. We aren’t necessarily born moral or immoral and morality doesn’t mysteriously occur in childhood and stay rooted in our psyches for life. (There is some research arguing that we are born with empathy, see S. Lamb, 1988). Rather, all of us grow, mature, and develop or do not develop morally through our education and environment and we are highly affected by moral role models.