STS- Reflection 3

I found Kerrie’s observation that young people often get a self image of being feared in the community interesting. I know I’ve been tempted at times to feel fear when I come across a large group of rowdy teenagers. But then I remind myself that I know teenagers and, most of the time, there is nothing to fear. I think it’s sad that teenagers are ostracised from the community and often unknowingly play into this self perception. This reminds me of provocation 9, how will I control my students? While the classroom needs to be one of respect, often teachers feel a desperate need to control their classroom out of fear of their students. Teachers, at times, may only be perpetuating the perception that teenagers need to be feared and controlled.


Ed Foundations comments

My two Education Foundations blog comments can be found here



REPUTATION ON THE LINE – Ed Foundations Post 2

Anne has sailed through her first seven years of teaching. She has high expectations of both herself and her students, expectations that her students have lived up to… at least until now. One year into teaching Aboriginal Students she is finding that “the pre-class reading and revision is not being completed and she has to waste time in class when they should be exploring the material in depth. The weekly revision test marks have been slipping as a result.” Anne’s reputation is on the line!

I will give some suggestions to Anne, drawing on the two Snowman articles that explore behaviourist and constructivist learning theories. All quotes that follow are from these two articles, with page numbers given in brackets.

Behavioural Learning Theory

In order to adopt a behavioural approach, Anne needs to pinpoint exactly what the undesired behaviour is that her students are exhibiting. I would suggest that it is their failure to complete their homework. Snowman recommends that a teacher then needs to reflect on this behaviour, something that Anne may not have had to do in her teaching practice to date. He suggests two questions as a starting point:

  • There have to be some causes for that behaviour. Can I figure out what they are and do something about changing things for the better?
  • Am I doing something that is leading to types of behaviour that are making life difficult for some or all of us in the room? (p.250)

This need for reflection is vital. Perhaps Anne’s own behaviour might be causing her student’s failure to do their homework. I will explore how this might be the case and suggest several behavioural approaches she might take to change this situation

How is Anne responding to her student’s failure to complete homework? Is it with anger and frustration or other forms of punishment? Snowman observes that punishment is an extremely common form of discipline amongst teachers, despite being “largely ineffective” (p.247). Instead, perhaps Anne could use positive and negative reinforcement to reinforce the behaviour that she wants to see in her students.

As an example of positive reinforcement, Anne could praise the class when they do complete work. In a study based in 38 American schools, Goodlad found that “Teachers’ praise of student work occurred about… 1 percent of the time in high school” (p.250).

As an example of negative reinforcement, Anne could suggest that if they complete their homework then they will not have to stay in class during lunchtime.

Anne could also implement the Premack principle (p.242), suggesting that if they complete their homework, instead of spending the first 10 minutes of the class revising they can play a game or do something else the class enjoys.

Constructivist Learning Theory

I will focus on one aspect of the constructivist theory which I found really interesting, the concept of situated learning: 

A student’s prior knowledge is a key aspect to the constructivist learning theory. Ausubel writes that “the most single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows” (p.338). Has Anne assessed what her students already know about the topic that she is teaching them? Not only does it need to connect to prior knowledge, learning must also be “situated” (p.342).This means that learning is most likely to relate to a student’s previous knowledge when it is set in a realistic context. (p.342)

Perhaps Anne could reflect on what sorts of tasks she is setting her students, as this might be a key reason why they are struggling to complete them. If these tasks do not relate to real-life problems then Anne is only producing “inert knowledge” (p.342) in her students. From everything else that we know about Anne, this could be exactly what is going on. Anne has a very results focused pedagogy. Her reputation as a great teacher is linked to her ability to produce students that achieve high grades. The reason why she is distressed that her student’s are not completing homework is because their weekly revision marks are slipping. If this is the case, then it is only relevant that her students complete their homework so that they can engage in class and succeed in tests. There is no relevance to their ‘real’ lives. To refer to Provocation 6, what will students want and need from me? Anne’s students need her to consider the constructivist learning theory so that they can be prepared for a future of life-long learning.

Convicted not Controlled (the ethical implications of ICT 5)

The last stage in Kohlberg’s model (See Kohlberg’s table in Post 2) states that “moral action is determined by our inner conscience.” According to Berkowitz and Grych (1998), conscience has two main aspects.

  • The first is affective discomfort which encompasses the emotional results of transgression; e.g., guilt, apology, empathy for the victim, etc.
  • The second is active moral regulation or vigilance, which encompasses the classical internalization of standards along with confession, reparation, and monitoring of others’ wrongdoing. (Berkowitz, M and Grych, J 1998, p.376)

The first aspect describes the emotional side of conscience: as explored in the previous post, emotions such as empathy have an important link to morality. The second aspect speaks of the importance of internalised standards. A student that has progressed to this stage would no longer be making ethical decisions purely based on an external framework, such as school principles or national law. Instead “moral action is determine by our inner conscience, and may or may not be in agreement with public opinion or society’s laws.” (See Kohlberg’s table in Post 2)

So how do we move students to the point where they have personal, internal ownership over their morality? At this point I am not sure. Reflecting on my own moral development, the reason why I reached this stage is because I became a Christian. While I may not know how to respond to every possible ethical decision I might be confronted with, the Christian gospel gives me a framework of love, compassion, humility and sacrifice with which to work out a response.

My concern here is that if I am confronted by a student acting unethically and I can only default to school principles or national law in order to tell them why, they will never reach this stage of higher, internalised morality. If this student then questions why what they are doing is wrong according to school or national law, how do I answer them?

While some may see school principles and the law of the land as society’s way of setting up a ‘God-like’ structure, when it comes to internalisation they are very different. Being a Christian is not about rigidly following a set of rules barked angrily from the heavens. Instead it is about being personally convicted by God’s love and forgiveness shown to you: an internalised ethical framework

While I would love spirituality to be discussed more in public education, I am not sure this is a realistic suggestion. Perhaps there are other ways for students to develop this internalised morality. While I am not sure how to get to this point, discussing the ethical challenges that ICT confronts students with has to be a good start.

Image retrieved from

Berkowitz, M and Grych, J 1998, ‘Fostering Goodness: Teaching Parents to Facilitate Children’s Moral Development,’ Journal of Moral Education, vol 23, no.3, p371-391

Moving Forward (the ethical implications of ICT 4)

If  teachers are to play a role in their student’s moral development, how can they go about doing this? How can they equip their students to make ethical decisions as they interact with the Internet? Over the next two posts I will explore three aspects to morality that might help them to do this: moral reasoning, conscience and empathy.

Berkowitz and Grych (1998) describe Kohlberg’s model of moral reasoning (referred to in post 2) as “a developmental progression of increasingly more effective ways of thinking about and resolving moral problems and issues” (Berkowitz, M and Grych, J 1998, p.378). Teachers, then, who want to equip their students to resolve moral problems and issues that arise when using the internet, need to move these students along Kohlberg’s scale.

I mentioned in post 2 that, when it comes to Internet use, students may not have progressed to stage 4 of Kholberg’s scale: authority and social order obedience driven. One suggestion to help them progress to this level might be to familiarise students with national law and how it relates to their internet usage. This would foster awareness that their choices on the internet do have consequences, sometimes even criminal ones. Meyenn (2000) also suggests that schools set up a set of ethical principles that students are to adhere to (Meyenn, A 2000, p.70). These steps would provide students with an ethical framework to adhere to.

While this is a good start, students will still be functioning at a fairly basic level of morality. The next stage in Kholberg’s model introduces empathy into the ethical framework.  Kagan (1984) identifies empathy as one of the “core moral emotions” (Kagan, J. 1984) and Damon (1988) considers it “one of morality’s primary emotional supports” (Damon, W 1977, p.14). How then do teachers encourage empathy in their students? Meyenn (2000) encourages teachers to work through a series of questions and reflections with students that require an “empathy step” (Meyenn, A 2000, p.69). An example of this would be to ask “are you treating others as you would want to be treated.”  (Meyenn, A 2000, p.69)

Black (2004) believes that “electronic communication risks eroding empathy” (Black, R. 2004) Conversely, I would like to suggest that the ethical challenges posed by the Internet offers adolescents a chance to grow in their empathy. Students are now in the position to learn a sense of global empathy: called to empathise not merely with people in their classrooms or workplaces, but with people they have never met: people who live in different countries and come from different cultures, yet are connected through the internet.

Carroll, S and Collins, J F 2005, ‘The human person, information technology and religious education,’  Religious Education Journal of Australia, vol 21, no. 1, p33-37

Berkowitz, M and Grych, J 1998, ‘Fostering Goodness: Teaching Parents to Facilitate Children’s Moral Development,’ Journal of Moral Education, vol 23, no.3, p371-391

Meyenn, A 2000, ‘a proposed methodology for the teaching of Information Technology ethics in schools.’ Darlinghurst, Australia:  Australian Computer Society, Inc.

Kagan, J 1984, ‘The nature of the child.’ New York: Basic Books.

Damon, W 1977, ‘The social world of the child,’ San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Black, R. 2004, Community in an electronic age. Eureka Street, jan Feb, pp30-33

Go Forth and Build Character (the ethical implications of ICT 3)


Who is responsible for a child’s moral development? Is the parent? the teacher? The child themselves?

Berkowitz and Grych (1998) see adults as having a key role in a young person’s moral development. They observe that “over the past century a wealth of data has been amassed concerning the development of morality in children and adolescents. Throughout this time, the role of adults… in the development of children’s morality has been a central focus” (Berkowitz, M and Grych, J 1998, p.371). Amongst adults, Berkowitz and Grych view the parent as having the most important role in the development of their child’s morality. They reference a particular study which found “greater moral reasoning development when mothers were included in moral discussion with their children than in a traditional classroom moral discussion intervention.” ” (Berkowitz, M and Grych, J 1998, p.380)

Does this mean then that the teacher has no role to play?  William Damon (1999) believes that moral development is  “an incremental process, occurring gradually in thousands of small ways: feedback from others; observations of actions by others that either inspire or appall; reflections on one’s own experience; cultural influences such as family, school, religious institutions and the mass media. The relative importance of these factors varies from child to child (Damon, W 1999 p.61). This is quite a vague conclusion, as he cites everything as having a potential influence on our moral development. If he is correct, however, teachers need to at least assess the possibility that they have a role to play.

According to the Australian government, teachers do have a role to play: in the National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools we read that “education is as much about building character as it is transferring skills, knowledge and the thirst for learning” (Department of Education Science and Training 2005). This brings up a multitude of questions and issues: What does it mean to build character? How will this play out practically in the classroom? Which values should you teach? Anders, D et al. (2008) conducted a study in 2008, in which they analysed a teacher’s approach to values education, it was found that ‘she primarily [relied] on her own value system in the informal messages she conveys to students’ (Anders, D et al. 2008, p.18). While students and parents were positive in this case, Anders, D et al. (2008) realised that “Where there is conflict over values…Helen’s approach may be seen as indoctrination.” (Anders, D et al. 2008, p.18)

These questions show that there is a lot of grey area when it comes to the Government’s Values Education Framework. But what is the alternative? Should we leave all responsibility for a child’s moral development to their parents? Could we do this even if we wanted to? Regardless of these questions, teachers are being asked by the Australian Government to ‘build character,’ it’s just a matter of working out what this looks like in relation to ICT.

Image retrieved from

Damon, W 1999, ‘the moral development of children’. Scientific American, vol 281, no.2, p.72- 88.

Berkowitz, M and Grych, J 1998, ‘Fostering Goodness: Teaching Parents to Facilitate Children’s Moral Development,’ Journal of Moral Education, vol 23, no.3, p371-391

Department of Education Science and Training (2005). National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools. Retrieved from

Anders, D et al. 2008, ‘the classroom teacher: making a difference through values education,’ The Social Educator, vol 26, no. 2, p.11-18

Got Ethics? (the ethical implications of ICT 2)

Adolescents are constantly making “decisions and choices that require the application of ethical and moral judgments” (Meyenn, A 2000, p.67). If this is the case, how do they go about making these decisions?  Do teenagers have an ethical framework that enables them to make decisions about right and wrong, particularly when it comes to the internet?

I ask this question thinking back on my own childhood. I remember setting up my first email account in year 10 (it was a fairly ICT free existence up until then). Soon after a friend thought it would be hilarious to set up a fake email account under the name of a classmate. She used the account to email another friend with an expression of undying love and an invitation to meet at the bike racks after school. Meyenn’s (2000) observation regarding consequences (discussed in the previous post) was definitely at play here: she could not see the consequences of her actions (thankfully there weren’t any). What she did had a very unreal quality to it: she didn’t have to physically hand a letter to our friend and watch him open it, instead she just hit the send button.

At this point, Kohlberg’s theory of moral development is helpful (Kohlberg, L 1971).

external image kohlberg-table.jpg

Where are students on this moral scale, particularly when it comes to ICT? Stage 4 involves an ethics based on respecting authority and following laws.  Are students aware at this stage? Are they aware of how national law might relate to the choices they make on the internet? Recently two teenage girls from Florida were arrested for cyber-bullying. “The girls, aged 15 and 16, created a fake Facebook profile in the name of another student…and added photos doctored to make it look like their victim was engaged in sexually explicit acts” (Quinn, R 2011). Are teenagers aware that their actions on the internet could be illegal?

Perhaps many students are still at stage 2, self interest driven. At this stage ethics is based on what brings rewards. Other people are taken into account only if there will be a positive consequence, in other words an “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” (Berkowitz, M and Grych, J 1998, p.378) type of situation. My friend’s motivation for setting up a fake email account when we were 15 was a self interest driven decision: it was done for the reward of humour with no sense of empathy.

Meyenn, A 2000, ‘a proposed methodology for the teaching of Information Technology ethics in schools.’ Darlinghurst, Australia:  Australian Computer Society, Inc.

Kohlberg, L 1971, ‘Stages of Moral Development.’

Berkowitz, M and Grych, J 1998, ‘Fostering Goodness: Teaching Parents to Facilitate Children’s Moral Development,’ Journal of Moral Education, vol 23, no.3, p371-391

Quinn, R 2011, ‘Teens Arrested Over Facebook Prank.’ Retrieved from

Table sourced from