This web site was created for use by students in PSY 501.  The material on these pages is not intended for use by individuals not enrolled in that course.


Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development

This tutorial contains information about Lawrence Kohlberg'sideas of moral reasoning, including itsroots in Piaget's ideas of moral realismand morality of cooperation.

Lawrence Kohlberg's ideas of moral development are based on the premise that atbirth, all humans are void of morals, ethics, and honesty. He identified thefamily as the first source of values and moral development for an individual. He believed that as one's intelligence and ability to interact with othersmatures, so does one's patterns of moral behavior(Woolfolk, 1993).

Kohlberg based his ideas of moral reasoning on Piaget's moral reasoning andmorality of cooperation. He described three mainlevels of moral development with twostages in each level.

  1. punishment-obedience orientation
  2. personal reward orientation
  1. good boy-nice girl orientation
  2. law and order orientation
  1. social contract orientation
  2. universal ethical principle orientation

How do Kohlberg's ideas apply to the classroom?

Is Kohlberg the answer to all moral dilemmas?

Many people disagree with Kohlberg for various reasons. We will touch onsome of the criticisms of Kohlberg's theory,including whether moral development occurs in discreet stages, whether moralreasoning matches moral behavior, his bias against women, and the reliabilityand validity of his testing methods. The work ofCarol Gilligan will be outlined in thispart of the tutorial.

Is anyone using Kohlberg's ideas in the classroom?

We will profile real life examples of applicationsof his theories in the classroom environment. BuddChurchward, author of The Honor Level System: Discipline by Design,has developed a discipline program taking into account Kohlberg's ideas.


This page was originally created by Jon Becker, Paul Dorward, and Pam Pasciak in 1996.