Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Education for the development of critical moral consciousness: a case study of a moral education Program in a North Carolina Public High School

This dissertation consists of a case study of a moral education and community development program in a North Carolina public high school. The program was specifically designed to help close the achievement gap between academically disadvantaged, predominantly minority students and academically advantaged, primarily white students by seeking to reduce the effects of racism and create conditions for compassionate, transformative understanding between diverse members of the school community. Qualitative data on the program was collected during the 2005-06 academic year and analyzed primarily using Dr. Elena Mustakova-Possardt's developmental theory of critical moral consciousness, as well as ideas of such theorists and educators as Paulo Freire, Parker Palmer, April Crosby, Earle Fox, Jack Mezirow, Robert Boyd, Victor Turner and Emmanuel Levinas among others. The study determined that the program stimulated the development of critical moral consciousness, as defined by Mustakova-Possardt, in several participants. Among the pedagogical factors responsible for this effect appeared to be the program founder's success in creating what Mustakova-Possardt calls an authentic moral environment that amplified participants' moral motivation in relation to their a) senses of identity, b) senses of authority, responsibility and agency, c) relationships, and d) questions about life's meaning. In particular, the learners' experience of authentic communication with one another regarding an issue of moral concern, together with their facilitated reflection on this issue utilizing a conceptual framework that promotes the values of unity in diversity and authenticity and explicitly regards participants as spiritual beings, was found to be especially effective in developing their critical moral consciousness. Other factors reflected in the curriculum linked to this effect were its problem-posing and experiential approach to learning and its encouragement of risk-taking within a safe and affirming learning environment.