Exploring students’ understanding of values and moral reasoning
This paper was presented at the Distance Education and Teacher's Training in Africa (DETA) 2009 Conference, August 2009, Ghana. This paper discusses research conducted among distance education students of the University of Pretoria in 2009. The paper argues that being human means having the capacity to make choices and to act in accordance with the choices made. The choices people make are based on their own personal and socially constructed values, assumptions and beliefs. This personal set of values, assumptions and beliefs informs our understanding of what is morally right and morally wrong and of the type of conduct that would be just and ethical. Moral reasoning is thus an individual or collective reasoning about what, morally, one ought to do. Morality is, at the very least, the effort to guide one’s conduct by reason - that is, to do what there are the best reasons for doing. In moral reasoning it is assumed that the person having to take a moral decision will give equal weight to the interests of each individual who will be affected by what one does. This line of reasoning suggests that there must be certain moral principles that should guide a decision. The aim of the research is to explore students’ thinking and argumentation on moral dilemmas with a view of understanding how students, who are all practising teachers, take moral decisions. Although the study will run over a number of years, some preliminary findings of a survey undertaken in June 2009 are discussed indicating some of the initial trends emerging from the data.