Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: https://hdl.handle.net/2440/103484
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Type: Theses
Title: Examining the relationship between moral reasoning, cognitive reasoning and learning preferences of high-school students in selected South Australian schools
Author: Sivakumar, Sasikala
Issue Date: 2014
School/Discipline: School of Education
Abstract: Moral reasoning involves making value judgements and decisions on a particular course of action, specifically with the rightness and wrongness of that action. Through programmes in moral education, such as problem solving on moral and ethical dilemmas, the moral reasoning skills and abilities of students can be stimulated and developed. Although much research has been done with moral reasoning, there has been little research that has explored the relationship between moral reasoning and cognitive reasoning. The present study examined the effects on moral reasoning by cognitive reasoning levels and learning preferences of high school students. The study also investigated the effect of student variables (age, class, sex and school types) on the stages of moral reasoning, cognitive reasoning levels and the learning preferences of these students. The study involved 227 students from Years 9 to 12 with ages ranging from 14-18 from government, catholic and independent schools in South Australia. In order to identify the moral reasoning stages of the students, the Defining Issues Test (DIT) was administered. The cognitive reasoning levels of these students were ascertained using the Arlin Test of Formal Reasoning (ATFR) and students’ learning preferences were assessed using the Index of Leaning Styles (ILS), the Learning Preference Inventory (LPI) and the Visual, Aural, Read/Write, Kinaesthetic (VARK). The authors for DIT, ILS, LPI and VARK have posited that reliability indices reported are accurate as they have been tested with large sample sizes across a number of countries. Validation of ATFR was undertaken through multi trait, multi methods reported elsewhere and through the Rasch analysis. It was evident from the results that scores on DIT increased with age with a steady increase in moral reasoning stages from year nine to 12. In terms of sex, females outperformed males in the DIT scores but there were no differences in moral reasoning stages from the different school types. It was also found that that in the ATFR test, scores increased with age and class and although males and females fared differently in different subtests of ATFR, there was no overall significant difference in their performance. Non parametric statistics were used to identify learning preferences of these students. While there were no differences in the learning preferences between boys and girls or among the different school types, there were some differences among the different age groups. Older students had a preference for more innovative and creative type of learning as compared to younger students as measured by ILS and students in the higher grades also had a preference for different sensory modalities as compared to their younger counterparts as measured by VARK. Furthermore, it was evident from the study that DIT had strong positive associations with the ATFR Cognitive Levels as described by Arlin (1984) and the ATFR subscales. Students who had higher scores on DIT were operating at the formal reasoning level and the DIT questionnaire evoked reasoning skills around the eight schemata (Volume, Probability, Correlation, Combination, Proportional Reasoning, Mechanics and Frames). There were also interesting results from the Learning Preferences Instruments where students who were categorised as Intuitive versus Sensing learners had strong associations with DIT. The results provide evidence that DIT has some strong reasoning and critical thinking component as Intuitive Sensing learners are described as analytical and reflective learners. Structural Equation Modeling through the LISREL software was used to examine the moderating effects of sex, class and school types on the direct effects of cognitive reasoning levels on the moral reasoning stages. Through LISREL it was confirmed that girls performed better than boys on moral reasoning skills. Although the moderation effect in the performance of years nine and 10 was minimal, there was a significant relationship between cognitive reasoning levels and moral reasoning stages in senior high school. When the schools were separated using LISREL, students in catholic and independent schools performed better than students in government schools. Furthermore, LISREL was used to explore the mediating effects of students’ learning preferences on the direct effects of cognitive reasoning levels on moral reasoning stages. Moreover, this study found a number of mediating effects that were significant. Although the findings of this study may not be generalisable due to the small sample size and necessary convenience sampling they have important implications in assisting programs in schools that promote both cognitive reasoning and moral reasoning among students in the junior and senior high schools through specific professional development and teacher education programmes. Importantly, the moderator and mediation analyses present to those entrusted with developing curriculum around cognitive reasoning, moral reasoning, and the delivery of instructions in classrooms, pertinent factors and variables that need to be taken into consideration.
Advisor: Burley, Stephanie
Dawson, Christopher
Matthews, Brian
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Education 2014
Keywords: moral reasoning
cognitive reasoning
learning preferences
Provenance: Copyright material removed from digital thesis. See print copy in University of Adelaide Library for full text.
This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at: http://www.adelaide.edu.au/legals
DOI: 10.4225/55/58ae7d78de109
Appears in Collections:Research Theses

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