K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education


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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • review Lawrence Kohlberg’s Six Stages of Moral Reasoning
  • debate a controversial subject reflecting Kohlberg’s theories
  • evaluate their behavior and beliefs by identifying what stage of moral reasoning dominates their thoughts.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

1 hour


  • Psychology references
  • Copy of a controversial subject to be debated in class. The teacher can use articles from newspapers, magazines, or the internet as a resource.
  • Pen or pencil and paper for each student.

Technology resources

Computer with internet access (optional)


The teacher should conduct a quick review of Lawrence Kohlberg’s Six Stages of Moral Reasoning. Resource activities can be used to insure students can identify each stage and the moral reasoning involved.


  1. Beforehand, search through newspapers, magazines, or the Internet for an article describing a controversial subject that would fuel a class debate. Such topics could include abortion, physician-assisted suicide, capital punishment, or other topics the teacher believes are suitable for classroom use.
  2. Distribute copies to the students. It would be helpful to have students read the article and then write a brief description of their beliefs supported with reasons why they feel as they do. This will enable students to participate more fully in the debate.
  3. Divide the class into two groups to discuss the pros and cons of the article. At this time, a debate should be conducted. The teacher should act as a mediator, allowing students to voice their opinions and not dominate the discussion.
  4. Questions may be needed to spur discussion, but in most cases students will get involved and freely express their beliefs.


Upon completion of the debate, student responses should be evaluated. At this time the teacher questions the class, not on the content of their responses, but on what stage of moral reasoning their responses were based on. It is during this assesment that students will realize the role Kohlberg’s Six Stages of Moral Reasoning has played in their beliefs, attitudes, and behavior.

Supplemental information

In addition to newspapers and magazines, the school library would be a good resource for controversial articles that would lead to many interesting classroom debates.


This activity is an excellent way for students to do more than just read and memorize Kohlberg’s Six Stages of Moral Reasoning. It allows them to experience moral reasoning and evaluate their own beliefs, values, and behavior. It is a form of active learning that most students enjoy doing, and is an excellent way to teach Lawrence Kohlberg’s Six Stages of Moral Reasoning.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Psychology

        • 12.D.1 Understand human differences and strategies for coping when those differences create dysfunction. 12.D.1.1 Use factors such as biology, conditioning, cognition, sociocultural interactions, and human development to understand personality differences....
        • 12.DE.1 Analyze human development throughout the lifespan. 12.DE.1.1 Analyze cognitive development throughout the lifespan. 12.DE.1.2 Analyze the lifespan using psychodynamic theories. 12.DE.1.3 Analyze moral development throughout the lifespan. 12.DE.1.4...
        • 12.LC.1 Understand how conditioning, learning, and cognition affect behavior. 12.LC.1.1 Compare the theoretical development of the behavioral and cognitive perspectives in psychology. 12.LC.1.2 Summarize the behavioral factors involved in perception, motivation,...
        • 12.S.1 Understand how interaction with others influences thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and behaviors. 12.S.1.1 Analyze the theoretical development of the sociocultural perspective in psychology. 12.S.1.2 Compare diverse cultural norms in terms of their...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 11–12 — Psychology

  • Goal 3: The learner will examine lifespan development.
    • Objective 3.01: Explain development as a lifelong process.
    • Objective 3.03: Identify the stage theories of development.
    • Objective 3.04: Discuss issues surrounding the developmental process.
  • Goal 10: The learner will examine individual differences and personalities.
    • Objective 10.01: Describe concepts related to the measurement of individual differences.