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Moral Vs. Social Development in The Theories of Intelligence

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There are many components to educational psychology. The more we learn about it the more effective a teacher can be within the classroom. In order to do so we must study the different theorists and be able to apply their theories to our classrooms. We must understand what intelligence is and the different theories of it. This paper will address a person’s social and moral development as well as intelligence.

Erik Erikson devolved a theory of psychosocial development that expanded on Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychosexual development. He expanded the five stages of Freud’s theory into eight stages which he called the “eight ages of man”. His theory emphasized self emergence, search for identity, personal relationships with others and culture’s role throughout one’s life. At each stage Erikson believed an individual would face a developmental crisis in which there is a conflict between a positive and potentially unhealthy conflict. The first stage is known n as basic trust vs. mistrust. This is from birth to between 12-18 months of age. In this stage the infant needs to form a trusting loving relationship with its caregiver. . The basic element of nutrition and care must be met. Otherwise the infant will develop mistrust within themselves, others and their environment. Being able to trust someone will allow the infant to learn when it is also appropriate to mistrust someone. The second stage is autonomy vs. shame and doubt. This occurs from 18 months to 3 years of age. Children during this stage are beginning to develop their gross motor skills and learn to care for themselves. Allowing the child to start feeding and dressing themselves will help them develop self-confidence. Parents should not be overprotective of their children. It is also the time in which children learn to be potty trained. Reinforcement of their accomplishments is very important. Otherwise the child will start to feel shame and doubt about themselves. This can lead to a lack of self-confidence. It may also lead to a regression of the potty training. The third stage is initiative vs. guilt. Preschoolers, ages 3-6 are in this stage. Children at this age can be very impulsive and must be properly monitored so that the child does not act on every impulse. Parents need to be able to supervise what their children are doing without interfering. It is very important to allow the child to attempt thing s on their own and allow them to make mistakes. If not allowed to attempt things on their own they may develop guilt or a sense that they are always wrong. For a preschool teacher it is important to allow the student to make their own choices and act out on them. It is also important to be tolerant of any mistakes or accidents the student may endure when they are trying to do things on their own. The fourth stage is industry vs. inferiority and is from 6 to 12 years of age. Children are in school at this stage and what they learn during these early years will determine the success or failure when they go into high school. Their self-worth is determined by how well they build and refine on the skills that they developed in preschool. It is a time in which the student must learn to cope with changing between their everyday worlds such as home, school, and social circles. If they are unable to manage the it could result in feelings of inferiority. During this stage, as a teacher, it is important to allow students to demonstrate their newfound independence. Also we must allow the students to make and work toward their own goals and provide support to them. As students move from having the highest stat6us in middle school to being the youngest in high school they enter Erikson’s fifth stage which is called Identity vs. Role Confusion. During these years students go through physical changes known as puberty. They also go through cognitive changes; Students begin to become proficient in abstract thinking and start to see the world from other’s perspectives. Importantly, they begin to develop their self-identity. Teachers can use this time to show the student many positive role models that they can look up to. They will try on many different roles during these years in search of who they truly are. If they fail to find their true self or identity they will experience role confusion. A teacher needs to be accepted of the fads and roles the student will try. After the school years, during young adulthood, a person will enter the sixth stage of Erikson’s theory. This is called Intimacy vs. Isolation and is the time a person will start to develop a deep meaningful relationship. They learn to make commitments to others and not just base the relationship on mutual needs. People tend to find their partner or spouse during this stage. If a person did not develop their identity prior to this stage it can lead to commitment phobia and the person could end up isolating themselves from others. Erikson’s seventh stage is when a person reaches middle adulthood and is known as Generativity vs. Stagnation. People in this stage are usually settled down with a family and a career. Their status in life brings them satisfaction if they are where they want to be. They play an active role in their community and are concerned for the well beings of others. If they don’t feel they are where they should be in life or are not as productive as they wanted to be they will experience stagnation. The final stage is Integrity vs. Despair. This is a time when a person reflects back on their life, what they accomplished, did they reach their life goals, etc. It is also a time when a person accepts their fate and prepares to leave this world.

Urie Bronfenbrenner studied ecological theories but is best known for his systems of approach to human development. He created what is known as the Bioecological Model of Human Development. His theory believed that the social context in which we develop are ecosystems. He believed that every person is in constant contact with others and that we all influence each other. The microsystem is our immediate family and activities. This would include ourselves, family, friends and teachers. All relationships affect each other whether it be a parent teacher relationship or an apparent child one. They all flow together. This is known as our mesosystem. Outside of these two systems is our exosystem which is all of the students’ social settings that affect them without the student actually being a direct part of. Some examples would be church, parent’s employer and the health providers. The outermost system is our macrosystem which is our larger society including its laws, values, customs and political philosophy. All of the other systems are a part of this.

Lawrence Kohlberg developed a theory of moral development that was based on Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. After giving children and adults some hypothetical situations in which the person would have to make a difficulty decision and explain why they made it Kohlberg evaluated the answers and developed three tier level of moral development. The first level is known as the preconventional moral reasoning in which judgment is based on personal needs and perceptions. The first stage is Punishment-Obedience Orientation. In it rules are obeyed in order to avoid punishment. Actions are determined good or bad by its physical consequence. The second stage is Personal Reward Orientation in which personal needs are determined by right and wrong. The thought is that if you do something for someone then they will do something for you. The next level is Conventional Moral Reasoning. Society, approval of others, family expectations, values and the law are taken into account during this level when it comes to judgment. Stage three is the Good Boy-Nice Girl Orientation. In this sense good means “nice” and is determined by the approval of others or is pleasing. Law and Order-Orientation is stage four. The law is what matters and authority musty be respected. It is important for social order to be maintained. Level three is postconventional moral reasoning .Judgment is based on socially agreed upon standards and an abstract personal view of the justice system. Stage five is the Social Contract Orientation in which good is determined by socially agreed upon standards of individual right, similar to our Constitution. Stage six is the Universal Ethical Principle Orientation. Good and right are matters of the individual’s conscience and involve complex concepts of justice, human dignity and equality.

Although Kohlberg’s theory of moral development is well known amongst educational psychologists there are some that criticize it. One of those individuals is Carol Gilligan. Her argument is that Kohlberg’s theory was based on a longitudinal study of American men only (Gilligan, 1982; Gilligan & Attanucci, 1988). It is a theory that does not consider women’s or other cultures moral reasoning development. Gilligan developed her own moral development sequence, which she terms an “ethic of care”. In it a person moves from judgment based on personal needs or interest to a commitment to personal relationships and certain people. From there the person moves to the highest level or moral reasoning that is based on the care of others. Another criticism to Kohlberg’s theory is that the stages are more simultaneous than sequential. They are not separate from each other, nor are they consistent. Also, that when it comes to moral issues there are other factors to consider when making choices than just reasoning. Some of them are relationships, emotions and competing goals.

Intelligence means different things to different people. Early theorist believed it was based on one or more of the following themes, capacity to learn; total knowledge a person has acquired; and the ability to adapt successfully to new situations and the environment. More recently, psychologist added that higher order thinking was part of intelligence. According to the Educational Psychology textbook by Anita Woolfolk, intelligence is the ability or abilities to acquire and use knowledge for solving problems and adapting to the world. Research has found that when it comes to taking mental tests there is a moderate to high correlation among the scores making it the most profound phenomenon the psychosocial study of intelligence (van der Mass et al., 2006, p.855). One psychologist, Charles Spearmen, proposed that mental energy, which he called general intelligence (g), along with certain other abilities, was used to complete a mental test. This general intelligence factor is thought to be related to our working memory. Two other psychologists developed a theory of fluid and crystalized intelligence to explain the phenomenon. Fluid intelligence is mental efficiency and reasoning ability and is sensitive to injuries and diseases. It is grounded in brain development and will grow until about age twenty two then gradually declines. Fluid intelligence is thought to be related to changes in brain volume, myelination, dopamine receptor density or the prefrontal lobe’s ability to process selective attention and working memory. When we use our fluid intelligence in problem solving we develop our crystallized intelligence. Crystallized intelligence is the ability to apply culturally approved problem solving methods. It increases throughout our lifetime as we build on our learned skills and knowledge.

Although some psychologists believe intelligence is an individual ability there are others that believe it is based on multiple abilities. One theorist, Howard Gardner, developed a biopsychological theory, the theory of multiple intelligences, based on eight different intelligences. They are linguistic, musical, spatial, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist. The differences in our culture and time eras will place different values on each intelligence. Also, he believes that although an individual may be very high in one intelligence it does not have an effect on the other seven. There are many criticisms to his theory. One is that there are no published studies to support his theory. Second there is a correlation between some of the intelligences, debunking his theory that they are separate. Also that some of the intelligences are not new and some are just talents.

In contrast to the theorists who placed their emphasis on the different abilities that make up intelligence, there are recent researchers who have been focusing on the information process that people go through. One researcher is Robert Sternberg and his theory is called the triarchic theory of successful intelligence. He stresses that intelligence is more than what mental ability tests measure. It is about one’s success based on one’s own definition and their cultural influences. There are three parts to his theory. The first is analytical intelligence and involves an individual’s mental process that leads to more or less intelligent behavior. Some of the processes are general while others are task specific. The second part is creativity and involves how one deals with new experiences. It is based on two characteristics; insight and automaticity. Practical intelligence is the third part of his theory. In order for a person to succeed they must choose and adapt to their environment, reshaping it if needed.

Although these theories on how intelligence is measured are very thorough, when it come to the average person we think more in line of IQ tests or intelligent quotient test. It refers to the score comparing mental and chronological ages. The tests are designed to have certain statistical characteristics. They can be either individual or group administered. As a teacher we need to be watchful when it comes to the scores on group tests. Students tend to do worse on the group tests due to several factors including inability to understand the directions, reading comprehension, or distractions. Also, that an ELL may not do as well since the scores are based on Americans whose first language is Standard English, which is what the tests are administered.

In order for teachers to successfully teach a student they must first understand the student’s learning style and teach to that style. A learning style is defined as the characteristic approaches to learning and studying. It is the individual’s preferences for structure, complexity, conformity and autonomy and is classified as type I, II and III. Type I is where the student prefers unstructured free-flowing autonomous learning. Students can be characterized as divergent thinkers. Type II is highly structured with very direct and simplistic thinking. The student prefers traditional ways of doing things. They can be characterized as an analytical sequential thinker. In type II the student picks and chooses from the other two styles. They are characterized as being realistic, social and investigators.

In conclusion, we have discovered that there are other types of development than just cognitive that shape a person and that there are three intellectual styles a person falls under. In this paper we have discussed social and moral development. Also, we have learned that through Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model that context plays a role in our social development. We must realize as teachers that we do have a major impact on the student’s social development and they have an impact on us as well. Also, through Erikson’s psychosocial theory, we have learned that an individual’s emotional needs relate to their social development. As teachers we must consider his theory in order to help meet the needs of our students so that they can successfully move from one stage to another. Kohlberg’s theory explained the stages of our moral development. As teachers it is important for us to understand what stage our students are in so we can appropriately set up the rules in our classroom. Students need to know that cheating is wrong. We can also work with students to help them learn to care about others. Not only do we need to consider the different theories in our classrooms but also what intellectual style we need to teach to in order to help a student be successful. All of these things together will help us be a successful teacher.

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Moral vs. Social Development in the Theories of Intelligence. (2019, April 26). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from
“Moral vs. Social Development in the Theories of Intelligence.” GradesFixer, 26 Apr. 2019,
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