6 July 2024

Brandel, N., Schwarz, B. B., Cedar, T., Baker, M. J., Bietti, L. M., Pallarès, G., & Détienne, F. (2024). Dialogue on ethics and ethics of dialogue: An exploratory study. European Journal of Psychology of Education. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10212-024-00856-z

Abstract: We report on a study bearing implications for ethical learning in schoolchildren during social interaction. The study was conducted as part of a project aimed at promoting ethical learning of socially-oriented values within the context of dialogic education. 172 fourth graders from 7 classes participated in an 8-session series designed to foster empathy, inclusion, and tolerance. Two of these sessions (3 and 8) were pre-selected for analysis. We investigated (1) whether students’ discussion of ethical issues and the ethical aspects of their actual in-class interaction with each other can be reliably measured, and (2) what relation holds between students’ ethical thinking during classroom discussions and the ethical aspects of their behavior. We thus developed an analytical framework comprising two tools for appraising ethical thinking and behavior in in-class interaction: dialogue on ethics (DoE) and ethics of dialogue (EoD). This framework was applied to the dialogues taken from the two sessions. The DoE and EoD tools proved reliable, as inter-rater agreement was substantial. Moreover, the relation between children’s DoE and their EoD was positive where the topic posed for discussion presented a dilemma and students’ interaction proceeded under moderate teacher guidance. In contrast, it was negative when the discussion was conceptual, and the teacher was dominant. We conclude that (1) DoE/EoD is a suitable framework for studying children’s ethical learning and development in social interaction, and (2) ethical learning, in its epistemological and behavioral dimensions, can be boosted or inhibited in a context of dialogic education, depending on design principles.

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