University of Tasmania
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A philosophical justification for the community of inquiry approach to moral education

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posted on 2023-05-27, 17:11 authored by Sprod, TJ
Any society requires that its young be brought up both to live well themselves, and to assist and allow others in the society to live well. In a pluralistic and dynamic society, moral persons must be thoughtful; flexible or steadfast when morality requires it. Through moral education, schools help their students develop into moral persons. Given that living morally requires a complex mix of moral beliefs, judgements, dispositions and actions, no single pedagogy will be adequate to the task. This thesis considers one pedagogy - the Community of Inquiry - and develops a philosophical underpinning for its use in moral education. This justification will show that, under a particular characterization of morality and moral development, certain capacities essential to moral personhood are best developed through the classroom use of the community of inquiry. Humans come into the world with genetic predispositions which unfold in transformative interaction with the world: physical and - most importantly - social. Through these, the basis for morality and many other capacities are laid. Chief amongst these is the ability to reason. I argue for a broad based conception of reasonableness, which encompasses five aspects: critical, creative, committed, contextual and embodied. The development of reasoning in social interaction creates persons who can think for themselves through their connection to others. Autonomy is not a cutting off from connection, but an ability to operate competently within intersubjectivity. The teacher's role in cultivating reasonableness and autonomy can be elaborated through consideration of Habermas' theory of communicative action. I develop a notion of pedagogic action that amalgamates the goal directed strategic educational action of the teacher with the essentially communicative and discursive action through which it must be achieved. If education is to produce moral persons, we require an account of morality at which to aim. I consider the strengths of Aristotle's virtue ethics, and show that its account of moral development - through habituation - is more reflexive than is commonly thought. Yet, it lacks a detailed account of reflection, and I turn to Habermas' virtue ethics - flawed as a complete meta-ethical system - to provide this, and to inject a dynamic for moral progress. Finally, I argue that the Community of Inquiry, being a discursive pedagogy, develops the aspects of reasonableness, and builds communicative autonomy in students as they reflectively assess their moral habits and decide in community how to become the sort of person they want to be.


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Copyright 1998 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 1999. Includes bibliographical references

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