Moral Education and Authority: A Model for Education that Understands Moral Growth as a Consequence of the Teacher-Learner Relationship

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MacDonald, Lisa
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Mount Saint Vincent University
In this thesis, I develop the connection between moral growth of the learner and the teacher-learner relationship. In part one of the thesis, I analyze aspects of moral education in the works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, J. F. Herbart, and John Dewey. My focus on these three thinkers provides a basis for understanding the educative nature of the teacher-learner relationship as one that develops the learner’s critical, reflective self-self relationship. To do this, I focus on developing the notions of self-love, inner censor, and freedom. In part two, I connect the concepts from part one to the work of contemporary theorists David Hansen and Nel Noddings, in order to further explicate the concepts of the teacher and the learner and illuminate what constitutes an educational teacher-learner relation. Furthermore, using these new conceptions of teacher and learner as a basis, I discuss how we can reconceptualize the teacher’s authority. On the understanding of education and teaching that I develop, the teacher is a skilled architect who designs the learning environment of the classroom in such a way that the components of caring, respect, understanding, value, and safety are at the forefront of all pedagogical judgments. Accordingly, as I underscore through-out the thesis, the teacher has the responsibility to create moral learning spaces and guide interactions within these spaces in such a way that the moral development of the learner can flourish. I close the thesis with a critical discussion of current moral education initiatives in schools, and develop three criteria for evaluating future moral education initiatives.
Moral education , Teacher-learner relationships