Motivation and Moral Development

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Students will look at six different levels of motivation behind a person's actions.

Dr. Lawrence Kohlberg identified six levels of moral development:

  1. Avoid punishment
  2. Seek rewards
  3. Please others
  4. Help society
  5. Improve the rules
  6. Follow a personal code

We can use these as a tool to discuss students' social-emotional needs as well as dig deeply into character motivation.


  1. First, we introduce the idea that one positive action can have different motivations - and those motivations can be positive or negative.
  2. Then, students learn about Levels 1 and 2 and note characters and historic figures who match up with those levels.
  3. Next, students learn about Levels 3 and 4 and note characters and historic figures who match up with those levels.
  4. In this part, students learn about Level 5 and look for characters and historic figures who fit this level.
  5. Finally, they'll learn about Level 6 and note how characters can match up with different levels depending on which point in a story we're looking at.


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