Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Education

Date of Defense

8-15-2016

Graduate Advisor

Marvin W. Berkowitz, Ph.D.

Committee

Fish, Anne

Bolton, Natalie

Hardy, Sam

Abstract

Moral identity is the individual’s degree of considering his or her moral character as a dominant part of his or her self-concept (Bock & Samuelson, 2015). Moral identity is a part of one’s character. Character education is a means of facilitating moral/character development. This research is an effort to examine the relationship between character education and moral identity (actual and ideal). The purpose of this study is to provide empirical evidence that moral identity is an outcome of character education. In order to better understand how character education impacts moral identity development, a clearer understanding of identity as a concept is necessary. In this study it was hypothesized that (a) adolescents in character education schools (high and medium implementation) have higher levels of moral identity (actual and ideal) than those in other schools; and (b) within character education schools (high and medium implementation), adolescents involved in specific character education activities/experiences show higher levels of moral identity (actual and ideal) than those who are not involved in these experiences. Two measures were used in the study. The first measure was the Moral Identity Scale by Aquino and Reed (2002), and the second was the Moral Ideal Self Scale by Hardy, Walker, Olsen, Woodbury, and Hickman (2013). This study involved over 1500 Midwest US middle school students. A Pearson product-moment correlation and an analysis of variance (ANOVA) were run on the quantitative data to determine equivalency and differences between groups. Statistically significant differences were found between the groups mean scores on the Moral Identity Scale (actual identity) and Moral Ideal Self Scale (ideal identity). Higher character education implementation was significantly related to higher moral identity (actual and ideal), participation in specific character education experiences was also significantly related to moral identity. Study results suggest that character education has the potential to support adolescents’ moral identity development. It is hoped that this study will fuel scientific research regarding character education, provide educators with information on character education’s impact on adolescents’ moral identity development, and encourage schools to deeply incorporate character education into their practices.

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