The process of identity development in children can be supported in the school environment. Erikson’s perspective on the subject matter would pertain to his theory of the stages of psychosocial development. School years span over approximately three out of eight stages in a person’s life: purpose (initiative vs. guilt, 5-8 years), competence (industry vs. inferiority, 9–12 years), and fidelity (identity vs. role confusion, 12–19 years). During the purpose stage, a child explores the world around them (Cross & Cross, 2017). During this period, a school teacher can help to propel a child’s development by encouraging them to take risks and respecting their autonomy.
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The competence stage is characterized by a child’s desire to learn new skills, and a failure to do so may mean perceived inferiority as compared to others. Teachers can offer support to children that are going through this stage by giving them tasks that provide them with a sense of accomplishment (Eggen & Kauchak, 2020, p. 130). Aside from that, school staff can help with developing metacognitive skills, or in other words, enabling children to learn how to learn (Eggen & Kauchak, 2020, p. 130). Lastly, the fidelity stage is the time when a teenager sets out on a journey for their identity. It is during this period when students can benefit from positive role models in the school environment.
Kohlberg put forward the theory of stages of morality development. The scholar suggested that before the age of nine, children operate on pre-conventional morality, which changes to conventional and postconventional in adolescence (Lerner, 2019). For young children who only obey to avoid punishment, it is important to create a clear code of conduct. At this stage, children need to understand the consequences of misbehavior. At the second stage, students should be encouraged to help others and receive rewards for good behavior. Lastly, entering the third stage, individuals are capable of more nuanced thinking and contributing to the common code of conduct.
Gilligan agrees with Kohlberg with regards to the stages of moral development. However, the scholar opines that transition is motivated not by the improvement of cognitive abilities but by changes in the sense of self (Lerner, 2019). Gilligan made women central to her research and described shifts from selfishness to responsibility to others to the truth that anyone is just a human. Her theory provides educational value as it implies that female students should be shown the consequences of their actions. At the same time, they should not be judging themselves too harshly and realize the limitations of the human condition.
Cross, T. L., & Cross, J. R. (2017). Maximizing potential: A school-based conception of psychosocial development. High Ability Studies, 28(1), 43-58.
Eggen, P. D., & Kauchak, D. P. (2020). Using educational psychology in teaching. Pearson Education, Incorporated.
Lerner, R. M. (Ed.). (2019). Developmental psychology: Historical and philosophical perspectives. Routledge.
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