How to teach moral values in the classroom

Written by patrice lesco
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Moral values refer to the acceptable conduct of rational people evaluated by other rational people. In education, moral conduct is closely aligned with ethics and ethical codes that outline how teachers, administrators and students should behave. Unless they know what is expected of them, students do not know how to behave. Therefore, teachers must develop creative methods of teaching acceptable moral values so that students have some basis of reference for the moral decisions that they will make in life.


Many teachers tell students to be nice to one another, abide by the school rules and, in general, do the right things. However, some of those same teachers fail to follow ethical standards of conduct in teaching and it is evident to the students that they instruct. A prime example is the case of bullying in the classroom, when one student consistently is mean to another student and the teacher does nothing about it, or even worse, participates in putting the lone student down. If a teacher expects students to act morally in school, as in life, then the teacher must act morally herself and serve as an example for young minds that are being moulded, in part, by the school system.


Every teacher is taught to develop classroom rules as part of effective classroom management. Make morality a significant factor in those rules and post the rules on the classroom wall so that students know what is expected of them. For example, focusing rules on respecting one another, respecting the school and respecting the teacher is a start to aiding students to learn moral values in the classroom.

Morals and Stories

At every grade level moral values exist in stories used by educators. In "The Wizard of Oz" Dorothy provides a moral value at the end: "If I ever go looking for my heart's desire, I'll never go any farther than my own backyard...if it isn't there, I never really lost it". Shakespeare's "Hamlet" is filled with issues related to morality, including murder, honesty, revenge and betrayal. While each story may be appropriate for different grade levels, they both provide an opportunity for teachers to open up a discussion with students about moral values. Teachers can prompt such discussion by asking students if they believe a story character did the right thing, and to justify their answers.


Part of classroom management involves addressing behavioural issues related to students when they arise in an appropriate manner. While some teachers may believe that the only method of addressing behavioural problems is to send the student to in-school suspension, a more effective method of confronting the problem is teacher guidance. Guidance asks the student to view the issue, not only as it pertains to him, but in relation to the impact that his actions have had on others. With the teacher prompting the student to think about what has occurred, the teacher is not preaching to the student, or even indicating what the appropriate response is. Instead the teacher is asking the student to use critical thinking skills to evaluate his actions and use moral reasoning to evaluate it.

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