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The Australian Educational Researcher

, Volume 46, Issue 5, pp 863–878 | Cite as

Doing the right thing in the early years of primary school: a longitudinal study of children’s reasoning about right and wrong

  • Joanne Lunn BrownleeEmail author
  • Susan Walker
  • Elizabeth Wallace
  • Eva Johansson
  • Laura Scholes
Article

Abstract

Doing the right thing at school involves moral reasoning about right and wrong that interplays with a sense of responsibility as children move towards being active citizens. In the current study, we investigated how 124 Australian children’s understanding and reasoning about doing the right thing changed over the early years of primary school (age 5–6 years through to age 7–8 years). This study included children’s ideas about how they knew what was right and wrong and how they worked out for themselves what was right and wrong at school. The main finding suggests that children did not believe they were engaged in personal decision-making or reflections about what was right and wrong at school as they progressed through Year 1 to Year 3. Instead of developing autonomy and personal decision-making, children came to rely more on external authorities for knowledge. The implications from these findings point to the need to support children to become active citizens through participatory pedagogies and a focus on democracy.

Keywords

Active citizenship School rules Primary education Participatory pedagogies 

Notes

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Copyright information

© The Australian Association for Research in Education, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Early Childhood & Inclusive EducationQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Early Childhood Education, Faculty of Arts and EducationUniversity of StavangerStavangerNorway

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