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Teachers’ concerns questionnaire : the development and validation of a measure of high school teachers’ moral sensitivity Fedeles, Michal

Abstract

Through everyday classroom interactions, teachers influence their students' actions and the choices those students will make in life. Such interactions may have profound impact on the students and their well-being, whether teachers are cognizant of their influence as role models and moral educators or not. Morally sensitive teachers are better equipped to perceive, or become aware of, those classroom interactions that have direct implications for students' well-being. As well, such teachers have the ability to interpret influential aspects of teacher-student interactions in moral terms. Previous research and theory in psychology, philosophy, and curriculum development is in accord in suggesting that moral sensitivity is an area of interest and concern to practicing teachers, and that teachers' preparedness to face the challenges of classroom interactions by advancing their moral sensitivity can contribute to a betterment of education and a better care for students' lives. In Study 1, three sources of knowledge on moral sensitivity were utilized in order to develop a comprehensive measure of teachers' sensitivity to the moral dimension of schooling. Those three sources included: (a) the teachers' professional code of ethics, (b) findings from observations of the moral life of classrooms, and (c) a moral issues questionnaire developed as part of Study 1 to collect practicing teachers' testimonials of issues and stories they perceived as having moral meaning. A triangulation method was utilized to validate the already established notions of morally significant aspects of teaching on the one hand, and to extend the understanding of teachers' situatedness in the moral context of schools on the other. After carefully analyzing the information obtained from the three sources, at the end of Study 1 an open-ended semi-structured questionnaire was developed. In Study 2, the Teachers' Concerns Questionnaire (TCQ) was developed and validated as a measure of high school teachers' moral sensitivity. The TCQ comprises four stories revolving around teacher-student interactions, each accompanied by a series . of seven prompt questions guiding the process of identifying the issues of concern in the scenario, as well as individuals affected by the issues, and any action that might need to be taken in response to the depicted interactions. Each story corresponds with four categories of moral issues, and the overall score of moral sensitivity is derived from the number of categories in which issues of concern are identified along with affected parties and proposed solutions, and justification for their inclusion on moral grounds is provided. The overall results provide initial support for the relativity and validity of the TCQ as a measure of secondary school teachers' moral sensitivity. The TCQ exhibited a very high inter-rater reliability and a moderately high test-retest reliability. A significant and positive correlation was found between the TCQ and a measure of moral reasoning, as well as a positive correlation between the TCQ and a measure of verbal fluency. Areas of future improvement include shortening the time required to complete the measure and developing an alternative format that would allow self-scoring or automatic scoring by a computer. Directions for future studies are discussed.

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