This study explored the phenomenon of training educators using Participatory Action Research (PAR) in using moral dilemma discussions as a teaching strategy to teach values in their Life Orientation lessons. The research was located within the specific context of a qualitative interpretivist study. A Participatory Action Research design was used to explore this design’s potential as a method for the interactive training of educators to implement moral dilemma discussions in primary schools specifically.
The criteria used to select the participants included using Grades 4 -7 primary school learners of diverse cultures in a single-religion independent school. Within this school the study focused on the 3 Life Orientation educators teaching these pre-determined grades. Data on how the educators experienced the training, the implementation of moral dilemma discussions and the participation of the learners was collected using a group interview, non-participatory observations and semi-structured interviews. The aim of the non-participatory observations and semi-structured interviews was to determine how the educators and learners responded to moral dilemma discussions and to focus on the learners’ ability to participate in moral reasoning as Kohlberg intended as well as whether any moral action was implemented as a result of the discussions.
The findings of the study revealed that educators are very set in their ways of teaching and find it difficult to explore new ideas. A reason for the resistance to change could be supported by the fact that the educators experience pressure from the management of the school to comply with the curriculum and have therefore become curriculum-bound in their teaching approach. The curriculum dominates educators’ approach to teaching. This study also revealed that effective training opportunities and the implementation of teaching strategies is only successful with the support and encouragement of the management team of the school. Finally this study showed that primary school learners do have the potential cognitive ability to participate in moral reasoning. This deviates from Kohlberg’s theory and requires further research with more primary school cohorts. However, moral action leading from moral dilemma discussions remains a challenge. Since this study aimed to explore the possibilities of using moral dilemma discussions as a teaching strategy for values education, the preliminary findings suggest the need for more research to promote moral action to flow from these moral dilemma discussions. These discussions would be enhanced by first creating new knowledge based on the moral dilemma presented.