Children’s moral judgements about social inclusion and exclusion in play in one diverse school location

Year: 2019

Author: Scholes, Laura, Wallace, Elizabeth, Lawson, Veronica, Lunn, Jo, Walker, Sue

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

As classrooms around the world continue to diversify, there is an increasing need to understand children’s inclusive behaviours and moral reasoning with respect to social inclusion. While experiences with diversity can allow for a range of positive outcomes such as empathy, tolerance, and respect for cultural values, it can also lead to unfair treatment of others through prejudicial behaviours (Killen & Smetana, 2010). It is important to understand children’s sense of social inclusion and justice and how it develops in school contexts to inform teachers’ and schools’ pedagogical practices that support fairness and equity between children across cultural and ethnic divides.

Previous research indicates that children who are able to think using multiple classification skills engage in less stereotypical reasoning and are less exclusive in their behaviour with others (Aboud, 2010). This capacity to reason by weighing multiple considerations involves children being able to consider a range of positive and negative attributes of diverse others which, in turn, help them to ignore stereotyped information (Aboud, 2010). How children’s reasoning changes over time in order to develop the capacities to weigh multiple considerations is less well understood, as are the social and educational influences on such reasoning.

In this presentation we are interested in how children reason about and justify including or excluding their peers from play at school. We present interview data from a cohort of students attending Little Flower Primary School (pseudonym) situated in an ethnically diverse context in Queensland. We refer briefly to our longitudinal data from interviews with children when they were in Years 1, 2 and 3 with a focus on our most recent interviews with children now they are in Year 6.

During the interviews 27 Year 6 children were i) presented with a moral scenario and asked about their justifications for including/excluding a child who bullies, in their play, and ii) asked to respond to their personal drawing of a conflict situation at school and whether one or both parties involved could be right.

Findings illustrate children’s beliefs about the nature of knowledge when it comes to moral values and their justifications for including/excluding a peer who is perceived as a bully. Implications of these findings are discussed with a focus on understanding contextual influences on children’s moral judgements and how children come to value diverse perspectives.