Chaplain (Major) Kenneth R. Williams


As with every values-based organization, the United States Army expects the member of its ranks to conduct themselves and make decisions in ways that are consistent with its core values. From entrance into initial entry training (IET) the Army provides training to ensure that soldiers know, understand, and practice its moral code. That moral code is embodied in the Soldier’s Creed, the Warrior Ethos, the Army Core Values, the law of land warfare, and the various regulations that require soldiers to conduct themselves with justice and respect to others.

Army codified its values in 1994 and the Soldiers Creed in 2003.

The Army defined these core values as follows:

Loyalty - Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit and other Soldiers.

Duty – Fulfill your obligations.

Respect – Treat people as they should be treated.

Selfless service - Put the welfare of the Nation, the Army and your subordinates before your own.

Honor – Live up to the Army values.

Integrity – Do what’s right, legally and morally.

Personal courage - Face fear, danger or adversity (physical or moral). (U.S. Army, 2006, pp. 4-2—4-8)


The Army expects soldiers to practice the Soldiers’ Creed which states:

I am an American Soldier.

I am a Warrior and a member of a team.

I serve the people of the United States and

live the Army Values.

I will always place the mission first.

I will never accept defeat.

I will never quit.

I will never leave a fallen comrade.

I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.

I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.

I am an expert and I am a professional.

I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.

I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.

I am an American Soldier. (U.S. Army, 2006, p. 4-10)


The Warrior Ethos is printed in bold above.


The Army, as well as all the Armed Services, receives its members from all walks of life and who have a variety of family, cultural, and socio-economic backgrounds. The Army engages in the process of soldierization to ensure that soldiers’ behavior reflects the Army and the national values. Soldierization is the process by which civilians are transformed into soldiers. This soldierization process includes physical, mental, military, and moral aspects. The elements of the Army’s moral code permeate all aspects of IET. The intent is that upon graduation, soldiers will exemplify this moral code.

The Army Research Institute report on the Warrior Ethos states,

It is clear that Soldiers immediately recognize [the Warrior Ethos] when such historical deeds are described to them. However, the average Soldier is not continually exposed to conditions within which Warrior Ethos is clearly manifested and do not frequently experience the conditions that foster Warrior Ethos. This is the case whether they are in garrison or in a combat situation. There is a need and an opportunity to develop training curricula which foster the development and sustainment of Warrior Ethos. (Army Research Institute, 2004, p. 3)


The preceding statement indicates a need to develop effective training to ensure that soldiers conduct themselves according to the Army’s moral code. One essential element of training development is training assessment and evaluation.

This paper summarizes a study that explored the impact of MP IET on the moral judgment and moral development of MP soldiers. This paper is organized into five sections: (a) a discussion of background of the study, (b) a discussion of the research methods; (c) a summary of the results, (d) an interpretation of the results, and (e) a discussion of recommendations for character education in IET.



Even with extensive training there have been moral lapses and failures.  A survey of reports of investigations obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU, 2005) shows over 100 investigations of war crimes committed by American military personnel. These crimes range from theft to aggravated assault to torture and to rape and murder. The appearance is that the Army must do a better job of moral education in training at all levels, especially in Initial Entry Training (IET) (Kilner, 2004, 2005). However, it is not only the major incidents of moral failures that are of concern. Of major concern are the daily violations of the Army’s moral code. Such violations include theft, sexual harassment, fraternization, and assault.

The concern for character education and moral development must not only focus on the issue of moral decline but must also focus on preparing soldiers to live in a just and democratic society (Lapsley & Narvaez, 2006, p. 258). Soldiers must develop the ability to flourish themselves as well as act to enable others to flourish. Daily life is filled with moral choices and decisions. Training must prepare soldiers for such a life. The Army desires to prepare soldiers first of all to fight and win the nations wars and second to serve in humanitarian causes at home and abroad. Therefore, a key outcome of moral and character education should be to prepare soldiers for community service, for living a life of fairness and justice, and for entering the communities of which they live and being an example.

The main focus of training, of course, is that soldiers are prepared to fight and win the nations wars. One key element of preparing for battle is that soldiers fight justly according to the Army’s moral code. In 2004, the Army Research Institute (2004) commissioned a study the purpose of which was “to refine and operationalize the 2003 definition of Warrior Ethos and to develop and examine means for its inculcation into the Army” (Army Research Institute, 2004, p. vii). The research team followed a process of (a) listing “values-based attributes exemplified by a soldier who demonstrates Warrior Ethos,” (b) describing specific actions that would be produced by such attributes, and (c) describing barriers to performing actions that reflect the Warrior Ethos (Army Research Institute, 2004, p. vii). Each of 9 battle drills were analyzed using this process in order to create specific actions reflective of the Warrior Ethos and in order to develop training that would encourage these actions.

Seven attributes were derived from analyzing the Warrior Ethos: perseverance, ability to set priorities, ability to make tradeoffs, ability to adapt, ability to accept responsibility for others, ability to accept dependence on others, motivated by a higher calling (Army Research Institute, 2004, p. 10). Using the Army’s list of Warrior Drills, (Army Study Guide, 2004), drills were selected that would best inculcate the Warrior Ethos. The following is a list of the drills:

·         React to contact (visual, improvised explosive device, direct fire, to include rocket propelled grenade)

·         Avoid ambush (every Soldier a sensor)

·         React to ambush (blocked and unblocked)

·         React to indirect fire

·         React to chemical attack

·         Break contact

·         Dismount a vehicle

·         Evacuate injured personnel from vehicle

·         Secure at a halt

(Army Research Institute, 2004, p. 13)


The design and assessment of the process described above is based on the learning theories of several theorists, according to the Army Research Institute study. According to Bloom et al. (as cited in Army Research Institute, 2004) learning occurs on several levels (cognitive, psychomotor, and affective) which must be addressed for effective learning. Rogers (as cited in Army Research Institute, 2004) emphasized experiential learning, i.e., active participation in the learning process. Lewin (as cited in Army Research Institute, 2004) directed attention to creating an environment that is conducive to learning. Elements of such an environment include relational interdependence and task interdependence. Bandura (as cited in Army Research Institute, 2004) promoted 2 key ingredients in learning: self-efficacy (the influence of one’s beliefs about personal capabilities) and modeling (the observation of a valued example). Army training is highly experiential; filled with practical exercise, interaction, and field training; emphasizes command (organizational) climate; incorporates rehearsal of real-world activities; pursues development of competence and confidence; demands that leaders set the example; and emphasizes learning on a variety of levels.

Recently there has been heightened interest in character education within the Army. There has been much concern of late regarding the decline of moral character among junior soldiers, that is, those who are currently enlisting in the Army. There has been much discussion about what the Army is going to do about this apparent moral decline. The Army recently established two centers for moral education. The U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains initiated a Chaplain Symposium on military ethics. Recently, interest in moral education has resulted in new programs such as the character education program at I Corps at Fort Lewis (Van Dyken, 2008). But again, how do we know that these programs will work?

The Army expects in deployment or in garrison that soldiers live and practice its moral code. From the beginning of Initial Entry Training (IET), soldiers are taught this moral code. They hear it, memorize it, and recite it. Soldiers are corrected based on the code.  The code is explained and reinforced.  When soldiers graduate from IET, they can recite the code and define the code.  But the real question is can they, or rather will they, live the code?

The problem is that there is very little empirical research on the effectiveness of character education and moral education within the Army. There is very little research to inform and address the seeming decline in moral character, the effectiveness of the soldierization process, and the preparation for just conduct in war and civic life. This paper summarizes a study that was conducted to address such an absence of research.




Purpose and Description

The study involved a mixed methods research project designed to determine the effects of MP IET on soldiers’ moral judgment. The purpose of the study was three-fold:

1. To determine the initial state of the moral judgment of IET soldiers who are entering training to serve as Military Police (MP) soldiers, as described by the Defining Issues Test (DIT).

2. To determine the nature of any change in MP IET soldiers’ moral judgment that may occur throughout the course of IET, as described by the Defining Issues Test (DIT).

3. To determine the key factors, in the eyes of the soldiers, that account for the change or the lack of change in MP IET soldiers’ moral judgment.

The study employed a concurrent, mixed methods process in order to determine possible changes in soldiers’ moral judgment and key influencing factors on changes as reported by the soldiers themselves. Participants in the study were soldiers in Military Police (MP) IET. The quantitative method involved the administration of the Defining Issues Test (DIT) at the start and the conclusion of MP IET. Descriptive and inferential statistical analyses were conducted to determine initial and subsequent levels of moral development. A description of the DIT will be discussed below.

The qualitative element of the study involved the use of focus groups of MP IET soldiers who were within one week of graduation. The focus group discussions centered on soldiers’ perceptions on positive and negative changes in their moral values and moral behavior, as well as their perceptions of the key influencing factors on those changes.



Collection of Quantitative Data

Quantitative data was collected through the administration of the DIT in a pretest-posttest format. Soldiers in MP IET completed the DIT within the first week of starting training and during the last week of training, a span of 19 weeks. The scores of the pretest and the posttest were analyzed using a paired t-test to determine the change in scores at the start of MP IET and at the conclusion of MP IET. A paired t-test compares the pretest and posttest scores of each individual to himself or herself.  This makes the paired t-test a more accurate method of analysis than comparing the average scores of the entire sample (Aczel & Sounderpandian, 2006). Scores were analyzed according to overall scores, by age, by gender, and by educational level. This paper will focus only on the overall scores.

The nature of the DIT. The DIT is a paper-and-pencil assessment of moral judgment based on the theories of Lawrence Kohlberg and developed by James Rest and his associates. The DIT presents five ethical dilemmas and asks participants to rate and rank 12 issues related to the dilemma. The DIT analyzes the participant’s rating and ranking of the solutions to the dilemmas by categorizing them into three schemas – Personal Interest, Maintaining Norms, and Postconventional reasoning. A participant’s score on a particular schema represents the percentage of selected items that follow the respective schema. Schemas are closely related to Kohlberg’s stages of moral judgment and describe a person’s conduct within a just society. Therefore, the DIT measures and describes a person’s development and understanding of the principles of social justice (Bebeau & Thoma, 2003).

The Personal Interest schema is focused on factors that are directly related to the self. The right thing to do is determined by what is in the best interest of the individual. Rules are followed when they are in the immediate interest of the individual. Right, justice, and fairness is determined by an equal exchange and mutual interaction in interpersonal relationships. People who function in the Personal Interest schema see morality as fulfilling one’s role, being trustworthy, loyal, respectful, and thankful. The motivation for moral action for those at this level of moral development is to ensure that self is cared for, that one fulfills the Golden Rule, and that one fulfills the expectations of oneself and others.

The Maintaining Norms schema consists of 5 elements:

The need for norms – A successful society requires cooperation. Cooperation requires order and norms for behavior. “Norms provide stability, predictability, safety, and coordination” (Rest, et al., 1999, p. 37).

Society-wide scope – A successful society requires that people not only engage in positive relationships with family and friends but also with lesser-known and unknown people, even those with whom they may have conflict.

Uniform, categorical application – A successful society requires that laws, order, and norms apply to all citizens equally. All must abide by the law as well as be protected by the law.

Partial reciprocation – A successful society requires that people provide mutual support to one another according to one’s socioeconomic position.

Orientation toward duty – Maintaining norms is about doing one’s duty to and for the authorities. “In an organized society, there are chains of command; that is there are hierarchical role structures … One must obey authorities, not necessarily out of respect for the personal qualities of the authority, but out of respect for the social system” (Rest, et al., 1999, p. 38).

The Postconventional schema is characterized by the assertion that ideals that have the ability to be shared by the members of a society formed the foundation of human rights and duties. These shared ideals and values may be discussed, argued, and adapted to the contemporary environment (Rest, et al., 1999, p. 41). The key elements of Postconventional moral thinking are:

Primacy of moral criteria – “[L]aws, roles, code, and contracts are all social arrangements that can be set up in a variety of ways” (Rest, et al., 1999, p. 41). Social norms are flexible, adaptable, and relative to the current situation. The maintaining norms schema adheres to order and rules that are unchangeable and unalterable since these rules hold society together and prevent anarchy. Postconventional thinking adapts rules and laws when they no longer serve a moral purpose. Therefore, the basis of human rights and duties are based in moral intent or purpose not on the rule of law. Maintaining Norms is the letter of the law. Postconventional thinking is the intent of the law.

Appealing to an ideal – Postconventional moral thinking does not define what one is against. Instead it focuses on the values and ideals that can unite the various people of a society together in harmonious relationships. 

Sharable ideals – The ideals and values that unite people of a society must have the ability of being share by all. They are not values and ideals that are particular to one segment of the society.

“Salability is tested by the ability to justify an act or practice to those whose participation is expected. By a justification, one is arguing that an act is not self-serving at the expense of others, that the act respects others, serves group goals, furthers cooperation and the common good, or is consistent with acceptable policy and previously agreed-upon principles and ideals” (Rest, et al., 1999, p. 42).


Full reciprocity – The maintaining norms schema emphasized partial reciprocity – that the support that one gives and receives from society is based on one’s socioeconomic status. In contrast, Postconventional thinking practices full reciprocity – that the laws and norms of the society may be biased toward some and against others. To distinguish between these two schemas,

A major difference between the maintaining norms schema and the postconventional schema is how each attempts to establish consensus: the strategy of the maintaining norms schema is to gain consensus by appealing to established practice and existing authority; in contrast, the strategy of the postconventional schema is to gain consensus by appealing to ideals and logical coherence. (Rest, et al., 1999, p. 42).


The N2 score is a new index, based on the Postconventional score (P-score), that is an attempt to determine more accurately Postconventional thinking (Thoma, 2006). Participants’ Postconventional scores were also analyzed by means of the N2 score. The N2 Score adjusts the P-score according to the respondent’s ability to distinguish between Postconventional moral judgment and the other schemas. If the respondent rates Postconventional items as more valuable than Maintain Norms and Personal Interest, then the N2 Score is increased. If Postconventional items are not rated as more valuable than Maintain Norms and Personal Interest items, then the N2 Score is decreased. The N2 Score is more effective in identifying Postconventional moral judgment among older and more educated people since that population tends to have higher moral development and the N2 Score focuses on distinguishing higher level moral thinking.

The DIT has been used in a variety of settings and with a variety of professionals. It is considered highly valid and accurate in measuring moral judgment (King & Mayhew, 2002; Bebeau, 2002). While the dilemmas presented are not military in nature, they are considered common to human experience and are able to provide an accurate basis for moral judgment.


Collection of Qualitative Data

Qualitative data consisted of the perceptions of participants regarding changes in moral thinking, values, and behavior as well as influencing factors. Qualitative data were collected through the use of four focus groups of 10 soldiers each. Participants were within the last week of MP IET. The author facilitated the focus groups using a series of discussion questions. The questions were: (1) In what ways have your values changed since you entered the Army? (2) Within IET who or what has had the greatest impact on your values? Why? (3) In your opinion, to what extent does the Army live its values? (4) What has training in Army values been like? (5) What is your most memorable experience of a cadre member displaying either an Army value or the opposite of an Army value? (6) What is the most significant lesson that your drill sergeants have taught you about being moral or making moral decisions? (7) What is the most important factor or value when you are making a moral decision?


The focus group sessions were recorded using a digital recorder. The recordings were transcribed into text. The text was analyzed using qualitative content analysis. Qualitative content analysis was preferred over a quantitative content analysis since the researcher was more interested in the relationships of the influencing factors and perceived changes rather than simply analyzing the frequency of responses. The qualitative content analysis provided the researcher with significant descriptions of moral changes and influences from the soldiers’ point of view.


Research Questions and Hypotheses

This article will report on the following research questions and their corresponding hypotheses:

1. Are there changes in the moral judgment scores of MP IET soldiers at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, from the beginning to the conclusion of IET? This question will explore changes in moral judgment schemas (stages).

Null Hypothesis 1: There will be no change in the moral judgment scores in MP IET soldiers from the beginning to the conclusion of MP IET with respect to schema (stage) scores.

Alternative Hypothesis 1a: There will be a decrease in personal-interest score.

Alternative Hypothesis 1b: There will be an increase in personal-interest score.

Alternative Hypothesis 1c: There will be a decrease in maintaining norms score.

Alternative Hypothesis 1d: There will be an increase in maintaining norms score.

Alternative Hypothesis 1e: There will be a decrease in postconventional score.

Alternative Hypothesis 1f: There will be an increase in postconventional score.

5. What factors do MP IET soldiers identify as having a positive or negative effect on their moral development?

Null Hypothesis 5: There will be no factors identified as having either a positive or negative effect on moral development.

Alternative Hypothesis 5: IET soldiers will identify the example of their drill sergeant as the most influential factor, either positive or negative, of their moral development.

Note: Research questions 2 through 4 involved age, gender, and educational level and will not be discussed in this paper.



This section reports the results of research that was gathered using the methods described in the previous section. Implications of the results, as well as recommendations will be discussed in the following section.


Description of sample

The class of MP soldiers that were the subject of this study included 220 soldiers at the beginning of training. Thirty soldiers declined to participate in the study. Therefore, 190 soldiers completed the pretest DIT. Through attrition or injury over the course of 19 weeks, the class decreased in size. The posttest was completed by 167 soldiers. Through the scoring process of the DIT, some participants were purged due to extreme inconsistencies in their scores. As a result of purging, the scores of 19 soldiers were eliminated from the pretest and 34 from the posttest. This resulted in 171 pretest scores and 134 posttest scores after purging. A comparison of pretest and posttest scores resulted in a total of 120 matched pairs of scores. The matched pairs were analyzed for the overall comparison of pretest-posttest scores.

The mean age of the sample at pretest was 20.8 and at posttest was 21.2. The matched pairs consisted of 28 females and 92 males. Table 1 displays the descriptive statistics for the matched pair sample.

Table 1

Descriptive Statistics of Pretest/Posttest Paired Sample (n=120)







Std Dev




Stage 2/3 Personal Interest Pretest Score






Stage 2/3 Personal Interest Posttest






Change in Stage 2/3 Score












Stage 4 Maintain Norms Pretest






Stage 4 Maintain Norms Posttest






Change in Stage 4 Score












Stage 5 Postconventional Score






Stage 5 Postconventional Score






Change in Stage 5 Score












N2 Pretest Score






N2 Posttest Score






Change in N2 Score









The results of this research are reported in two general sections: quantitative data and qualitative data. The quantitative data will involve the analysis of the pretest and posttest scores of the Defining Issues Test (DIT) across the sample as a whole. The qualitative data will involve a quantitative content analysis of the texts of four focus groups of Military Police Initial Entry Training (IET) soldiers.


Quantitative Data


Paired t-test Pretest-Posttest Results

The scope and parameters of this article do not allow for detailed reporting of statistical analysis. Therefore, a discussion of quantitative results will be brief. The analysis of the matched pairs of pretest-posttest scores revealed no significant differences in scores among the four variables of types of moral judgment. There were no significant increases or decreases in Personal Interest, Maintain Norms, Postconventional, or N2 scores between the pretest and the posttest. On both the pretest and the posttest, the scores for maintain norms were approximately 42 percent, for postconventional approximately 24 percent, and for personal interest approximately 28 percent. The predominant schema of moral judgment for this sample at the start and at the conclusion of MP IET was maintain norms, a rules-based approach to moral judgment. This sample was more likely to act in ways to benefit self than on principles of justice and fairness. This indicates that on the whole, there were no statistically significant differences among soldiers in moral judgment as a result of participation in MP IET.


Additional Quantitative Data

The study also analyzed data regarding gender, age, and educational level. Norms for the DIT in the areas of age and educational level reveal a positive association of increased age and higher education level with higher moral judgment. In other words, the older one is and the higher level of education one has attained, the more likely one is to make moral judgments based using Postconventional reasoning. However, the analysis of the results of this study revealed no statistically significant differences between ages and educational levels on either the pretest or the posttest.

Regarding gender, there were no statistically significant results of change in moral judgment by males or females when comparing the results of the pretest and the posttest scores. In other words, the pretest and posttest scores of males showed no change.  And the female pretest and posttest scores of females showed no change. However, the scores of females and the scores of males on both the pretest and the posttest were significantly different.  Females scored significantly higher in Postconventional reasoning at the start of MP IET and at the conclusion of MP IET. Research shows that females tend to identify more easily with others, showing the moral emotions of empathy and sympathy, than males. Moral emotion and the ability to take the role of others are key aspects of Postconventional reasoning.


Qualitative Data

The qualitative content analysis identified four main areas of positive change based on the perceptions of the soldiers – decision making, individual values, interpersonal relationships, and leading. The elements of positive change are shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1. Soldiers’ self perceptions of positive change.


 The qualitative results revealed four main factors that soldiers stated had influenced the positive changes – training events, training content, peers, and leaders, with the latter being most influential. The influencing factors are shown in Figure 2. Additionally, the specific factors regarding leaders are shown in Figure 3.







Figure 2. Soldiers’ self perceptions of factors that influenced positive change.




Figure 3. Soldiers’ perceptions of leader actions for positive change.


The qualitative results revealed three areas of negative change – decision making, individual values, and interpersonal relationships. The elements of negative change are shown in Figure 4.


Figure 4. Soldiers’ self perceptions of negative change.


The qualitative results revealed three areas of negative influences – training content, peers, and leaders. The specific elements of negative influences are listed in Figure 5.


Figure 5. Soldiers’ perceptions of factors that influenced negative change.


Summary of Results

The quantitative results revealed that there were no statistically significant differences or changes between the pretest and posttest DIT scores. The soldiers’ primary schema for moral judgment at the start and at the conclusion of MP IET was the Maintain Norms schema. The results of the schema scores for the group revealed that Maintain Norms was 42 percent, Personal Interest was at 28 percent, and Postconventional was at 24 percent.  

Qualitative results identified significant positive changes which included the development of personal values, decision making processes, and relationships with others. Key influencing factors for positive change included swift, fair correction; relating to diversity of peers; and the relationship with and mentorship of leaders. Key leader actions for positive change included integrating discussion of real world situations, developing a leader-follower relationship, setting a positive example, and holding soldiers accountable for learning and behavior.

Qualitative results identified significant negative changes. Negative changes were the elimination of personal decision making, development of distrust toward others, and decrease in personal morals. Negative influences included the lack of practical application of values, the                                                  superficial memorization of values, and the lack of positive leadership, specifically, reinforcement; correction that was fair and respectful; a poor example; extreme strictness; and lack of practical application.




There was no statistically significant change in the pretest and posttest scores on any of the schemas. The primary schema of moral judgment was Maintaining Norms at 42 percent at both the start and the conclusion of MP IET. This means that soldiers tended to follow a rules-based approach to moral decision making both at the start and at the conclusion of MP IET. Soldiers did not increase in Postconventional moral judgment during their training. They did not develop an understanding of the principles behind the rules. While the Army may initially desire that soldiers strictly adhere to the rules, at some point, particularly with the transformation of the Army and the move from traditional warfare to unconventional warfare with a fluid battlefield, the Army needs to consider moral education that will produce soldiers who have the ability to adapt to ethical principles based on the current situation rather than simply following the rules which may not apply to the contemporary operating environment.



The results of the qualitative content analysis revealed mixed and conflicting changes and factors. Significant positive and negative changes and influencing factors were identified leading to the conclusion that much of the positive elements were cancelled or mitigated by the negative. Analysis revealed four key areas of influencing factors – training content, training, events, peers, and leaders, with the latter having the greatest impact. According to the participants, the most effective leaders engaged in respectful correction, provided regular feedback on soldiers’ performance, engaged in open discussion, practiced correction that was fair and just, and integrated values into daily life.

Best practices are respectful correction, feedback on performance, just and fair correction, integration of values into daily life, working with peers of diverse backgrounds, incorporating values into training events, extreme control hinders development. However, it is significant that the focus groups’ discussion of positive influences did not list any specifically moral content or exercises.  Also, negative influences included a lack of practical application of values and standards, a lack of real world situations, limited discussion of values, and a focus on memorization of values only.

Additionally, the negative influence of leaders included lack of reinforcement of, and incentive to live, the Army values. Some leaders were apathetic, impatient, and a poor example of the Army values. These negative leaders degraded the soldiers and did not correct violations of the Army values.

These results indicate that changes in behavior have occurred. However, the changes are not directly related to moral judgment. Additionally, the motivation for moral action seems to be sabotaged by the negative influencing factors, especially those of the leadership category. Therefore, a deep-seated change in moral character, moral motivation, moral sensitivity, and moral judgment is questionable. What is most likely is a superficial awareness of the Army standards and values, i.e., that soldiers know what to do, according to the Army, but are not necessarily motivated to do it. More will be said about this below.



Integration of Qualitative and Quantitative

The following section will discuss the possible reasons for an apparent inconsistency between the quantitative and qualitative results, i.e., the focus groups expressed personal change but the results of the DIT reveal no change.


Nature of the DIT

DIT is assessment of moral judgment. The schemas that the DIT addresses are not associated with specific values. The schemas are ways of approaching moral dilemmas. Therefore it is possible that one may not change in moral judgment but adopt new values. Moral judgment is but one element of moral identity and moral behavior. Other elements of moral identity include the self, and opportunities for application. Therefore, the lack of change in moral judgment does not indicate that soldiers were not influenced in other ways as a result of MP IET. More will be said later about moral identity.

The DIT is associated more with macromorality than micromorality. Rest and his associates state that “Macromorality concerns the “formal structures of society that are involved in making cooperation possible at a society level” (Rest, Narvaez, Bebeau, & Thoma, 1999, p. 2). Therefore, macromorality has to do with how a society ensures basic human rights and justice. Rest and his associates continue with “Micromorality concerns the developing relationships with particular others, and with an individuals’ creating consistent virtues with him- or herself throughout everyday life” (Rest, Narvaez, Bebeau, & Thoma, 1999, p. 2). Therefore, micromorality has to do with how individuals relate to one another in a mutually beneficial relationship. This dichotomy allows for the possibility that people may change in micromorality and remain unaltered in macromorality, and vice versa. Soldiers may conduct themselves in one way toward their peers and in a different way toward society as a whole. Change in moral judgment occurs as people learn “macromoral conceptions of social cooperation since one’s macromoral schema is the default interpretive system" (Thoma, 2002, p. 74)


Duration of the Study

Change takes time. Some may question that 19 weeks of MP IET was sufficient to observe a change in moral judgment. Studies have shown that significant change in moral judgment has occurred through interventions of 12 weeks in duration (Bebeau, 2002; Reimer, Paolitto, & Hersh, 1983) and some in colleges of a semester in duration (King & Mayhew, 2002). The extensive research on short term interventions and their success in causing change enables ruling out short duration as a cause of a lack of change in moral judgment.


Moral Challenge

Cognitive developmental moral theory asserts that development occurs when people are challenged in their current level of moral judgment and found inadequate (Power, Higgins, & Kohlberg, 1989). The most effective method of challenging moral judgment is through dilemma discussion and role taking exercises (King & Mayhew, 2002). Discussion in small groups exposes participants to thinking that is different from one’s own. The challenge of resolving different thought process causes one to restructure the way one resolves moral dilemmas. It is possible that soldiers current schema of moral judgment (Maintain Norms) was not challenged and found lacking.  Therefore they did not pursue more adequate moral judgment (Postconventional). In fact, the results of the qualitative data indicate that both the methods and the perceived changes tend to reinforce and reflect Maintain Norms moral judgment.


Training Methods

Army IET incorporates methods that place a heavy emphasis on directives, behavior modification processes such as reinforcement and conditioning, and repetition and memorization. Such processes have not been proven effective in the area of moral development and moral identity. The negative factors and influences that were identified by soldiers in the focus groups correspond to ineffective methods of moral education. These methods do not appear to provide a connection between moral judgment, the moral self, moral opportunities, moral motivation, moral emotions, and moral action. In other words, soldiers learn what to do, but not when and how to do it. They learn the Army’s moral code, but not the application of the code. The components of moral identity appear to be disjointed. The training methods may not reach into the heart of a soldier to provide motivation to engage in moral behavior that is consistent with the Army’s code. Training through a system of rewards and punishments is not sufficient to ensure morally acceptable behavior (Martinelli-Fernandez, 2006).

Much of the Army’s character education appears to consist of simply, using the words of Kupperman (2005) “imprinting the messages of a moral code” onto the minds of Soldiers (p. 211). The use of extrinsic motivation, and “a public awareness approach to values” (Davidson, 2005, p. 229) fall far short in soldier moral development. The major problem of these quick change approaches is that they tend to produce moral agents who are fair weather moral soldiers (Kupperman, 2005). These people can behave morally when the situation is favorable. But they tend to fail in adverse circumstances.

Moral awareness of organizational values is an important first step, but it is only a first step, a dress rehearsal for the real event. The second part of character education must involve gaining understanding of the principles and foundations for the organization’s moral code (Kupperman, 2005). Coupled with this understanding is practice and experience in behaving and making decisions base on the organization’s moral code. The key ingredient in this process is the development of the moral climate of the organization. In fact, it is this climate that is the heart of character education (Davidson, 2005). In defining character education, Davidson (2005) states, “Character education is a process whereby individual are constructing character through the interaction of their existing cognitive structures, novel experiences, and the influence of those around them” (p. 227). This indicates that character cannot be indoctrinated from outside a person. An individual must decide who he or she wants to become and then work on becoming. This definition also indicates that the main focus of character education is “to create a zone of optimal moral development” in which leaders, instructors, peers, and experiential learning through problem solving provide opportunities for people to construct their character (Davidson, 2005, p. 229).  Leaders and instructors guide the reflection of students through problem solving, decision making, dilemma discussion, and community service so that students understand the foundations of the moral code and they choose of their own volition to incorporate the organizations moral code into their construct of their character. This inductive educational process has been proven highly effective in character education programs, much more effective than just hoping that students “catch character by participating in a particular experience” (Davidson, 2005, p. 230).

The requirement of character education to create an environment in which the individual can construct his or her own character indicates the incorporation of intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation involves the inner drive and desire to act on the basis of the act’s inherent personal satisfaction. Extrinsic motivation involves the external rewards or punishments that one receives because of the act. The Army tends to use a system of rewards and punishments to alter and modify behavior. The author recently attended an IET graduation ceremony. The guest speaker, a senior NCO, spoke to the graduates, junior soldiers, about making the Army a career. The speech was motivational in nature and consisted of a lengthy outline of the extrinsic benefits of an Army career – benefits of education, housing, medical care, and job security. Nothing was said about the inner satisfaction of serving and protecting the nation, of deploying around the world to defend basic human rights and freedoms, or of fighting against oppression and injustice, all in order to create a just world where all men and women can flourish.  Extrinsic motivation is helpful initially. However, motivation must move to higher levels, i.e., intrinsic motivation. In fact, there is clear evidence that shows that extrinsic motivation undercuts character education. Davidson (2005) warns of the dangers of motivation by extrinsic means since studies have revealed that the use of “tangible extrinsic rewards for controlling behavior tend to undermine intrinsic motivation and self-regulation, that extrinsic rewards are less detrimental if they are not used contingently and if the social context is oriented more toward support control, and that verbal rewards conveying information and feedback or affirming competence tend to maintain or enhance intrinsic motivation” (p. 238).

Military service is somewhat similar to participation in athletics. Shields & Bredenmeier (2005) in answering the question “Can Sports Build Character?” respond with a qualified “yes”. However, simply participating in sports as they are usually practiced does not build character. Their research shows that those who participate in sports generally have lower levels of moral judgment than those fellow students who do not participate in sports. Additionally they state that people who play sports tend to develop a dual morality – one morality for the sport and another morality for life. Shields and Bredenmeier (2005) assert that for sports participation to produce character, two elements are required. The first element is that there must be a “sense of community” within the team in which democratic leadership is practiced to develop shared values, norms, and goals to “accentuate the moral dimension of the sport experience” (p. 133). The second requirement is “the promotion of a mastery climate” as opposed to a performance climate (p. 133). A mastery climate is task-oriented wherein one is in competition with self to develop expertise. A performance climate is ego oriented wherein one is in competition with others. Shields and Bredenmeier (2005) state

Mastery climates are associated with participants’ use of effective learning strategies, preference for challenging tasks, positive attitudes, and the belief that effort leads to success. Mastery climates nurture an achievement ethics that places value on the intrinsic quality of the experience. (p. 133)


Culture of the Army

The military is basically a Maintain Norms kind of organization. At its most commonly experienced level, the military is about hierarchy, chain of command, rules and regulations, standing operating procedures, standardization, controlling oneself and situations, and following orders. Therefore, one would expect that the organization’s personality would have great influence over the member’s personality. The military prescribes right behavior through regulations and policies. Reinforcement theory asserts the reinforcement of appropriate or desired behavior. The methods and content of IET appeared to reinforce rules-based moral judgment. Higher level moral judgment was not reinforced. Soldiers were not challenged by Postconventional moral arguments.


The Four Component Model

Two recent models of moral development provide insight into the issue of a lack of change in DIT scores but expressed change of soldiers in focus groups. The first model is the four component model (FCM) proposed by Rest and his associates (Rest, Narvaez, Bebeau, & Thoma, 1999). The FCM was developed in response to extensive and multifaceted number of theories about moral development. The FCM attempts to synthesize the most prevalent of these theories. The FCM consists of four intrapsychic elements that work together in producing moral behavior. The four elements are moral sensitivity, moral judgment, moral motivation, and moral character. Moral sensitivity involves an awareness of the moral problem, an understanding of the factors involved, understanding of the causes and effects of various choices, especially the effects on the people involved. Moral judgment involves the ability of determining which choice would be most morally justifiable. Moral motivation involves one’s level of commitment and personal responsibility to moral values and moral action. Moral character involves persistence and determination in pursuing moral goals. The DIT, as mentioned above, is a measurement of moral judgment, one of the elements of the FCM of moral behavior, and is not a strong assessment of moral behavior as a whole (Rest, Narvaez, Bebeau, & Thoma, 1999, p. 2).

Table 2 categorizes the qualitative data according to the elements of the FCM.


Table 2

 Qualitative Data Categorized by the FCM


Moral Sensitivity – awareness of factors, causes, and effects

Moral Judgment – ability to choose and justify

Moral Motivation – commitment and responsibility

Moral Character – persistence and determination

Positive Changes

- personal choices affect others

- interacting with diversity

- relationship skills

- problem solving

- critical thinking

- prioritizing

- managing change

- being responsible for others

- contributing to the team

- following others

- mental discipline

- self-control

- patience

- courage

- selfless service

- humility

- respect

Positive Influences

- realistic training

- diversity/multicultural elements

- leaders teaching critical thinking

- leaders teaching critical thinking


- swift correction

- shared adversity

- peer encouragement

- leader actions involving correction, accountability, and feedback on performance

- leader encouragement

- leader presence and participation

- leader attitude toward training and soldiers (inspirational, selfless, and passionate)

- leader demonstration of relationship skills (sincerity, openness, honesty, listening, trustworthiness)

- peer encouragement

- leader encouragement


Negative Change

- IET eliminated the need for personal decision making

- IET eliminated the need for personal decision making

- decreased spirituality

- increase in negative attitudes

- decrease in personal morals

- decreased personal morals

Negative Influences

- limited discussion of values

- memorization of values only

- lack of real world situations

- lack of practical application of values and standards

- limited discussion of values

- memorization of values only

- lack of real world situations

- lack of practical application

- memorization of values only

- negative attitudes of peers

- lack of incentive and reinforcement by leaders

- leaders apathetic or

- impatient, degrading, and extremely strict leaders

- leaders of poor example

- lack of practical application of values and standards

The data in Table 2 indicates limited influences on soldiers’ moral sensitivity, limited influences on soldiers’ moral judgment, significant influence on moral motivation, but superficial items related to moral character. Soldiers’ exposure to moral sensitivity primarily dealt with being forced to relate to others of diverse backgrounds. Additionally, soldiers learned much about how their actions affect others through the use of group punishment. However, there were some significant barriers to their development of moral sensitivity – the lack of practical application, discussion, and real world situations involving the Army’s moral code, as well as the superficial memorization of the code.

Items related to moral judgment were also somewhat limited. Basic decision making skills were listed by soldiers. But these decision making skills are not exclusively moral in nature. Also, the negative influences listed for moral judgment were significant – the rigid structure and rules eliminated the need for personal decision making; also, the lack of practical application of the Army’s moral code.

Soldiers listed a large number of items that related to an influence on moral motivation, i.e., the commitment to and personal responsibility or moral action. However, soldiers listed only a few changes that were related to moral motivation. There were significant items listed in both positive and negative categories. The appearance is that there were just as many de-motivating items as there were motivating items. Concerning moral motivation, leaders had a significant impact, both positively and negatively. It is questionable that soldiers increased in their motivation to act morally.

In the area of moral character (persistence and determination in moral action), several characteristics are listed. These items could be moral or amoral depending on the situation. Taken in conjunction with the other elements of the FCM, it is difficult to assume that the characteristics are enduring, persistent elements of moral character. The significant positive and negative items listed for moral sensitivity, moral judgment, and moral motivation leads one to believe that the items listed for moral character may be applied inconsistently and not internalized wholeheartedly.


Moral identity

A second model of moral behavior is that of moral identity (Blasi, 1983, 1994, 2004, 2005; Hart, 2005b; Hart & Atkins, 2004). Blasi developed the theory of moral identity while searching for a connection between moral understanding and moral action. Blasi’s self model includes three elements of moral action – the moral self, moral responsibility, and self-consistency (Walker, 2004). The moral self refers to the degree to which one considers moral values to be an integral part of one’s identity. Moral responsibility is the sense of moral obligation that one has to act in a given situation. Self-consistency is the motive to act in a way that is consistent with one’s moral self. For Blasi, “[m]oral action is intentional action—it is the result of reasons, reasons that determine its moral quality” (Walker, 2004, p. 5).

Others have built on Blasi’s model. Specifically, Hart’s (2005b; Atkins, R., Hart, D., & Donnelly, T., 2004. Hart & Atkins, 2004) model of moral identity, which is similar to the FCM, is presented here in Figure 6.


Figure 6. Hart’s Model of Moral Identity Formation.

Figure X. A model of moral identity formation (Hart, 2005b, p. 179)


The first level of the model consists of one’s personality and social structure. These elements are relatively enduring and unchangeable. One’s capacity for sympathy and empathy, as well as one’s family, culture, and socio-economic status serves as the foundation for one’s moral identity. Level two consists of the elements that can be influenced – moral cognition (judgment), one’s sense of self, and the opportunities that one has to engage in moral activities. One’s attitudes toward moral issues, moral self-evaluation, level of commitment to certain values and ideals, and one’s involvement in certain institutions, organizations, and relationships make up one’s entire moral identity. As with the FCM presented above, Hart’s model of moral identity provides insight as to the reason that one’s moral judgment may go unchanged but other elements of moral identity and moral behavior may change.



Table 3

Qualitative Data Categorized by Hart’s Model of Moral Identity


Moral Cognition – judgment, moral/civic attitudes

Self & Identity – exploration, moral evaluation, salient ideals, commitment to ideals

Opportunities – institutions, relationships

Positive Change

- problem solving

- critical thinking

- prioritizing

- managing change

- self-control

- spirituality

- patience

- courage (overcoming fear)

- selfless service

- humility

- respect


- choices affect others

- self-control

- interacting with others

- relationship skills

- contributing to the team

- being responsible for others

- following others

- self-confidence (self-efficacy)

- problem solving

- critical thinking

- prioritizing

- managing change

Positive Influences

- leaders teaching critical thinking

- leaders discussing real world situations

- leaders helping with soldiers’; problems


- confidence course

- leader training elements – correcting, holding accountable, enforcing standards

- leader example – balance of positive and negative correction (respect); limited harsh discipline; compassion;

- leader encouragement, sacrificing time; present, inspiring, passionate, participation, believing in soldiers, using disappointment as a motivational technique, pushing soldiers

- diversity/multicultural elements

- peer encouragement

- swift correction

- shared adversity

- realistic training

- training events – field training exercise, confidence course, mud pit, bayonet course, urban operations

- leader/follower relationship

- leader actions – sharing personal problems; discussing real world situations; focusing on soldiers’ needs; ensuring soldiers’ survival; helping with soldiers’ problems

Negative Change

- IET eliminated soldiers’ need for personal decision making

- decline in spirituality

- increase in negative attitudes

- decline in personal morals

- increase in distrust of others

Negative Influences

None listed

- lack of practical application of values and standards

- limited discussion of values

- values memorization only

- Leader actions – lack of positive reinforcement and incentive; apathetic, degrading, impatient, lack of correction, extreme strictness, poor example

- lack of practical application of values and standards

- lack of real world situations

- negative attitudes of peers


The data in Table 3 indicate limited items that deal directly with moral cognition, superficial elements that deal with self and identity, extensive opportunities for moral activity, and a heavy influence, both positive and negative, of leader actions. The items listed under moral cognition are not exclusively moral, but may primarily be pragmatic in nature. The lack of moral judgment content is consistent with the lack of change in moral judgment as presented by the results of the quantitative data.

The area of self and identity identifies several elements of moral character – patience, courage, selfless service, humility, respect, and self-control (self-regulation). There are many positive influences that were identified that would precipitate such positive changes related to self and identity.  However, there are also several significant negative changes and influences which could neutralize the positive changes.  The results of this incongruence may be identity confusion or superficial acknowledgement.  In short, soldiers may learn what to do and who a soldier is, but not be fully committed to the identity of a soldier. If the training content does not clarify the Army values and the leaders do not consistently exemplify the values, there is decreased commitment to live and practice the values. This is not to say that soldiers have rejected the Army’s moral code. It is to say that soldiers have not wholeheartedly internalized that code.

Soldiers listed a significant number of opportunities for moral activity. However, the assumption seems to be that simple participation in such activities will result in the development of moral character. There does not appear to be a direct relationship between the various opportunities and moral character. In other words, the opportunities are not directly used for practice in moral action and moral character development. Leaders are not taking full advantage of the opportunities to demonstrate how training events are directly related to the Army’s moral code. This is evident from the items listed in the opportunities column as related to negative influences.

It is clear that the influence of leaders is the most significant factor in change or lack thereof. The salience of the leader-follower relationship is evident in much research. However, the impact of the leader-follower relationship appears to be mitigated due to the negative factors that soldiers listed such as the negative, poor example of some leaders and the lack of direct moral content in training.


The strength of these two models is that they recognize that moral behavior is not a one dimensional, liner equation. Instead, moral behavior consists of a complexity of factors, and influences, including the context of the moral issue at hand.


Summary of Implications

1. The content and methods of MP IET seem to have no effect on the moral judgment of soldiers. Specifically, MP IET does not challenge the maintain norms (rules-based) moral judgment to the extent that soldiers recognize the inadequacy of the maintain norms level and seek the more adequate moral judgment of Postconventional reasoning. 

2. The content and methods of MP IET tend to reinforce the maintain norms schema of moral judgment, that is, a rules-based approach to moral decision making.

3. The leader-follower relationship appears to be the most powerful force for moral education and character education.  

4. The culture of the Army tends to serve as a barrier to developing the kind of moral judgment that is required for future military operations, which will require greater flexibility and adaptability than a rules-based approach allows.

5. The FCM and the model of moral identity provide insight into the development of character education in the Army. Each provides categories for identification and assessment of the elements of IET that either serve as supports for or barriers to moral character development. Character education should include elements that address moral sensitivity, moral judgment, moral motivation, moral emotion, moral values and commitments, and moral activities (such as community service) in order to produce soldiers who are ethical experts.

6. The application of the FCM and the model of moral identity reveal a significance of items that support and detract from the development of moral character. This conflict leads one to believe that the Army’s moral code is not fully internalized through the course of IET. Most likely the Army’s moral code is superficially acknowledged as valid such that soldiers have a dual morality. That is to say that they act like soldiers when necessary and resort to a different morality when the Army’s moral code is not personally advantageous.



The problem with and the failure of many character education programs is not with the content but with the methods incorporated in the program. Most character education programs are based on virtue ethics. Virtue ethics is not concerned as much with how to act morally but with how to lead a good and moral life. For Aristotle, people have a purpose (telos) that includes flourishing (eudaimonia). In order to flourish, one must develop virtues that enable ethical conduct. Virtues are developed through habit. The downfall of many programs of character education is the misunderstanding and misuse of the term “habit.” Aristotle asserted a developmental process whereby individuals grew increasingly proficient to the point of mastery through practice and mentorship. However, many current programs of character education use methods that violate the principles of virtue ethics that Aristotle espoused. Elements of behavior modification attempt to inculcate virtues through cause and effect processes (Nucci, 2004). These programs turn character education into a program of teaching virtues rather than nurturing virtue. These programs become what Kohlberg called a “bag of virtues.” 

Recent history of character education programs is that they are a reaction against ethical relativism, that is, the notion that the right thing to do depends on the situation. Character education programs are about providing a consistent frame of reference for deciding the right thing to do. Lapsley & Narvaez (2006) state “The goal of character education, in other words, is less about enlisting children in the battle against ethical relativism and more about equipping them with the moral dispositions and skills required for effective citizenship in a liberal democracy” (p. 270-271). The Army cannot simply focus on training soldiers to be warriors. Soldiers are also citizens of the nation. Soldiers must be exemplary citizens (Snider, 2008). Soldiers must be examples of morality in both war and peace. They must remain true to the values of the Army and the nation when conducting war. High moral character is necessary since

In the light then of such demanding moral imperatives as these, it follows that only men and women of the deepest compassion, clearest sense of justice, and highest integrity would be both able and willing in time of war to distinguish between justified and unjustified applications of violence. (Mattox, 2005, p. 397)

Therefore, character education in the Army should be about equipping soldiers to be experts in an ethical lifestyle and not just being able to do something ethical periodically or at a moment in time.

There is evidence that demonstrates that moral actions are highly subjective and contextual. Hartshorne and May (1928, 1929) conducted studies which resulted in their questioning the existence of character traits. These studies showed that moral action was dependent on the situation and the emotional state of the actor.

The Army tends to teach virtues just as it teaches other combat and noncombat skills, through memorization, repetition, conditioning techniques, and a system of rewards and punishments. The Army tends to follow the premise that information automatically results in motivation. That is, knowledge of what is moral will automatically result in moral action. Research has indicated that moral judgment is not intrinsically motivational. There is a gap between moral judgment and moral action. Nevertheless, upon the occurrence of a moral collapse or failure, the usually response is a class. Following a suicide there is suicide prevention training. Following an ethics violation, there is ethics training. Following a sexual assault, there is prevention of sexual assault training. However, research indicates that increased information does not promote the desired behavior or prohibit the undesired behavior. According to the two models mentioned above (the FCM and the model of moral identity) the mediating factors between moral judgment and moral action/behavior are moral identity, moral sensitivity, moral character, moral efficacy (as a result of moral opportunities), and moral motivation. It is on these elements that character education needs to focus.

Several key principles need to be considered in a process of effective character development The Eleven Principles of the Character Education Partnership (CEP) and the seven principles outlined by Lickona and Davidson (2004, as cited in Lapsley & Narvaez, 2005)) provide a firm foundation.

CEP’s Eleven Principles.

1. Core values (caring, honesty, fairness, responsibility, respect) are the basis for building good character.

2. Character education programs must use holistic methods that include cognitive, affective, and behavioral elements.

3. All school or organization members must be involved in “an intentional, proactive, and comprehensive way” (Lapsley & Narvaez, 2005).

4. The school or organization must create a caring and just community and culture. 

5. The school or organization provides opportunities in which the members are actively engaged in moral and community service activities.

6. The content of the curriculum must challenge the member’s moral judgment.

7. Moral motivation is promoted though “a climate of trust and respect, encouraging a sense of autonomy, and by building shared norms through dialogue, class meetings, and democratic decision making” (Lapsley & Narvaez, 2005, p. 270).

8. The school or organization leaders and staff must practice the core values.

9. The school or organization must make character education a long term project by developing a process of shared leadership.

10. The character education program must engage stakeholders in both the family and community arena.

11. The school or organization “must be committed to ongoing assessment and evaluation”


Lickona and Davidson’s seven principles are:

1. Make the development of character the cornerstone of the school’s mission and identity.

2. Cultivate an ethical learning community that includes staff, students, and parents, who share responsibility for advancing the school’s character education mission.

3. Encourage the professional staff to form a professional ethical learning community to foster collaboration and mutual support in advancing the ethical dimensions of teaching and student development.

4. Align all school practices, including curriculum, discipline, and extracurricular activities, with the goals of performance excellence and moral excellence.

5. Use evaluation data to monitor progress in the development of strength of character and to guide decision making with respect to educational practices.

6. Integrate ethical material into the curriculum while encouraging lifelong learning and a career orientation.

7. Treat classroom and school wide discipline as opportunities to support the ethical learning community by emphasizing the importance of caring, accountability, shared ownership or rules, and a commitment to restitution. (Lapsley & Narvaez, 2005, p. 271-272)


The collective value of these principles is that they focus the organization’s attention on its responsibility to make moral education an integral element, not a by-product, of the educational process.  Additionally, these principles are based on current research of the best practices of moral and character education. Such practices include making students active participants in constructing their own moral character, not just passive recipients of behavior modification processes and using moral education practices of dilemma discussion, role taking, and creating a just community and organizational culture (Lapsley & Narvaez, 2005).


Moral Identity

Character education should not focus narrowly on traits and virtues but on the whole person. Character education should address all elements of the moral identify model and the FCM – moral judgment, moral self, moral opportunities, moral emotions, moral motivation. Moral identity helps outline the specifics of living a moral life and helps to explain the cause of moral collapse (Hart, 2005a; Hardy & Carlo, 2005). Moral identity provides moral motivation through the desire for self-consistency (Hardy & Carlo, 2005; Hart, 2005a). “one has a moral identity to the extent that he or she has actively constructed an identity centered on moral concerns, providing a strong sense of obligation and commitment to living consistent with these concerns” (Hardy & Carlo, 2005, p. 244).

When one’s sense of self is based on moral concerns and ideals and moral values are esteemed highly, then one is said to have a moral identity. When one has a moral identity, then one is more likely to act in ways that are consistent with his or her moral concerns and values (Hardy & Carlo, 2005). It is possible for people to understand moral issues but have low commitment to those moral issues (Hardy & Carlo, 2005). High commitment to moral causes results in greater unity between self and moral goals (Hardy & Carlo, 2005). The greater one esteems moral values and virtues as essential to their sense of self, the more likely they are to engage in moral action” (Hardy & Carlo, 2005, p. 252). Moral identity has been linked to moral motivation (Bergman, 2004).

There is a precedent for focusing on moral identity within the context of the military. The character education process of the United States Military Academy (USMA) includes spiritual, ethical, and social dimensions (Snider, 2007). Army doctrinal publications present three basic elements of a soldier’s personality – be, know, and do. The character development of cadets at USMA addresses the “be” element. The process of character education at USMA begins with the search for meaning and purpose. This search for “personal truth” is followed by training on the Army professional ethic. The goal is that personal truth and professional ethics will result in moral action that is consistent with the Army’s moral code.


Postconventional morality.

The soldiers of the future will be expected to adapt to an ever changing operating environment. This indicates a need for an ability to apply principles and for flexibility, not just the ability to follow rules (Hooker, 2005). Research by Hartshorne & May revealed that most of moral behavior based on the situational context of the moral dilemma. Hardy & Carlo state (2005) “the majority of moral action is likely more spontaneous or habitual” (p. 246). Within the context of a military operation in general or a battle in specific, there is little time for cognition, that is, engaging in a moral decision making process. The Army is transforming. The nature of warfare is changing. The Army is called upon to transition from war fighting to peace making in a moment’s notice. These factors require a type of moral judgment that is flexible and adaptable to the ever-changing contemporary operating environment. There is a need to develop Postconventional moral reasoning that is based on principles rather than the inflexible, rules-based approach of Maintain Norms moral judgment.

Soldiers have a moral imperative not to harm noncombatants, to only use as much force as is necessary for neutralizing the enemy, to exercise restraint, to minimize risk to noncombatants, to balance risk to combatants with risk to friendly forces. As a result, Pfaff (2005) asserts “This moral calculus underscores the need for professionals who have the education and experience required to maintain the profession’s integrity by balancing mission accomplishment with moral and legal restrictions” (p. 419). This indicates that the Army must clarify and train the kind of moral judgment and action that create moral experts who apply the principles of the Army’s moral code.


Emphasis on the Profession of Arms

Accentuate the importance of the Army as a profession. As with every profession, there are certain standards of conduct. A professional is an expert in the morality, not just in the technical skills, of his or her field. Someone can memorize all the parts of the body but that does not make her a doctor. As Bebeau (2002) states, “Professional practice is predominantly a moral enterprise” (p. 271). Professional education programs include elements of moral judgment and professional ethics to ensure that behavior is consistent with professional standards.  

One model of ethical education that can be incorporate into professional programs is Integrated Ethical Education (IEE) (Lapsley & Narvaez, 2006). IEE centers on three main components: “character as expertise development, the cultivation of character as the cultivation of expertise, and the importance of self-regulation for developing and maintaining virtuous character” (Lapsley & Narvaez,, 2006, p. 281-282). An expert is thoroughly trained and skilled in the knowledge and application of the procedures of her profession, as compared to a novice. A person of virtue is an expert in the field of ethical practice. But ethical expertise, or in Shields and Bredenmeier’s (2005) terminology mastery, is not just about doing. It is about being. Ethical expertise includes heightened proficiency in such elements of moral behavior and moral identity, such as those components of the FCM (ethical sensitivity, ethical judgment, ethical motivation, and ethical action).

According to Lapsley & Narvaez (2006) the development of ethical expertise requires two elements: “First, it must be constructivist; second, it must attend simultaneously to cultivating expertise on two fronts: conscious, explicit understandings and intuitive, implicit understanding. Participants in IEE must engage active thought processes when being challenged with new moral information. Participants must restructure their thought processes according to more adequate moral reasoning.

Lapsley & Narvaez, (2006) advocate a method of instruction called coached apprenticeship, in which the instructor serves as a kind of mentor who provides examples of ethical expertise and detailed explanations as to the reasons for certain actions and decisions. The value and effectiveness of coached apprenticeship is in its use of a balance of methods: direct and indirect, imitative and transformative, a concern for process and content, and addressing the participant’s conscious and intuitive thought processes. As Lapsley & Narvaez state “Teaching for ethical expertise requires coached apprenticeship and extensive practice in multiple contexts” (p. 282) as one moves from novice to expert. This process is accomplished through educational activities that move along four levels: (a) familiarization to the examples and patterns of moral behavior, (b) detailed study and analysis of prototypical examples to understand concepts, (c) provide activities to enable participants to practice concepts and skills, (d) participants integrate knowledge and skills in a variety of settings and contexts (Lapsley & Narvaez, 2006). Coached apprenticeship is supported by the qualitative data of this study. Recall that clearly, soldiers stated that their drill sergeants and leaders had the most significant impact on their moral values.

The third element of IEE is the cultivation of self-regulation in order to sustain moral behavior. Self-regulation is the ability to monitor one’s own behavior-the successes and failures-and adjust as necessary to fulfill personal goals. The process of self-regulation and the development of virtues, as presented by Aristotle, include “extensive practice, effort, and guidance from parents, teachers, and mentors until the child is able to self-maintain virtue” (Lapsley & Narvaez, 2006, p. 283). In order for IEE to be success, the practice of self-regulation must occur among the leaders and teachers of an organization as well as among the followers and students. The leaders must set the example. This indicates that the entire culture, climate, policies, and procedures of the organization consist of, and make explicit, relationships that are caring, ethical, respectful, fair, and just. Specifically, the leaders and instructors consistently discuss the moral issues that occur in the daily activities of the organization, the classroom setting, or the training environment. Education and training should focus on the key question, “Who should I be?” as contrasted with what someone should do. Responsibility is placed on the students or the followers to engage actively in the work of building their own character, rather than being passive recipients of conditioning processes. In order to develop expertise in an area, one must take the initiative to be self-directive in constructing the person one wants to become. Lapsley & Narvaez (2006) summarize by saying, “Ethical know-how must be trained holistically, as a type of expertise, at first coached, then increasingly self-directed” (p. 283). Soldiers in the study reported that the most effective leaders were those who set the example, who practiced the Army’s moral code, and who demonstrate self-discipline.

The principles of IEE are being used in other areas of the Army. The development of the professional ethic and moral agency at USMA includes reflection, guidance by mentors, and a focus on developing moral self-regulation (Hanna & Sweeney, 2007). Through the guidance of mentors, discussions of moral dilemmas and the intense examination of actions are used to reinforce the Army professional ethic. One of the developers of the USMA Cadet Leader Development System (CLDS), Snider (2008) states, “the construction of moral development happens best in structured reflection with informed mentors” (p. 31). Such practices can also be incorporated into Army IET.

The character education process at USMA does not end with training in moral judgment and moral agency. It also focuses on developing moral efficacy and expertise. Soldiers must be confident in and have the ability and motivation to engage in moral action. At the USMA, the primary method of developing moral efficacy and expertise is through moral triggering events. A moral triggering event “jolt[s] people out of their complacency and into a period of deep self-reflection, thus paving the way for exceptional individual development” (Hanna & Sweeney, 2007, p. 155). Through increasingly intense moral triggering events, cadets gain confidence and experience in moral action. The goal of the character education process is the internalization of the Army’s moral code and therefore the ability to act in ways that are consistent with the code.

The character development program of I Corps, Fort Lewis, WA also incorporates the principles of IEE (Van Dyken, 2008). The program is designed to prepare soldiers for the moral battles of war. The program includes three elements – instruction on the morality, evil, and horrors of war through the use of dilemma discussion; discussion of the use of revenge in combat; and discussion of resources that soldier have for supporting moral action.

Training Methods

The Army has tended to use a virtue ethics approach to its character education. However, this use of the virtue ethics approach has only been in the selection of the virtues to be developed in its soldiers. The methods of inculcating those virtues are anything but philosophic. The Army’s methods are extremely directive, mimetic, and oratorical. The mistake that many character education programs make is that of using non-philosophic methods in an attempt to inculcate values (Lapsley & Narvaez, 2006).  Kant spoke of the need for autonomy when developing moral character. The best practices of character education are those that incorporate opportunities for self-direction. Soldiers must have the freedom to choose to internalize the elements of the Army’s moral code. Change occurs best when people have the freedom to adopt values that they believe to be necessary for self-flourishing. The freedom to choose requires self-reflection. Having selected such values, soldiers must then be able to rule themselves. Much of the directive approaches of IET are very controlling, which tend to reduce the personal responsibility of soldiers and increase the responsibility of leaders to be present to enforce the rules. This fact was indicated in the study’s focus group’s results.

The ARI report recommended the use of various battle drills in character education. This method is indirect and assumes that soldiers will develop inner moral character from the activities. This is referred to as the hidden curriculum, i.e., the notion that character can be developed through activities apart from cognition (Power, Higgins, & Kohlberg, 1989). However, the models of moral behavior and identity lead us to believe that there must be some direct connection between moral judgment, one’s view of self as related to certain values, and the opportunities for moral activity.  Therefore, the best character education programs are those that are direct but not directive, explicit as well as self-directive and self-constructive.



Dilemma Discussion

Cognitive developmental theory informs that change in moral judgment requires that one’s current level of moral judgment be challenged and found inadequate so the one searches for moral adequate methods of moral judgment. Cognitive developmental theory also informs us that moral development requires being able to take the role of others, i.e., being able to empathize and sympathize with others. The specific tool that has been empirically validated is that of small group dilemma discussion (Bebeau, 2002; Berkowitz & Gibbs, 1983; King & Mayhew, 2002).  Discussions must allow for the cognitive restructuring of soldiers’ moral thinking, an activity that soldiers must perform on themselves.  Therefore, the discussion must not be directive, but self-directive, not just informative but challenging, not impersonal but provide for role taking. (Hart & Carlo, 2005)


Moral Activity

Hart’s (2005b) model of moral identity asserts the need for moral activity in the development of personal and professional moral identity. Such activities include institutional, organizational, and relational opportunities. The use of moral triggering events was discussed above. Such opportunities for moral engagement must be included in IET. The methods that are typically used for training a technical task have not been proven effective for developing moral character. This does not mean to abandon the battle drills but to assert the need to make the hidden curriculum explicit. There needs to be open discussion within IET about the moral issues surrounding a moral dilemma. Moral activity clearly influences moral identity (Hardy & Carlo, 2005).


Leader-follower Relationship

It is clear from both this study and empirical research that the first line supervisor is the most significant factor in moral education. The principle of coached apprenticeship mentioned above applies. Kouzes and Posner (2001) say that studies show that the supervisor’s behavior is that most influential factor in whether followers behavior morally or immorally.“Research has shown, for example, that the quality of early teacher-student relationships can have a strong influence on academic and social outcomes that persist through eighth grade” (Lapsley & Narvaez, 2006, p. 272). Caring communities, bonding, and mutually supportive relationships are key elements in character education. “Relationships are critical to character education, so character education must focus on the quality of relationships at school” (Berkowitz, 2002, p. 58-59, as cited in Lapsley & Narvaez, 2006, p. 272). Therefore, drill sergeants must understand that the quality and characteristics of their relationship with IET soldiers is a moral issue. The leader-follower relationship has effect on soldiers’ ability to live a moral life and to make moral decisions in and outside combat. The Army needs to recognize and drill sergeants need to see themselves as guides along the character pathway. When it comes to character education, drill sergeants are not to be experts in indoctrination. Rather, drill sergeants are to be those who mentor soldiers through coached apprenticeship, who challenge soldiers with moral dilemmas, who nurture relationship based on the Army’s moral code, and who model and create a climate of mastery. 


Positive Peer Relationships

Positive peer relationships that focus on “equality and cooperation…provide…the experience of interacting according to the reciprocity norm…become aware of the consequences their actions have for others” (Hardy & Carlo, 2005, p. 249). They realize that their actions are constantly being evaluated by others. So they begin to evaluate themselves. As they evaluate themselves, they are motivated to act in ways that are consistent with the image of morality that they want to fulfill. “In short, peer interaction fosters sociomoral understanding and the development of a sense of moral self-responsibility” (Hardy & Carlo, 2005, p. 249). Peer relationships provide role taking opportunities and decision that affects others and the realization of moral agency (Hart, & Carlo, 2005).  This is confirmed by the focus groups.


Organizational Climate

Effective character education requires creating a climate for optimal moral development, a mastery climate (Davidson, 2005; Shields & Bredenmeier, 2005). This climate is described above. Leaders in the training environment can create such a climate by structuring the learning environment so that soldiers can actively participate in the process through personal expression of ideals, adopting shared norms and values, listening to and respecting others, cooperating with others both leaders and peers, and working toward common goals. Leaders also create the optimal climate by using leadership and communication styles that encourage the development of relationships and facilitates the process of education, not just the transmission of information or of indoctrination.

Shields and Bredemeier (2005) assert that a mastery climate includes diverse tasks, shared authority, recognition of effort in addition to accomplishment, a variety of group activities, personal improvement and effort as the focus of evaluation, and flexibility in determining the time required for learning specific skills. Granted, some of these items pose a problem for military training. However, the principles that underlie these items can be adapted to create a mastery climate of optimal moral development. This is not without support from Army doctrine. The Army’s leadership publication, Field Manual 6-22 (U.S. Army, 2006) states,

A climate that promotes the Army Values and fosters the Warrior Ethos encourages learning, promotes creativity and performance, and establishes cohesion. The foundation for a positive environment is a healthy ethical climate, although that alone is insufficient. Characteristics of successful organizational climates include a clear, widely known purpose; well-trained and confident Soldiers; disciplined, cohesive teams; and trusted, competent leaders. (p. 11-4)


This publication goes on to list the actions that develop such a climate as including using mistakes as learning opportunities, developing unit cohesion, honoring moral leaders with promotion, and leaders who actively solicit feedback on the moral climate of the unit. A climate such as described above encourages the individual in active participation in the organizational unit and in creating his or her own character (Davidson, 2005; Shields, & Bredenmeier, 2005).


Role of the Chaplain

Chaplains have a unique role in moral and character development. In additional to being spiritual leaders that provide for the free exercise of religion, they are, by doctrine, charged with advising the commander on moral issues and developing and executing the commander’s moral leadership program. The chaplain provides feedback to the command on issues and factors that influence the moral climate of the organization. Such factors may include the actions of individuals and command policies. Regarding moral leadership, chaplains develop activities and training to enhance the moral behavior of the soldiers within the command. Within the context of IET, chaplains can serve several key functions.  As a moral guide and mentor, chaplains assist soldiers in clarifying, reflecting on, and integrating the Army’s moral code. As chaplains visit training sites and provide instruction, they can incorporate the principles of dilemma discussion, role-taking activities, and morally challenging exercises (triggering events) into their interaction with IET soldiers. Chaplains can engage soldiers in moral discussions that focus on the application and internalization of the Army’s moral code. These engagements can either be planned as part of a training event or impromptu as soldiers are eating a meal in the field or cleaning weapons.

A second function of chaplains is building the team and developing unit cohesion. Moral action occurs within the context of relationships. A strong unit requires trust between its members. A key precipitating factor of trust is the presence of justice and fairness. Chaplains are considered the subject matter experts in the area of morale and unit cohesion. Chaplains can engage IET soldiers in discussion and instruction regarding the requirements for and necessity of strong unit cohesion. This instruction would involve exploring fairness, justice, and respect in daily interaction with others.

A third function of the chaplains is that of setting the example. Chaplains, although noncombatants, share the hardships of military service with the soldiers they serve. Chaplains go where the soldiers go. As they are present with soldiers, chaplains demonstrate how a soldier lives a good life, makes moral decisions, fulfills moral obligations, and exercises self-regulation.

The recent movement to eliminate chaplains as ethics instructors in officer branch training schools is disconcerting. The notion that ethics can be taught through distant learning exercises will prove to be inadequate. Moral expertise cannot be developed through the imparting of information alone. Because of a chaplain’s unique training and perspective on matters of morality, the role of the chaplain in character education is essential.



Summary of Recommendations

1. Incorporate all three elements of level two of the model of moral identity into training: moral judgment, sense of self, and moral activities. Promote a clear description of the expected moral identity of the soldier as a moral agent.

2. In the area of moral judgment, set a goal of developing Postconventional moral judgment among IET soldiers by incorporating dilemma discussion and role taking opportunities that will challenge soldiers’ maintain norms level of moral judgment.

3. Incorporate the three elements of IEE into IET: nurturing character as ethical expertise; cultivate ethical expertise through self-constructivist methods that include both conscious, explicit, direct training and intuitive, implicit, indirect training (such as coached apprenticeship); and self-regulation through a mutually supportive and caring organizational culture.

4. Make the hidden curriculum explicit. Don’t assume that moral understanding necessitates moral action.

5. Adopt the premise that leadership is a relationship of trust, mutual support, example, and mentorship.

6. Create a culture in which peer relationships are characterized by service.

7. Create a climate of optimal moral development, aka., mastery.



The Army continues to transform itself to meet with the changing face of the threat and nonconventional warfare. Organizational structure, weapons systems, and tactics have changed to meet the changing threat. Individual soldiers have increased firepower in their hands. Soldiers are experiencing multiple deployments and significant critical incident stress wear down cognitive thinking including moral judgment. As a result there are increased opportunities for moral collapse. What is required is increased flexibility and adaptability to transform from a fighting force to a nation-building force. With these changes, the Army must also ensure that soldiers are prepared morally to meet the challenges of contemporary military engagements. Modularity requires a change in moral philosophy and character education. We should be concerned not only with what should be done, but also how to encourage people to do what should be done.

As the Army transforms, it must consider the type of moral culture that is required for future military operations. Such future operations will require leaders and soldiers

who know how to think, who have internalized the Army values and the warrior ethos, and who are flexible, adaptive, confident, competent, and self-aware . . . who can control their emotions and can analyze situations on the fly in order to make the right decisions at the right time. (Brinsfield & Baktis, 2005, p. 483)

We cannot assume that soldiers will act morally if they understand the Army’s moral code. That is, understanding information ensures action. We must take the next step and not just inform but also motivate. We must encourage soldiers to internalize the Army’s moral code and make the code an integral part of their identity. We must nurture soldiers’ moral judgment beyond a rules-based approach to an adaptable, principled approach. We must get beyond the practice of simply establishing and enforcing rules in a causative manner. We must take character education to the next level. In the words of Davidson (2005), “The core of morality is respect, which requires character education that is done with students, not to them” (p. 227)



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