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The Richard B. Lippin Lecture Series: Moral Development in the Context of Group Games

On April 20, Dr. Carolyn Hildebrandt will discuss the comparative benefits of cooperative and competitive games, and the importance of allowing children to create and regulate their own games within democratic, constructivist classrooms.
by Karissa Rodgers Apr 18, 2017

Carolyn Hildebrandt headshot

By: Lindsey Hogge

Over the past four years, Michael D. Burroughs, associate director of the Rock Ethics Institute, senior lecturer of philosophy, as well as vice president of the Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization (PLATO), has organized the Richard B. Lippin Lecture Series for the Rock Ethics Institute. Since joining the Rock, Burroughs has focused the Lippin Lecture Series on topics relating to moral development and ethics education. Burroughs explained that “My interest in facilitating this lecture series is that the Rock is in large part an educational institute. A big part of our mission is education and outreach.”

As part of the Lippin Lecture Series, Carolyn Hildebrandt, professor of psychology at University of Northern Iowa, will be lecturing on moral development in the context of group games. Hildebrandt’s interests in social and moral development, musical development, and constructivist approaches to early education will be featured during her talk, which will be held on April 20, 2017 at 3:30 p.m. in the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center on the Penn State University Park campus. 

“What makes Dr. Hildebrandt unique is that she does developmental research which means trying to better understand how children develop an understanding of moral concepts and how to internalize those concepts,” said Burroughs. “She does a lot of focus on education and educational programs, particularly through the use of games and music and how that influences moral development.”

In her lecture, Hildebrandt will discuss how group games are a vital aspect of constructivist early education, as well as social and moral development. According to Burroughs, “the idea of a constructivist education is that people learn by engaging with an authentic problem, developing potential solutions, seeing what works and what doesn’t. Through that process, you acquire knowledge about yourself, about your world, and you develop capacities to problem solve in the future”.

Similar to Hildebrandt, Burroughs uses the constructivist approach to understand how children think about ethical issues. As the co-founder of the Philosophical Ethics in Early Childhood (PEECh) project, Burroughs collaborates with children and teachers to better understand forms of philosophical and ethics education that promote moral development in early childhood. “A really interesting challenge in working with young kids is that they don’t have the language abilities that we do”, said Burroughs. “They can’t just tell you these ethical distinctions are important to me.” Burroughs says that you can watch children experience ethical conflicts, for example, when sharing and playing cooperatively with peers. Also, similar to Hildebrandt, Burroughs understands the importance of using games in his work and research: “by developing games, using puppets, and activities that they’re interested and engaged with, you can learn a lot about how they think of ethical issues and the limitations there”.

“One thing that’s really interesting is that a lot of times people don’t think of ethics as being a robust part of childhood life, said Burroughs. “What I think Dr. Hildebrandt’s talk will really highlight well is how even from a young age, kids are really grappling with ethical questions. I think for people interested in education, she’ll have a lot of interesting things to say about different approaches to learning and working with students. That could be applied to multiple ages, not just young kids”.

The Lippin Lecture is free and open to the public. For more information and to register, visit the event page.