Editor’s Note: You may recall Rebecca Fenn. She was a 2013/2014 Eagle Rock Public Allies Fellow who initiated a study to better understand moral and ethical code development here at Eagle Rock. One year removed from her Fellowship and Rebecca is back (in a literary sense) with a summary of her findings, which suggest among other things that bridging the gap between school and family might be the first place to look in the study of moral and ethical curriculum.
By Rebecca Fenn
Relationships matter. They matter in school, in life, with students, with co-workers, leadership, policy-makers and even with the elk that share your back yard.
No matter the organization, relationships shape climate, and at the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center in Estes Park, Colorado, I found community members use their relationships to fuel education through daily gatherings, social-emotional graduation requirements, moral and ethical code development and residential life.
When Eagle Rock students develop their moral and ethical codes every trimester, they draw on information they learned from relationships with other people.
Whether through observation, friendship, love, trust, respect, or proximity, the relationships that students develop in and outside of Eagle Rock help form the way they think morally. And each moral and ethical code is a combined reflection of all of a student’s moral and ethical relationships.
This transference of knowledge and beliefs through meaningful relationships continues to fascinate me. So much in fact that in the year following my time spent as the Life After Eagle Rock Fellow, I attended graduate school where I conducted a qualitative research study on moral and ethical code development at Eagle Rock School.
In my study, I used social network analyses — a research method that quantifies social relationships into maps — to determine where it was exactly that students were receiving their moral and ethical advice and how the Eagle Rock community could use this information to better understand its own moral and ethical code program.
The research began with a survey in which each student was asked to list up to 10 people to whom they turned for moral and ethical advice. From there I created a sociogram, or map, of these relationships and looked for trends. (It is important to note that because this study only looked at students who responded to the survey, the sampling was self-selected and no broad claims can be made about trends in the school as a whole. However, confining the analysis to the data provided, it still lends insight into the moral advice-seeking behavior of this self-selected group of students.)
I found one of the most important findings of this study to be the fact that Continue reading…