Combining excellence and ethics: Implications for moral education for the gifted

Kirsi Tirri
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Roeper Review, 33(1), 59–64. DOI: 10.1080/02783193.2011.530207

In this article the current empirical research on morality and giftedness is reviewed with an emphasis on moral sensitivity. The component of moral judgment has been the most studied aspect in morality. Although high-ability students have been shown to be superior in moral judgment when compared to average-ability students, morality includes other components as well, such as sensitivity, motivation, and character. Furthermore, the critics of Kohlbergian research argue that moral reasoning does not necessarily lead to moral behavior. The gifted students might be able to give “correct” responses in the Defining Issues Test (DIT) test but their actual moral behavior cannot be predicted based on these test results. Hence, the limits of interpretation of these findings need to be acknowledged. The component of moral sensitivity is introduced with case studies regarding Finnish gifted students and Finnish Academic Olympians. The beliefs and values in academic work ethics of the Finnish Academic Olympians are discussed to give examples of how ethics can be combined with excellence in science. Some implications for the moral education of gifted students are suggested based on the research findings.

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