Practitioners and supporters of sport anecdotally believe that sport ought to enhance and educate those who play. Improved moral functioning (often referred to as "character") is one of the most crucial "other things" that many parents, coaches, and administrators hope athletes learn through athletic participation. A problematic incongruence was the impetus for the current study. Competitive sport, one of our culture's prized character-building enterprises, does not always build character.Solving the incongruence between sport as a character-building enterprise in theory and a character-depleting enterprise in practice requires a teleological shift that situates sport as a moral education endeavor. The question of how to facilitate the shift is of paramount importance. A small body of researchers explore, examine, and theorize connections between sport and various moral variables. One of the key conclusions of this previous research is that the collective norms and values of a team have an influence on the moral action of the team's members. To explain this relationship, researchers often point to the concept of moral atmosphere that originated in the moral education research of Lawrence Kohlberg and his colleagues (Power, Higgins, & Kohlberg, 1989). The purpose of this study was to examine the concept of moral atmosphere, as developed by Power et al. (1989), including the sub-concepts of collective norms and institutional value, through a qualitative case study of one college sport program. A future application of this research may help coaches and athletes understand how to consciously and deliberately create and maintain high functioning moral atmospheres in collegiate sport so that team moral atmospheres can promote moral development for the group and individual team members. This cannot be done, however, without a study that first examined one team community in light of Kohlberg and colleagues' (1989) concept of moral atmosphere so that the collective norms and institutional valuing of a program that attempts to provide a moral education curriculum can be better understood. This moral atmosphere examination was the purpose of the present study. Results of the study showed that collective norms and institutional value were closely related. High levels of institutional value and stages of community were correlated with team norms that were higher in degree of collectiveness, reasoned at higher stages, and that the team upheld more frequently than when the team's level of institutional value and stage of community were at lower levels. The results also showed that the development of a high functioning moral atmosphere required years of time and intention from the coach. Furthermore, the results suggest that team leaders had a crucial impact on the team's moral atmosphere, and that the coach and team members used narrative as tool to build institutional value, and to develop and promote collective norms.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. November 2014. Major: Kinesiology. Advisors: Dr. Nicole M. LaVoi, Dr. Diane M. Wiese-Bjornstal. 1 computer file (PDF); xvi, 324 pages, appendix 1.
Valentini, Thomas Patrick.
A qualitative case study of a collegiate tennis program's sport moral atmosphere.
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