I’ve come up with my own names for the levels of development


Although I use Marshall’s Levels of Development, I’m a bit put off by 
the “reverse A-D system,” with D being the best. It goes opposite to how we typically think of grades or levels.

I’ve finally come up with my own labels. I think they have the
same meaning but in reverse order.
 Any comments?

Lowest Level D = Deliberate misbehavior
Level C = Can’t control self
Level B = Behaves for rewards
Highest Level A = Automatic self-control


As you implied, the key to success with this approach lies in conveying the understandings of the concepts at each level. The specific name attached to each level is not as important as the concepts that describe and give meaning to the level. I think the level names you have chosen for the lowest two levels reflect the understandings Marshall intended but I have some reservations about the two labels you have chosen for the highest two levels.

Marshall’s Level C (Conformity and Cooperation) is 
characterized by external motivation.  Although it’s true that someone operating on this level might be doing so 
in hopes of receiving a reward, this would be only one example of external motivation. Level C signifies a desire to 
conform or cooperate because of external motivation–but that motivation 
might not necessarily be a reward.

For example, students might choose to cooperate with a teacher and conform 
to their expectations simply because they like that particular teacher or because 
they have an easygoing personality and don’t mind conforming to the expectations 
of anyone in authority. Other students might conform to the teacher and his/
her requests primarily because they fear their parents will punish them at home if they do not.

I would also suggest that the word “Autonomous” or “Autonomy” might be 
better words to convey the understandings of Level D in this discipline system. I 
think these terms sound more inspiring than “Automatic Self-Control.”

To me, 
the word “automatic” brings to mind robotic behavior, which would be the 
antithesis of Marshall’s Level D.  Marshall’s highest level is the level of taking initiative. It’s the level of thinking for oneself 
and acting on that inner knowing. It’s the level of being genuine and true to oneself.

As well, “automatic” also suggests “quick; without thought.” Again, Marshall’s Level D is actually the opposite of this. It often takes a 
person a great deal of inner strength, awareness and thought to develop their 
own opinions and ideas and then stick to them–in spite of what others might be 

To me, an understanding of Level D is developed through ongoing references 
to the Hierarchy in many different situations. I find students of all ages are 
inspired to more frequently operate on a high level when they learn about Level D. Students are attracted to the idea that one can 
consciously choose to be internally motivated and so can choose to feel wonderful 
inside. Often this concept of discipline is new to them.  Marshall’s Hierarchy makes it possible to easily teach students of all ages about the value of internal motivation.

If I was 
going to change the highest level name to something other than what Marshall suggested, I 
would want to choose a word that would inspire, a word such as “Autonomy.”