People sometimes ask me if I’ve ever given thought to structuring the levels in the Hierarchy of Social Development in the reverse order so that A is the highest level. These people think it’s odd to have students strive for A work and D behavior in the school system.
This concern is the most common challenge … for adults. It’s just not a problem for students. The structure and advantage of the hierarchy is that it prompts and challenges people—regardless of age—to achieve at the highest level.
A simple way to make it clear is to put it in context, since any meaning is always within a specific context. For example, when do you use “to,” “two,” or “too”? It depends on the context. Once this is explained to students, they have no problem realizing that although A,B,C,D may be associated with grades, these same letter grades have nothing to do with a hierarchy of social development.
Experience has shown that no other terminology has been nearly so successful in having students understand the differences between EXternal motivation (level C) and INternal motivation (level D). It is also important to remember that both level C and level D are acceptable. All procedures, which are the key to effective classroom management, are on level C. Society’s expectations for a civil society also fall in this level.
A prime difference between the levels is that level C indicates External motivation. It refers to cooperation and following expectations and procedures with younger students; with older students it refers to “caution”—as on a flashing yellow traffic signal. This understanding is especially important for teenagers striving to be accepted and liked by a peer group when the behavior about to be undertaken is not a responsible one, either socially or personally.
Anarchy (without rule) is the lowest level of social development. In such situations, someone starts to make the rules and often becomes bossy or starts bullying others. One reason that “bullying” is used is to give students the awareness of calling attention to such behavior.
Level D is so labeled because democracy and responsibility are inseparable. As former president John F. Kennedy wrote in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, “Profiles in Courage”: “For, in a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, ‘holds office’; every one of us is in a position of responsibility.” (p. 255)