Understanding the Levels of Development

The following was a question and response at the support group.


I am considering a “rough draft” to modify the description of the levels. My “rough draft” follows:

Level D – Democracy – Shows caring, kindness, respect, responsibility, and honesty because of INTERNAL motivation.

Level C – Compliance – Shows caring, kindness, respect, responsibility, and honesty because of EXTERNAL motivation.

Level B – Bothering – Bothers others which is neither appropriate nor acceptable.

Level A – Anarchy- Absence of order; aimless; procedures are not followed. Neither appropriate nor acceptable.

The above is my understanding and modification of the system.

Additionally, I am somewhat bewildered why there is a defined difference between anarchy and “bothering others” because, to me, both bothering and anarchy are both indicative of “out of control” behavior and should therefore be placed into one category.

Any positive clarification would be greatly appreciated.


I think you do understand the differences between Level C and D. The main difference between the two lies in the difference in motivation, just as you mentioned. An action at Level C and D can look identical. It is only the difference in the MOTIVATION that identifies one person’s action as being at Level C and another person’s as being at Level D.

Here is an example to clarify this point:

Students at Level C do home assignments—but only after being reminded by a parent. At Level D, students complete home assignments simply because they know that this is something that is expected. They don’t wait to be reminded before starting. Either way, the action is the same; the home assignments are completed. Only the MOTIVATION is different.

Level C is an acceptable level of operation but it is important for students to understand that it is not the highest level to which a person can aspire. At Level C, the motivation for acting appropriately is EXTERNAL. In other words, the young person does the correct or right thing but is motivated from a desire to please, impress, or avoid the disapproval of an authority figure. At this level, people need something outside of themselves to motivate them to do the right thing.

At Level D, the highest level of social development, the motivation is INTERNAL. The student does what he/she knows to be the correct, right, kind, or responsible thing. The person does so out of a genuine desire to do the right thing. THE RIGHT THING IS DONE WHETHER OR NOT AN ADULT OR ANY ONE ELSE IS PRESENT.

Here are some more concrete examples of Level and C and D behaviours:

Level C – Cooperation/Conformity

-Cooperating with the teacher when the teacher is present in the room
-Fulfilling requirements, but doing little more
-Being kind to others only when an authority figure is present
-Relying on a parent to give reminders to complete  chores, return library books, fulfill obligations, etc.
-Doing something helpful specifically to impress others
-Basing decisions on an outside influence (positive or negative)
-Acting cooperatively and compliantly but showing little initiative without direction

Level D – Democracy
-Acting with self-control and discipline whether or not an adult is present
-Participating with the group in an appropriate manner out  of respect for others
-Choosing to be responsible by fulfilling obligations willingly and without being reminded
-Befriending a peer simply because he/she seems lonely
-Volunteering to help simply because it’s obvious that help  is needed
-Showing initiative in one’s learning
-Choosing to come to class well prepared
-Independently seeking help when necessary
-Deciding to speak up in defense of another who is being treated poorly
-Seeking to be of service to others out of a genuine desire to help
-Relying on one’s own judgment, even when others make the  suggestion to do something inappropriate, unkind,  dangerous, etc.
-Taking responsibility for some unkind words by choosing to apologize
-Sincerely thanking someone without being reminded

I purposely give you more examples of Level D than Level C, just as I do when I work with students to encourage you to focus most on this level in your teaching. Although the students must understand the key points of every level, DWELLING ON THE LOWER LEVELS WHEN TEACHING THE HIERARCHY IS COUNTERPRODUCTIVE.

I personally find that the more attention given to concretely providing specific examples of Level D, and discussing the benefits of acting on this level, the more likely that young people will be motivated internally to aspire to these types of behaviours. This is one way in which we, as teachers, can inspire young people. With the Raise Responsibility System we can actually show students what it is they need to do in order to be operating at the highest level of social development.

It’s worth noting that we cannot judge another person’s motivation with complete accuracy. Within a classroom—where all the children look as if they are doing the same thing, perhaps cooperating with the teacher and quietly
doing their assignments—some will be operating on Level C and some will be operating on Level D.

A person’s motivation can only be accurately determined by that person himself/herself. That is why it’s important that as teachers we ask questions that promote self-reflection in our students. With the Raise Responsibility System, we are NOT TELLING the student what WE think of their actions and their motivations. Ideally, we are striving to have them think about what THEY think about their own actions and motivations.

It is this inner thinking and SELF-evaluation that lead to change and a higher level of behaviour. As an aside, it is just as important to help students reflect on their behaviour when they are acting at the higher levels as it is when they are operating on the lower levels.

As teachers, our goal is to have all students operating at least on Level C so that the classroom provides a civil and productive learning environment for all. Some students will choose to set their sights higher (Level D), and of course this is what we hope for as teachers, but it is not something over which we have direct control. We cannot force anyone to operate at a higher level, but by implementing the Raise Responsibility System and introducing young people to the hierarchy we can inspire them to WANT to act at the highest level, which is to be SELF-motivated.

The other important difference between Level C and D lies in the results. Consciously choosing to operate on Level D automatically results in great feelings of self-satisfaction. Such feelings significantly improve self-esteem. This sense of self-satisfaction does not accompany Level C in the same strong way as it does Level D.

People operating on Level D develop a strong sense of self-esteem and personal power. Through the hierarchy we can teach students that when they consciously take charge of themselves (making responsible decisions, making appropriate choices), good feelings are a direct result. In fact, nothing feels better than to be in charge of yourself and know that you can depend upon yourself to do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do!

Another result of operating on the highest level is that your relationships with other people improve as well. People operating on Level D inspire others to act in a similar way. They gain the trust of others and find that others return their kind, (respectful, friendly, etc.) actions.

Kerry in BC
Kerry’s explanation is right on target. My only addition is that Level C describes obedience, which is a necessary characteristic for a civil society. Unfortunately, however, obedience does not create desire.

More of Kerry’s posts can be read at http://disciplineanswers.com/