The Center

The Center for the Study of Ethical Development (the Center) began in the early 1970s as faculty and students from various disciplines began to meet informally to discuss research on moral development.  In 1982, the Center was formally established with James Rest as Research Director and Muriel (Mickey) Bebeau as Education Director.  It was housed in the  Department of Educational PsychologyCollege of Education & Human Development at the University of Minnesota.

James Rest passed away in July 1999.  The Center continued with Darcia Narvaez as Executive Director, Steve Thoma as Research Director, and Mickey Bebeau as Education Director until August 2000, when Darcia Narvaez moved to the University of Notre Dame.  At that point, Mickey Bebeau became the Executive Director. Currently, Steve Thoma is the Executive Director, Mickey Bebeau serves as the Emeritus Executive Director, and Darcia Narvaez maintains a relationship with the Center as a faculty affiliate.  The Center is now housed within the Program of Educational Psychology in the Department of Educational Studies under the College of Education at the University of Alabama.

The major activity of the Center has been research with the Defining Issues Test, a measure of moral judgment development.  However, attention has also been given to other research tools, especially as a wider conception of moral development has emerged.  This wider conception of moral development was proposed by James Rest in the early 1980s, and is referred to as “The Four Component Model of Morality.”

The Center remains a loose confederation of scholars.  Empirical research remains the focus of the Center, in contrast to other centers that sponsor public forums and speak to issues of the day.  To gain an impression of the scope of current research of the Center, browse the section on Publications and Papers.