Academic Orientation as a Function of Moral Fit: The Role of Individualizing Morality

Kerby Goff, Eric Silver, Inga Dora Sigfusdottir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Researchers have studied academic orientation—students’ valuing of and commitment to education—as in part a function of a cultural fit between students’ cultural capital, competencies, identity, and the institutional culture of the education system. Recent research on students’ aspirations and commitment highlights the moral undertones of such cultural fit. Scholars have identified the perceived moral connotations of becoming “an educated person” and illustrated how students’ academic orientation may be intertwined with the unique moral culture of the education system. Neoinstitutional scholars have examined modern education systems’ emphasis on an individualizing type of moral culture, that is, an institutional moral culture emphasizing individual autonomy, rights, and achievement over traditional mores, knowledge, and social hierarchies. Scholars have yet to bridge these streams of research by examining the link between students’ personal moral culture and the institutional moral culture of education systems. In this study, we consider whether students whose moral orientation matches the individualizing moral culture of education systems are more academically oriented. We conceptualize this link as moral fit, and we use moral foundations theory to identify students’ personal moral culture. Analysis of a unique sample of students drawn from all secondary schools in Iceland (N = 10,525) shows (1) individualizing moral intuitions (those that emphasize the individual as the basic moral unit) are associated with a greater academic orientation, net of parental involvement, cultural capital, and other important controls, and (2) this association is only lightly moderated by differences in the school structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-170
Number of pages18
JournalSociology of Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Academic Orientation as a Function of Moral Fit: The Role of Individualizing Morality'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this