Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


College Student Personnel

Major Professor

Karen D. Boyd

Committee Members

J. Patrick Biddix, Norma T. Mertz


The Association of American Colleges and Universities and the American Council on Education identified moral and ethical development as a desired outcome of college. Researchers have identified that moral development occurs during college; however, few studies have focused on specific interventions designed to promote college students’ moral development. The purpose of this study was to investigate the moral development of students who participated in a first-year honors leadership program—that included a living-learning community—developed using an interpretation of Narvaez’s Integrative Ethical Education (IEE) model as a theoretical framework. Participants (n=18) took the Defining Issues Test Version 2 (DIT2), a valid and reliable measure of moral judgment, at the beginning and end of their first year to understand the effect of the IEE-based intervention on students’ moral growth. The current study used two scores generated by the DIT2 related to participants’ preference for post-conventional moral thinking (i.e., focus on duties derived from their own self-authored, critically-examined moral purpose rather than societal norms and laws). Participants’ DIT2 responses were also used to indicate which developmental phase they function in. When in the transition phase, individuals do not clearly distinguish between the post-conventional schema and lower moral schema. In the consolidation phase, individuals consistently respond using one moral schema. Descriptive analysis (e.g., percent changes) were conducted to understand participants’ overall change in moral growth and if participants’ self-reported sex or moral phase influenced moral development. The study found that, on average, participants’ level of moral growth—based on changes in DIT2 scores—increased during their first year of college. Participants who began college in the transition phase experienced positive changes in moral development, while their peers in the consolidation phase moral development regressed. Participants experienced positive change regardless of self-reported sex. While no causal assumptions can be made from this study, the findings suggest that students experienced positive moral growth during their first year while participating in the IEE-based intervention. The findings provide educators a framework to continue to design and investigate interventions intended to promote moral growth.

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