Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D. in Higher Education

Department

Leadership and Counselor Education

First Advisor

Lori A. Wolff

Second Advisor

Susan McClelland

Third Advisor

Kerry B. Melear

Relational Format

dissertation/thesis

Abstract

This mixed methods study explored whether a relationship existed between moral development and dishonest academic behaviors in law students. The quantitative portion of the study utilized a survey adapted from James Rest's Defining Issues Test and Donald McCabe's Academic Integrity Survey. Law students were solicited by email from two public institutions. The usable sample included 134 law students in the first, second, and third years of law school. Qualitatively, a law school honor council chair was interviewed as part of a case study. The transcript was coded and explored for themes and emerging topics. In tandem, the quantitative and qualitative aspects work together to provide a framework with which to guide practitioners in law school teaching and administration. This study showed no relationship between the moral aptitude and academic dishonesty of law students. Also, no relationship existed between moral aptitude and category (papers, assignments and homework, or exams) of dishonest academic behavior. However, the study revealed that the highest number of instances of dishonest academic behavior occurred when students work on assignments or homework for class. Reference to materials, such as the internet, other law students or attorneys, or print materials, were consulted even when expressly prohibited by law professors. The study also indicated that the moral development of law students is declining. The P-scores of this study's participants was 35.5. Compared to their counterparts in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, the postconventional scores of today's law student is equivalent to high school and undergraduate students then. Studies show that students completing a clinical requirement in law school experience higher moral development scores. This is something law schools may want to consider going forward if moral development is vital to its institutional mission. Qualitatively, the case study provided useful guidance when dealing with academic dishonesty and the formation of an honor code from a law student's perspective. More dialogue is needed between an institution's honor council and the faculty/administration. This ensures that everyone is working with the same information and provides consistent communication to the law school community at large.

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