Cronin, Kerry. “Assessing Moral Development in the Liberal Arts”, Boston College, 2015. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/bc-ir:104138.
Liberal education has long claimed moral education to be a chief aim of its educational format. Liberal education supporters regularly assert its unique ability to foster moral and ethical development in students, but data regarding higher education's efficacy in promoting moral development are limited. Additionally, the educational goal of moral development suffers important philosophical and epistemological critiques which bring into question its adequacy as a worthwhile aim of contemporary higher education. In order to discern whether higher education resources should be used to pursue this educational objective, liberal arts practitioners and supporters must identify clearly what moral education is, whether it is a facet of college student development worthy of our attention, and how to adequately measure it. This study offers a careful analysis of data related to student moral reasoning development gathered in an evaluation process of a liberal education course at a mid-sized research institution. The central research questions focus on aspects of student moral development and students' perceptions of the moral dimensions of coursework and highlight how these interact with students' abilities to receive and process course materials and activities. The research design employs a concurrent triangulation approach to quantitative and qualitative course assessment materials. James Rest's Defining Issues Test (DIT), a well-researched, neo-Kolhbergian measure of moral reasoning, and student writing were analyzed in pre- and post-course evaluations to investigate students' moral reasoning development as they entered, changed and left a year-long liberal arts course. Results reveal important features of student moral growth, illuminating how students at different levels of moral reasoning development and with varying degrees of change with respect to moral reasoning engaged with liberal education course materials and activities in quite distinct ways. This is an important step in uncovering the unique aspects of liberal education that may foster and sustain moral growth.