Assessment in Student Conduct Programs: Strategies, Resources, and Tools
Most student affairs professionals today would agree that the principle aim of conduct administration is to educate students (Tschepikow, Cooper, & Dean, 2010; Waryold & Lancaster, 2008; Zacker, 1996). In fact, in their exposition on the professional philosophy of this functional unit, Waryold and Lancaster (2008) summarized, “the fundamental purpose of student conduct work is to promote growth and development in students while protecting the interests of the larger campus community” (p. 8). While there may be little debate about the educational purpose of student conduct, the extent to which this purpose is fulfilled on some college campuses may be less clear. A high-quality assessment program, built around clear and measureable educational outcomes, can be helpful in addressing this issue. The purpose of this article is to describe strategies, resources, and tools to support the development or enhancement of an assessment program tailored to the educational purpose of student conduct administration.
Strategies to Assess Student Learning and Development
Student conduct administration provides a variety of opportunities to educate students (Waryold & Lancaster, 2008). It is important for practitioners to identify those opportunities within their conduct programs and to define and publicize, in specific terms, the learning and development expected from them. A great place to start is with the process of resolving alleged violations, a fundamental component in most student conduct programs. This process can involve students as learners in different ways. For example, students who serve as hearing officers experience the process differently from those alleged to have violated the code of conduct. In both instances, however, learning and development outcomes can be articulated and assessed to understand the extent to which the process of resolving allegations facilitates the educational mission of the office.
With alleged students, there are opportunities to promote learning and development through intentionally structured sanctions. If the conduct office has stated educational outcomes, sanctions should always be constructed with these in mind. Community service, for example, is a common sanction assigned by conduct offices (Dannells, 1997). In many instances when students found responsible for violations are required to complete a certain number of community service hours and complete a written reflection on their service experience. This activity is often designed to promote development of social responsibility and civic engagement. The site of the service, the number of hours assigned, and the guidelines concerning the reflective essay should be informed by the office’s learning and development framework.
A student’s essay about his/her service experience can provide rich qualitative data. Professionals can use these data to determine whether the outcomes for the sanction have been achieved. A rubric can provide consistency and structure to this part of the assessment process. If given to the student in advance of the service experience, the rubric can clearly communicate expectations around learning and development, resulting in a more enriching learning experience for the student (Stevens & Levi, 2005). In addition, during conduct meetings administrators can collect information regarding students’ affective development and integration into campus life. With this information in hand, the hearing officer and the student can co-construct sanctions that meet the student’s need developmentally and align with office’s learning and development framework. Tailoring sanctions in this way creates a learning environment in which students are empowered to construct knowledge for themselves and apply it to complex problems, a key principal in transformative education as defined in Learning Reconsidered (American College Personnel Association & National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, 2004).
Training for students who serve on hearing boards is another ideal place to implement assessment strategies that promote the educational mission of student conduct programs. Like the sanctioning process, this aspect of conduct administration must begin with the articulation of learning and development outcomes. Lewis and Inabinet (2011) suggested conduct administrators design outcomes centered on the following competencies: the philosophy and history of student conduct, the student conduct process, critical thinking skills, preparing for a hearing, hearing decorum, questioning skills, weighing information, standards of proof, and issues of violence against women. Conduct administrators may decide to include other competency areas that reflect their unique mission, culture, and programming structure. Student board members may play a role in this process as well. All the same, it is paramount for practitioners responsible for this area to shape training curricula, exercises, and resources around intended outcomes. It is also important for administrators to articulate these outcomes to hearing officers in advance of training opportunities. With clearly defined outcomes and competencies, administrators will be able to more easily align training opportunities for student board members with the office’s educational mission, assess the effectiveness of those opportunities in facilitating their learning and development, and elucidate areas of focus for future training sessions.
Resources and Tools
A variety of resources and tools exist to support the implementation of the assessment strategies discussed above. One of the most established resources is the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) Professional Standards (CAS, 2009). The latest version of this text, often referred to as the CAS Blue Book, contains standards and guidelines regarding the articulation and implementation of learning and development outcomes for student conduct programs. As noted earlier, learning and development outcomes play an important role in realizing the educational purpose of conduct administration.
Practitioners interested in defining or refining outcomes for student conduct programs may find benefit from the list of learning and development domains and corresponding dimensions provided in the CAS Blue Book (2009). The list of domains includes intrapersonal competence, humanitarianism, civic engagement, and practical competence—among others typically associated with student conduct programs. More specific dimensions are provided for each domain to assist practitioners in the development of outcomes aligned with the unique structure, mission, and programs of a particular conduct office. Dimensions under intrapersonal competence, for example, include self-understanding, self-respect, and commitment to ethics and integrity. These dimensions of learning and development can form the basis of clear and measurable learning and development outcomes for student training activities, campus outreach programs, sanctions for students, and other interventions designed to fulfill the educational mission of the conduct office.
Another established resource for conduct administrators that may be helpful in assessing the effectiveness of a program over time is the book Assessment Practice in Student Affairs (Schuh, Upcraft & Associates, 2001). The value of this text is in its practical orientation and concentration on student affairs programs and services. Conduct administrators looking for a starting place with assessment will find comfort in the broadly applicable step-by-step approach developed by the authors. Schuh, Upcraft, and Associates (2001) organize the assessment process into 11 applied steps that systematically lead the practitioner from defining the purpose of an assessment, to collecting and analyzing data, to reporting and using results to improve practice; these eleven steps can be viewed as a checklist of essential elements to consider in any well-designed plan. Additionally, conduct administrators with more developed assessment programs may find this resource beneficial as well. Professionals can use it to provide a framework to identify improvement opportunities in current assessment practices and processes.
Well-developed data collection tools, such as rubrics, questionnaires, and interview protocols are integral to any assessment program. After all, the information used to determine the effectiveness of any program will only be as good as the instrument used to gather it. As part of the VALUE project, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) enlisted teams of faculty and other academic and student affairs professionals to develop institutional level rubrics for 15 learning outcomes, many of which are germane to student conduct programs (AAC&U, n.d.). Each rubric includes a definition of the learning area, a glossary of terms used in the rubric, core dimensions of the learning area, and a scale used to measure student performance. Outcomes relevant to student conduct include civic knowledge and engagement, intercultural knowledge and competence, and ethical reasoning. Practitioners working with established assessment programs may find these rubrics to be helpful tools in designing local instruments to measure campus-specific outcomes. Professionals developing new assessment programs may find benefit from these rubrics as roadmaps toward the creation of learning and development outcomes. The rubrics might also help in the construction of data collection instruments.
In addition to AAC&U, other professional organizations can provide support for assessment to student conduct administrators. For example, each year ACPA sponsors the Student Affairs Assessment Institute. Participants at this institute can expect exposure to a diverse group of assessment experts who provide instruction on a range of skills and knowledge areas, including outcome development and measurement, focus group facilitation, questionnaire design, quantitative and qualitative data analysis, and benchmarking. The Association of Student Conduct Administrators (ASCA) also provides resources to student affairs professionals working in conduct such as the Donald D. Gehring Academy for Student Conduct Administration. The Gehring Academy is an intense week-long institute serving the educational needs of conduct administrators at different levels in the field.
A primary function of student conduct programs is to foster learning and development among students. Many conduct offices have affirmed this educational purpose but still have not determined the extent to which it is being fulfilled. A comprehensive assessment plan based on clear and measureable learning and development outcomes is one step toward addressing this issue. An outcomes-based approach to assessment can provide conduct offices with much needed evidence regarding student learning and development. Additionally, this approach can enhance the educational experiences for students who interact with the office by promoting a greater degree of intentionality in program design and administration. Finally, professionals must consider the unique mission, culture, and programming structure of the conduct office for the assessment to be successful.
- What areas of student learning and development are most important to conduct administration on your campus? How are these areas targeted through current programs and services?
- To what extent are students involved in the design and implementation of your office’s assessment program? What opportunities exist to increase meaningful student involvement?
- Beyond the conduct office, who is available on campus to support the implementation of strategies to assess student learning and development? What resources and tools are already present on campus?
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Association of American Colleges and Universities. (n.d.) Project description. [Web site]. Retrieved from: http://www.aacu.org/value/project_description.cfm
Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education. (2009). CAS professional standards for higher education (7th ed.). Washington, D.C.: Author.
Dannells, M. (1997). From discipline to development: Rethinking student conduct in higher education. Washington, D.C.: Association for the Study of Higher Education.
Lewis, W.S. & Inabinet, J.W. (2011, July). Training student conduct boards: Selection, marketing, and competency based training. Lecture presented at the Donald D. Gehring Academy for Student Conduct Administration, Louisville, KY.
Schuh, J. H., Upcraft, M. L., & Associates (2001). Assessment practice in student affairs: An applications manual. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Stevens, D. D., & Levi, J. L. (2005). Introduction to rubrics: An assessment tool to save grading time, convey effective feedback, and promote student learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus. .
Tschepikow, K., Cooper, D. L., & Dean, L. A. (2010). Effects of CAS standards on assessment outcomes in student conduct programs. Journal of Student Conduct Administration, 3(1), 6-24.
Waryold, D. M., & Lancaster, J. M. (2008). The professional philosophy of student conduct administration. In J. M. Lancaster, D. M. Waryold, & L. Timm (Eds.), Student conduct practice: The complete guide for student affairs professionals (pp. 6-13). Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Zacker, J. (1996). Evaluation in judicial affairs. In W. Mercer (Ed.), Critical issues in judicial affairs. New Directions for Student Services, no. 73 (pp. 99-106). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
About the Authors
Kyle Tschepikow is currently the director of student affairs assessment and staff development at the University of Georgia. He previously served as the director of residence life and chief judicial affairs officer at the University of Charleston in West Virginia. He holds a BA and MA in English literature and a PhD in Higher Education from the University of Georgia
Please e-mail inquiries to Kyle Tschepikow.
Jeremy Inabinet is currently pursuing a PhD in College Student Affairs Administration at the University of Georgia. He also serves as a doctoral intern in the department of Student Affairs Assessment at Georgia. Previously, Jeremy served as the assistant dean of students and chief student conduct administrator at Loyola University Chicago. He holds a bachelor’s in mass communications and theater and a master’s in education
The ideas expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Developments editorial board or those of ACPA members or the ACPA Governing Board, Leadership, or International Office Staff.