Research in Higher Education

, Volume 56, Issue 4, pp 378–396 | Cite as

Measurements Matter: Taking the DIT-2 Multiple Times and College Students’ Moral Reasoning Development

  • Matthew J. Mayhew
  • Ernest T. Pascarella
  • Teniell Trolian
  • Benjamin Selznick


The purpose of this paper was to examine differences between undergraduate students who had multiple exposures to an assessment of moral reasoning development (DIT-2) and students of the same cohort who had fewer exposures to the same assessment. Controlling for a host of individual covariates, the analysis determined that students who took the DIT-2 three times scored significantly higher than those who took this measure only twice. Effects were similar for two additional cohorts of students. Implications are discussed.


Quantitative Moral reasoning Undergraduate students Measurement 



The research on which this paper was based was supported by a Grant from the Center of Inquiry in then Liberal Arts at Wabash College to the Center for Research on Undergraduate Education at the University of Iowa.


  1. Arum, R., & Roksa, J. (2011). Academically adrift: Limited learning on college campuses. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  2. Barnett, R., Evans, J., & Rest, J. (1995). Faking moral judgment on the defining issues test. British Journal of Social Psychology, 34, 267–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bebeau, M.J. & Thoma, S.J. (2003). Guide for DIT-2. Unpublished Manuscript, University of Minnesota.Google Scholar
  4. Bennett, W. J., & Wilezol, D. (2013). Is college worth it? A former United States secretary of education and a liberal arts graduate expose the broken promise of higher education. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.Google Scholar
  5. Bowman, N. A. (2010). Can 1st-year college students accurately report their learning and development? American Educational Research Journal, 47, 466–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bowman, N. A. (2011). Validity of self-reported gains at diverse institutions. Educational Researcher, 40(1), 22–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bowman, N. A. (2013). Understanding and addressing the challenges of assessing college student growth in student affairs. Research and Assessment in Practice, 8(Winter), 5–14.Google Scholar
  8. Colby, A., & Kohlberg, L. (1987). The measurement of moral judgment: Theoretical foundations and research validation (Vol. 1). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Crowson, H. M., DeBacker, T., & Thoma, S. J. (2007). Are DIT scores empirically distinct from measures of political identification and intellectual ability? A test using post-9/11 data. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 25, 197–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dewey, J. (1933). How We Think. New York: D. C. Heath.Google Scholar
  11. Elmer, N. P., Palmer-Canton, E., St. James, A., et al. (1997). Politics, moral reasoning, and the DIT: A reply to Barnett et al. (1995). British Journal of Social Psychology, 37, 457–476.Google Scholar
  12. Elmer, N. P., Renwick, S., & Malone, B. (1983). The relationship between moral reasoning and political orientation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 1073–1080.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ethington, C. (1997). A hierarchical linear modeling approach to studying college effects. In J. Smart (Ed.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research (Vol. 12, pp. 165–194). New York: Agathon Press.Google Scholar
  14. Fisher, D. G., & Sweeney, J. T. (1998). The relationship between political attitudes and moral judgment: examining the validity of the DIT. Journal of Business Ethics, 17(8), 905–916.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Foster, E. M., Wiley-Exley, E., & Bickman, L. (2009). Old wine in new skins: The sensitivity of established findings to new methods. Evaluation Review, 33(3), 281–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Golden, S. (2013, November 18). How best to assess? Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from
  17. Groves, R., Fowler, F., Couper, M., Lepkowski, J., Singer, E., & Tourangeau, R. (2004). Survey methodology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Interscience.Google Scholar
  18. Hanson, J. M., Weeden, D. D., Pascarella, E. T., & Blaich, C. (2012). Do liberal arts colleges make students more liberal? Some initial evidence. Higher Education, 64, 355–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hendel, D. D. (1991). Evidence of convergent and discriminant validity in three measures of college outcomes. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 51, 351–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hevel, M., Martin, G., Weeden, D., & Pascarella, E. (in press). The effects of fraternity and sorority membership in the fourth year of college: A detrimental or value added component of undergraduate education. Journal of College Student Development. Google Scholar
  21. Hurtado, S., Mayhew, M. J., & Engberg, M. E. (2012). Diversity courses and students’ moral reasoning: A model of predispositions and change. Journal of Moral Education, 41(2), 201–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Johnson, L. E. (2008). Teacher candidate disposition: Moral judgement or regurgitation? Journal of Moral Education, 37(4), 429–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. King, P. M., & Mayhew, M. J. (2002). Moral judgment development in higher education: Insights from the defining issues test. Journal of Moral Education, 31(3), 247–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. King, P. M., & Mayhew, M. J. (2005). Theory and research on the development of moral reasoning among college students. In J. C. Smart (Ed.), Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research (Vol. XIX, pp. 375–440). The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kuh, G. D. (2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.Google Scholar
  26. Lies, J. M., Bock, T., Brandenberger, J., & Trozzolo, T. A. (2012). The effects of off-campus service learning on the moral reasoning of college students. Journal of Moral Education, 41(2), 189–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mayhew, M. J., & Engberg, M. E. (2010). Diversity and moral reasoning: How negative diverse peer interactions affect the development of moral reasoning in undergraduate students. The Journal of Higher Education, 81(4), 459–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mayhew, M. J., & King, P. (2008). How curricular and pedagogical strategies affect moral reasoning development in college students. Journal of Moral Education, 37(1), 17–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mayhew, M. J., Seifert, T. A., & Pascarella, E. T. (2010). A multi-institutional assessment of moral reasoning development among first-year students. Review of Higher Education, 33(3), 357–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mayhew, M. J., Seifert, T. A., & Pascarella, E. T. (2012a). How the first year of college influences moral reasoning for students in moral consolidation and moral transition. Journal of College Student Development, 53(1), 19–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mayhew, M. J., Seifert, T. A., Pascarella, E. T., Nelson Laird, T. F., & Blaich, C. F. (2012b). Going deep into mechanisms for moral reasoning growth: How deep learning approaches affect moral reasoning development for first-year students. Research in Higher Education, 53, 26–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McGeorge, C. (1975). The susceptibility to faking of the Defining Issues Test of moral development. Developmental Psychology, 11, 108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Murk, D. A., & Addleman, J. A. (1992). Relations among moral reasoning, locus of control, and demographic variables among college students. Psychological Reports, 70(2), 467–476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Narvaez, D., & Bock, T. (2002). Moral schemas and tacit judgement or how the Defining Issues Test is supported by cognitive science. Journal of Moral Education, 31(3), 297–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Narvaez, D., Getz, I., Rest, J. R., & Thoma, S. J. (1999). Individual moral judgment and cultural ideologies. Developmental Psychology, 35(2), 478–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Padgett, R. D., Salisbury, M. H., An, B. P., & Pascarella, E. T. (2010). Required, practical, or unnecessary? An examination and demonstration of propensity score matching using longitudinal secondary data. New Directions for Institutional Research, S2, 29–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pascarella, E. T., Blaich, C., & Martin, G. L. (2011). How robust are the findings of Academically Adrift?. Change, 43(3), 20–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pascarella, E. T., Salisbury, M. H., & Blaich, C. (2013). Design and analysis in college impact research: Which counts more? Journal of College Student Development, 54(3), 329–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pike, G. R. (1993). The relationship between perceived learning and satisfaction with college: An alternative view. Research in Higher Education, 34, 23–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pike, G. R. (1999). The constant error of the halo in educational outcomes research. Research in Higher Education, 40, 61–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Porter, S. R. (2011). Do college student survey questions have any validity? Review of Higher Education, 35(1), 45–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Porter, S. R. (2013). Self-reported learning gains: A theory and test of college student survey response. Research in Higher Education, 54, 201–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Raudenbush, S., & Bryk, A. (2001). Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  44. Rest, J. R. (1979). Development in judging moral issues. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota.Google Scholar
  45. Rest, J. R. (1986). Moral development: Advances in research and theory. NY: Praeger Press.Google Scholar
  46. Rest, J. R., Narvaez, D., Bebeau, M., & Thoma, S. J. (1999a). Postconventional moral thinking: A neo-Kohlbergian approach. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  47. Rest, J., Narvaez, D., Thoma, S., & Bebeau, M. (1999b). DIT2: Devising and testing a revised instrument of moral judgment. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, 644–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rest, J. R., Thoma, S. J., & Edwards, L. (1997a). Designing and validating a measure of moral judgment: Stage preference and stage consistency approaches. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89(1), 5–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rest, J. R., Thoma, S. J., Narvaez, D., & Bebeau, M. J. (1997b). Alchemy and beyond: Indexing the Defining Issues Test. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89(3), 498–507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Roediger, H. L., & Karpicke, J. D. (2006). Test-enhanced learning: Taking memory tests improves long-term retention. Psychological Science, 17(3), 249–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Salisbury, M. H., An, B. P., & Pascarella, E. T. (2013). The effect of study abroad on intercultural competence among undergraduate college students. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 50(1), 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sanders, C. E., Lubinski, D., & Benbow, C. P. (1995). Does the Defining Issues Test measure psychological phenomena distinct from verbal ability? An examination of Lykken’s query. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 498–504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Schmidt, C. D., McAdams, C. R., & Foster, V. (2009). Promoting the moral reasoning of undergraduate business students through a deliberate psychological education-based classroom intervention. Journal of Moral Education, 38(3), 315–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Shadish, W. R., Clark, M. H., & Steiner, P. M. (2008). Can nonrandomized experiments yield accurate answers? A randomized experiment comparing random and nonrandom assignments. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 103(484), 1334–1356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Shah, B. R., Laupacis, A., Hux, J. E., & Austin, P. C. (2005). Propensity score methods gave similar results to traditional regression modeling in observational studies: A systematic review. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 58(6), 550–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sherblom, S. A. (2012). What develops in moral development? A model of moral sensibility. Journal of Moral Education, 41(1), 116–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sullivan, E. A. (2011). Can ethics be taught: A quasi-experimental study of the impact of class size on the cognitive moral reasoning of freshmen business students. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Boston College.Google Scholar
  58. Thoma, S. J. (1993). The relationship between political preference and moral judgment development in late adolescence. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 39(3), 359–374.Google Scholar
  59. Thoma, S. J., Derryberry, P., & Narvaez, D. (2009). The distinction between moral judgment development and verbal ability: Some relevant data using socio-political outcome variables. High Ability Studies, 20(2), 173–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wilhelm, W. J. (2004). Determinants of moral reasoning: Academic factors, gender, richness-of-life experiences, and religious preferences. Delta Pi Epsilon Journal, 46(2), 105–123.Google Scholar
  61. Yeager, D. S., & Walton, G. M. (2011). Social-psychological interventions in education: They’re not magic. Review of Educational Research, 81(2), 267–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Yussen, S. (1976). Moral reasoning from the perspective of others. Child Development, 47, 551–555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew J. Mayhew
    • 1
  • Ernest T. Pascarella
    • 2
  • Teniell Trolian
    • 2
  • Benjamin Selznick
    • 1
  1. 1.New York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.University of IowaIowa CityUSA

Personalised recommendations