by Hilary Jandricic
Guess who’s back? Back again? This is the final post in this series on student learning in conduct programs. Today we are going to touch on how the student community is impacted based on the learning that takes place in Student Conduct Programs (SCPs) and whether or not leadership, as a trait or quality, has any impact on the learning that could take place. I will then tie everything together in a nice little bow and share some of my concluding thoughts.
There is no beating around the bush with this one so I am just going to get straight to the point: There was zero, nothing, zilch, nada information found that proved that the community was impacted based on what students learned in Student Conduct Programs (SCPs). I hate to break it to you, but the same goes for whether or not leadership played a role in impacting student learning. When I discovered this, I was a little heartbroken. This is where I wanted to spend most of my time analyzing, especially since it takes a big picture approach and looks at other systems that could be impacted and not just the student. My assumption going in was, first off, that I was going to find evidence of students learning, which I did, and then find evidence that supported a positive change in the student community that could directly be linked to what they learned during their conduct program experience. Secondly, I was assuming that I would also find research that showed a linkage between strong leadership and mentorship skills, mainly from conduct administrators, would foster student learning and development. Guess this all comes back to that old saying: “you know what happens when you assume things…” and here I am.
But, not all hope is lost! Although I did not find any research that directly supports any linkages, I just mentioned I did find evidence that suggests there are multiple impacts that could occur within the campus community from students violating codes of conduct. Common recommendations highlighted in the literature suggested that students who negatively impact the community should repair the harm or conflict by giving back to the community through Restorative Justice (RJ) practices (Karp, 2015; U-M et al., 2009). Students who are sanctioned, specifically to community service, feel an increase in engagement (Taylor & Varner, 2009), a stronger sense of community, belonging, and more positive perceptions from their peers (U-M et al., 2009). There are so many opportunities for administrators to loop in community based programming during their conduct meetings to increase engagement among students. At some institutions, there might already be community based or service-learning programming taking place and it is just a matter of connecting with campus partners to repair and rebuild relationships between students.
On a smaller scale, it has been found that it is possible to develop students, who have violated the code of conduct, into leaders on campus (Zdziarski & Wood, 2008). Conduct administrators can guide character development by recommending appropriate sanctions for students (Taylor & Varner, 2009) such as mentorship programs (Early, 2016) and community-service learning experiences (Kuh, 2003; Tinto, 2003). I already mentioned that community-based programs are beneficial for the student to feel a sense of belonging and to be positively viewed by their peers, but as it turns out both community service and mentorship programs were the most favoured sanctions to assist in emphasizing learning and leadership development (Kuh, 2003; Tinto, 2003) among students. Immediately I think of powerful opportunities for a student to learn how their negative actions have impacted a community of their peers by intentionally giving back and supporting them through an initiative. In situations where floor communities in residence were negatively impacted by noise or rowdy behaviour from a student, I have suggested that the student in question completes a round of the building one night with the Resident Advisors (RAs). This gives the student an opportunity to see things from the RA’s perspective but also to be a positive support with an event or floor programming taking place. In my experiences, the peer-to-peer coaching, along with previously discussed guiding reflection questions and service to the community has resulted in great reflections from the student involved and feedback from community members. The thing is, I am not sure if this method actually works to change behaviour or not.
Simply put, more research and evidentiary support around conduct programs in higher education is needed (Waryold, 2013). With no information found on leadership and community impact it is clear that these should also be analyzed for connections to student learning in conduct programs. In addition to this, we need more research into which sanctions are most effective in student learning and the equivalent proper assessment implementation to provide direction for conduct administers when developing and enhancing SCPs (Karp, 2009). This will add value to the work conduct administrators are already doing to educate students under difficult and challenging circumstances. And I know you all are working hard so keep at it!
Even though there was limited evidence, what I did find was in support of students learning yay! Let’s recap everything we just discussed in the past few weeks. You now know that students learn about Restorative Justice practices, communication skills, their consequences and empathy (Howell, 2005; Karp & Sacks, 2014). You also know that student learning is facilitated by completing sanctions, of which the most prominent was facilitated dialogue (Howell, 2005; Karp & Sacks, 2014; Robinson, 2009). Surveys and guided interviews were the only two techniques found to determine student learning in conduct programs (Howell, 2005; Karp & Sacks, 2014). And as excited as I was to learn about this, there sadly is no research to indicate that leadership skills assist in facilitating student learning in conduct programs, nor that the learning impacts the student community.
Student Affairs as a whole is moving in a direction towards proof of value added to student experiences through means of conducting assessment (Upcraft & Schuh, 1996). Given how old that reference is, I would say that for the most part we are already there and conduct programs might have some catching up to do. Professionals are seeking resources on best practices and support from experts to assist in implementing techniques into all facets of their programs. This culture of assessment that has grown is critical to the development of Student Affairs, and as such, it should be just as important in developing SCPs. I previously mentioned that a few conferences and online discussions have already been set in place, but how do we continue to the conversation and keep this momentum going? Information like this could provide valuable insight and knowledge that could encourage more research and reporting for the field of student conduct.
Thank you so much for joining me in this learning journey. I hope you were able to take away some tidbits of information and that you learned something new. I now invite you to share your thoughts one last time on Twitter @SA_exchange #SAcdn #ConductAssessment. Share a newly acquired piece of information, what inspired you most, or how you would contribute to the research of student learning in SCPs. There are many great things that are going on and I cannot wait to find out what students on your campus are learning.
Hilary Jandricic is the Coordinator, Leadership Development at Centennial College in Toronto Ontario. She completed her masters in Higher Education Administration and Leadership at Royal Roads University. When she’s not learning about student conduct or trying out new assessment techniques you can find her playing beach volleyball or reading the latest murder mystery novel as she commutes on the TTC.
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