by Hilary Jandricic
Last year I had the great pleasure of walking across the stage to receive my master’s degree in higher education. This two-year rollercoaster ride was an eye opening experience into how much knowledge is available to us on student development, learning practices and supporting students along their post-secondary journey. Since graduating, I have had some time to reflect on my research and would like to showcase the results to my colleagues. The research was conducted by qualitatively coding artifacts from Canada and the US between 1997-2016 (peer-reviewed journal articles; textbooks, including chapters in edited books; specific resources from professional organizations; works by specific authors; and leading researchers in the field). I gathered information on best practices from organizations’ databases and synthesized research from several organizations, including CACUSS, OACUHO, ACUHO-I, ASCA, NASPA, and ACPA, as well as from administrators in the field.
This four-part piece is meant to share the research that I collected, my reflections, my opinions and to further the discussion on what professionals are currently doing in their student conduct programs. I do want to recognize all the tremendous work that conduct administrators do to support students and would invite them to share the innovative projects they are implementing to further the work on assessment within their portfolios.
Part 1 – Introduction
The landscape of higher education is constantly changing and student affairs (SA) professionals are consistently incorporating new andragogy, frameworks and tools to best support students. As we take in all these changes at times like “drinking water from a fire hose” (stealing a line from my good friend Jordon McLinden), there is one common denominator that has withheld the test of time and has remained consistent in post-secondary; students come to campus to learn. Whether they are aware of the knowledge they are attaining or not, the point is that they are acquiring new information at a rapid pace and through various experiences.
In class students are learning through teacher-led contexts such as exams, essays, and projects (Havnes, 2008) and have the necessary supports available to them when things go wrong. If a student is looking for clarification for a missed mark, poor grade or is struggling with an assignment, there are teaching assistants, tutoring programs, test taking workshops and professors to provide guidance on how to make academic improvements. From an academic standpoint students are coached on how to learn from their mistakes and how to implement positive corrections in the future. However, student growth does not have to be limited to the classroom and can be related to lived experiences that complement the curricular structure of our institutions (Havnes, 2008). The SA compliment to this type of learning can take place in the form of a Student Conduct Program (SCP). Students who step outside the parameters of institutional Codes of Conduct or test the limits of their Rights and Responsibilities are given an opportunity to learn from their experiences. They are guided along a path, with the help of supports and resources, to allow them to make positive changes in their lives and of those they have impacted.
Let’s take a step back and think about how this functions academically. In a very basic way, students learn from sitting in lecture, they then take a test, get feedback on what they know, study knowledge that may have been missed and write their final exam. Students are able to clearly see the growth in their learning right down to a specific multiple-choice question on an exam and can seek information on how to not make the same mistake on future tests. Drawing on parallels, we can see students moving through a similar learning cycle in an SCP. Students learn by immersing themselves in campus culture and co-curricular programming, they find out their actions have violated campus policies, they then meet with a Student Conduct Administrator, complete a sanction and may or may not repeat their behaviour. So how do we demonstrate that students are learning from their mistakes in an SCP? What programming do we offer that has check-in points for students along the way? How do we collect this information? How are they taking steps to make positive changes in their behaviour? Are they even learning at all?
Assessments conducted in the form of pre- and post-surveys proves that students do in fact learn something from SCPs. Spoiler alert: it’s not always what we want them to learn (Howell, 2005). This is a great first step but other assessment techniques such as rubrics, journals, or portfolios (Suskie, 2009) might yield additional information if implemented. Student learning and the collection of assessment data continues to gain momentum in SA. Within our own Canadian context in the past year CACUSS launched an Assessment Institute and Assessment Webinar Series, in addition to the various online discussions through communities of practice. Currently, the assessment being conducted within SCPs is primarily focused on program satisfaction (Olshak, 2009) and not student learning. As someone who is passionate about both assessment and student conduct, I wanted to dive deeper into each of these topics and find any research that draws connections between both. I asked myself “what learning might take place in SCPs?” and began to tackle some of the challenging questions that you too might want to know.
Over the course of the next four weeks I hope you will join me in my research journey into the student learning that takes place with students who find themselves in conduct programs. I will provide some insights into (1) what sanctions might facilitate learning, (2) what tools and strategies might be used to assess the learning based on current assessment best practices, (3) the ways in which learning from experiences might impact the student community, and (4), the ways in which leadership might impact learning. Stay tuned for the next post on June 21 and continue the conversation on Twitter @SA_exchange #SAcdn #ConductAssessment
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.
Havnes, A. (2008). Peer-mediated learning beyond the curriculum. Studies in Higher Education, 33:2, 193-204. doi:
Howell, M. T. (2005). Students’ perceived learning and anticipated future behaviours as a result of participation in the student judicial process.
Journal of College Student Development, 46:4, 374-392. doi: 10.1353/csd.2005.0035
Olshak, R. T. (2009). Sustaining a worthy investment: Assessing conflict resolution programs. In Meyer Schrage, J., & Geist Giacomini, N. (Eds.),
Reframing campus conduct: Student conduct practice through a social justice lens (pp. 208-218) Sterling, Virginia: Stylus Publishing.
Suskie, L. (2009). Assessing student learning: A common sense guide. San Fransisco, California: Jossey-Bass.