All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Linda J Searby

Advisory Committee Members

Gary Peters

Julia S Austin

Jeffrey A Engler

Marcia O'Neal

Stephen J Thoma

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Education


The public expects its educational leaders - from instructional leaders and principals to college administrators and deans - to be moral exemplars. Nowhere is moral behavior more central to the central mission of teaching and learning than in the realm of academic integrity, where decisions are made daily about grading, testing, promotion, admissions, placement, and awards. Moral problem solving, one essential and teachable component of moral behavior, has been studied in teachers and, to a lesser extent, principals. Yet little empirical research has been conducted on moral problem solving, or reasoning, among educational leadership graduate students in training for positions of responsibility. In particular, no studies have addressed this population's moral reasoning in relation to their academic authorship practices while they are writing for high stakes and becoming scholars. The purpose of this doctoral research was to explain the relationship between moral problem solving and academic authorship practices for educational leadership/administration (EDL/EDA) graduate students in five advanced schools in one Southern state. Using a correlational, explanatory design, the researcher administered an online questionnaire that included two established measures, the Defining Issues Test (DIT)-2 and the Academic Practices Survey (APS), along with an exploratory authorship/leadership dilemma and writing histories to assess master's and doctoral students. Of 539 students contacted for the census study, 113 respondents, or 21%, were considered a core group of completers for analysis. Results showed that these EDL/EDA students scored significantly lower on advanced, or postconventional, moral thinking, than those in a 2005-2009 national norm for graduate students across the disciplines. Additionally, the educators' moral problem-solving scores were significantly correlated with their self-reported behavior on a plagiarism subscale, but not a cheating subscale. Notably, EDL/EDA students reported relatively low levels of authorship activity and significantly lower levels of confidence in their summarizing skills than in their academic reading skills. Given prior research showing lower-than-average scores for moral reasoning among educators as well as proven gains from professional ethics and academic writing instruction, this study has multiple implications for higher education faculty and administrators who seek to train graduate students to become exemplary educational leaders and scholars.

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