Acting Out Integrity and Honor: Student Honor Council Cultural Influence on Members' Development

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This ethnographic inquiry of the Student Honor Council at the University of Maryland, College Park provided insight into how this culture bound by enduring values and ritualistic behavior influenced members' development. The purpose of this study was to understand how participation in the culture of the Student Honor Council at the University of Maryland, College Park influenced the development of Student Honor Council members. As a study of culture, ethnographic methodology and methods were employed. Additional questions guiding this study included: (1) how did the members describe and define the culture of the Student Honor Council; (2) how did members come to make meaning and define the various adjudication and educational processes; and (3) how did the honor council culture, and various adjudication and educational processes influence an individual's development?

The methodology and traditional methods of ethnography were employed, including individual interviews, group interviews, observations, and document analysis. The findings of this research were analyzed by the Kuh and Hall (1993) and Schein (1992, 2004) theoretical models of culture, including cultural levels of artifacts, values (both espoused and enacted), assumptions, and perspectives. The results of this research were interpreted with the dimensions of self-authorship and compared alongside the learning partnerships model both as defined by Baxter Magolda (1998, 2001, 2002, 2004b). 

The findings of this research revealed a purposeful, function based culture in which members adapted the values of the culture in a simplistic manner and became more indoctrinated with prolonged engagement. Although the culture did meet the tenets of the learning partnerships model and members expressed an influence of development in the self-authorship dimensions, the culture merely served as a conduit for development, not promoting movement along any developmental scheme. Findings additionally supported Baxter Magolda's claim that "good company" on the journey of development was vital. This study provided advanced understanding of the learning partnerships model as utilized to understand co-curricular experiences. Further, this inquiry links peer-based judicial board experiences to empirical research.  Additional links to research, recommendations for practice, and implications are included.