Cognitive and Moral Learning

Cognitive and Moral Learning Through a Community-Based Ethics Initiative in the Mendoza College of Business: An Analysis of Pedagogy and Curricular Innovation

Principal Investigators:

  • Anne M. Cahill Kelly, Director of Community Partnerships and Service Learning, Center for Social Concerns
  • Jessica McManus Warnell, Program Manager and Concurrent Instructor, Institute for Ethical Business Worldwide, Mendoza College of Business; Community-Based Learning Coordinator, Center for Social Concerns

Contact: Jessica McManus Warnell,

While business ethics has received increased attention in the media and scholarship in recent years, it has been an integral component of the curriculum of the Mendoza College of Business (MCOB) at the University of Notre Dame since the 1970s.   Also central to the University’s mission has been an emphasis on service and experiential learning, enhanced through the efforts of the Center for Social Concerns (CSC) since 1983.

A partnership between MCOB and the CSC was institutionalized in 2000 with the appointment of the Community-Based Learning Coordinator to foster service learning experiences for business students. This study builds on the partnership to examine how curricular innovations in business ethics positively impact students’ ethical sensitivity and reasoning.  Sophomore business majors will be followed during their three years in the College of Business.  Outcomes will be measured using two survey instruments: 1) the Defining Issues Test (DIT2) of moral reasoning and 2) a complementary instrument, the Business Education Survey (BES), developed by the investigators.  This three-year study was instituted in Fall 2003 and will conclude Spring 2006.


  • We have secured the list of students for participation from the Registrar and Lab for Social Research. The LSR is working on generating a random sample of 240 undergraduate, rising sophomore business majors. This will be the group to receive solicitation for participation, with the hope that we secure at least 120 respondents (we're working on ways to encourage this participation -- one manner will be the distribution of the instruments -- this will occur during MCOB's Sophomore Orientation Day (a required half-day seminar for all new MCOB majors). We hope that placement within this event will illustrate the value of this work and buy-in from the College. My Dean has agreed to allow time for this distribution (students will complete and return the instruments later that week).
  • We've drafted a letter of invitation to the students that will be sent out when the random sample is identified (late July-early August). Students will be asked to indicate their participation by responding to Annie or me. Those students will receive the instruments during the Sophomore Orientation Day. This letter is attached for your information.
  • We've begun completing the paperwork for "Research Involving the Use of Human Subjects" and will submit it this month.
  • Our agenda for July includes:
    • meeting with ethics faculty to complete design of supplementary survey instrument
    • finalizing distribution/collection logistics for August
  • Finally, per your request I am sending via campus mail a copy of the DIT2 for your information. Please note that our plan is to distribute two instruments - the DIT2 and a supplementary instrument modeled on a survey distributed by Jay Brandenberger's team at the Center for Social Concerns. It contains items on student curricular and other experiences. This survey is in development; we will be meeting with our business ethics faculty later this month to incorporate their suggestions for items that will provide insight into those course and theoretical experiences. I will forward the completed instrument to you as soon as it is available.