Comparing the Stewart-Sprinthall Management Survey and the Defining Issues Test-2 as Measures of Moral Reasoning in Public Administration

Rizzo, Ann-Marie; Swisher, Laura Lee
July 2004
Journal of Public Administration Research & Theory;Jul2004, Vol. 14 Issue 3, p335
Academic Journal
Studies of moral reasoning in public administration have used James Rest's Defining Issues Test (DID and the Stewart-Sprinthall Management Survey (SSMS), both derived from Lawrence Kohlberg's work, to assess the moral reasoning of government managers and personnel with disparate results. For example, in previous research with public administrators the SSMS has found higher levels of law and order or maintaining norms moral reasoning than the DIT. The purposes of this article are to (1) summarize the results of published research in public administration using the SSMS and the DIT, (2) compare the results of the SSMS and Oft in the same sample of public administrators, and (3) make recommendations for the use of these instruments in research and practice. In a sample S members of the American Society for Public Administration's Section on Ethics, a comparison of DIT-2 and SSMS moral reasoning scores demonstrated no significant differences between postconventional moral reasoning scores; however, there was a significant difference between maintaining. norms percentage scores. This suggests that the two instruments may tap into different dimensions of moral reasoning. Liberals and moderates scored significantly higher than conservatives did in postconventional reasoning on the DIT-2 but not on the SSMS. These results support findings of previous research demonstrating the political dimensions of the DIT, as well as reinforce the multidimensional nature of moral behavior and moral judgment Discussion focuses on the implications of these findings for the use of both instruments.


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