frequency, methods, and causes.
Mikaela Bj�rklund and Claes-G�ran Wenestam
�bo Akademi University
Department of Teacher Education,
email: Mikaela.Bjorklund@abo.fi or firstname.lastname@example.org
Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, Lahti, Finland 22-25 September 1999.
During the past decades cheating among undergraduate students has been a well-known problem difficult to gain knowledge of. European research in this field of research is scarce. The aim of this paper is to present a study, investigating the frequency of cheating, the cheating methods used and the students motives for cheating or not cheating in a Swedish-Finnish university context. Comparisons with other higher education contexts were possible since an anonymous questionnaire, worked out and used by Newstead, Franklyn-Stokes and Armstead (1995), was translated into Swedish and used in the study. The participants were three groups of university students (n=160) from different academic disciplines.
The findings implicate that cheating among undergraduates is common and mainly is a problem of ethic character. The paper also discusses consequences of student cheating for the university staff, legislators, and society. Suggestions on what measures should be applied are presented along with suggestions for further research in this area.
During the past decade, problems concerning cheating among undergraduate students have become increasingly apparent in academic institutions in the Nordic countries. Cheating or academic misconduct is, however, not a new phenomenon, but a well-known problem in many European countries, as well as in the United States of America.
Because of the ethical and moral character of the problem it is not easy to do research in this field. Obvious problems are i.e. student integrity. Thus, academic dishonest behaviour and cheating is a familiar problem for any university, but it is often not very well known and sometimes the university authorities do not even want to know of it. Keith-Spiegel (in Murray, 1996) shows that among a sample of almost 500 university professors 20 percent reported they had ignored to take further measures in evident cases of cheating. Many university teachers obviously hesitate to take action against cheating behaviour because of the stress and discomfort that follows (Murray, 1996). Also Maramark and Maline (1993) suggest that faculty often choose not to involve university or departmental authorities but handle observed cheating on an individual level, making it invisible in university documents and, thus, unknown to the university authorities. Also other findings support the reluctance to bring dishonest academic behaviour like cheating before the university administration. Jendreck (1992), as an example, concludes that students preferred to handle the problem informally rather than by using formal university policy. Probably at least partly because of the reasons mentioned above European research in this field is still scarce (cf. Newstead, Franklyn-Stokes & Armstead, 1995 and Ashworth et al., 1997).
Nevertheless, we feel that it is of the utmost importance that this area of research is further developed in the near future, not the least since students tend to see cheating as a more or less normal part of their studies, which is illustrated in the quote below:
Students beliefs that "everyone cheats" (Houston, 1976, p. 301) or that cheating is a normal part of life (Baird, 1980) encourage cheating. The adage "cheaters never win" may not apply in the case of academic dishonesty. With cheating rates as high as 75% to 87% (e.g., Baird, 1980; Jendreck, 1989) and detection rates as low as 1.30% (Haines et al., 1986), academic dishonesty is reinforced, not punished. (Davis, Grover, Becker & McGregor, 1992, p. 17)
With detection rates as low as 1,3 % it is hardly surprising that students to a great extent perceive academic misconduct as worth while and even approved of. As an illustration of the low detection rates; during a five year period (1991-1995) only 24 students were brought to the disciplinary board for cheating at one Swedish university (Grahnstr�m, 1996).
It is, hence, of importance to university staff and administrators, as well as to legislators and society as a whole to gain insight in this matter, in order to be able to do something about it.
The aim of the study
The main aim of the study presented in this paper is to provide a first step in a survey over university students cheating, i.e. to investigate the overall frequency, different methods and main reasons for cheating and not cheating among students in a Finnish context.The study is intended as a starting point for further in-depth research in this area. In order to get a better understanding of the problem, the aim is also to relate the outcome to subjects backgrounds in terms of sex, age, academic experience (number of study years), faculty belongings, level of difficulty, level of study success and main reason for study at the university, in order to get a deeper understanding of student cheating behaviour.
To make comparisons with other contexts possible an anonymous questionnaire, worked out and used by the British researchers Newstead , Franklyn-Stoked and Armstead (1995), was translated into Swedish and used in the study, which was carried out on 160 university students during the spring of 1996.
I this presentation we focus attention on:
a) the frequency of admitted cheating,
b) what kinds of cheating is most frequent in relation to the British results,
b) the relationship between frequency of admitted cheating/not admitted cheating and sex,
c) the reasons selected for or against cheating in relation to the British results, and
d) the relationship between the reasons selected and sex.
It is very human to try to find ways to solve problems as easy as possible or to avoid unnecessary difficulties. Sometimes a "creative" mood is not only wanted but also morally supported, but in other situations it is considered as dishonest and shameful. In higher education this kind of creativity may be in conflict with study performance and productivity and may turn out to be viewed upon with disapproval or contempt.
How define cheating?
Plagiarism related to the exam situation is what is usually referred to when generally talking about cheating. It is also this kind of behaviour that has received most attention in research on cheating. Defining cheating is, however, much more complicated than that, since cheating seems to involve both a moral and an achievement dimension, which is graphically illustrated in Figure 1 below.
Figure 1. Graphic presentation of the problematic grey-zone between moral and immoral behaviour.
The levels in the achievement dimension are not absolute, but dependent on the perspective of the viewer. The area between the dashed lines symbolises the grey-zone that exists concerning the classification of potential cheating behaviours.
Definitions of cheating also vary as a result of variation in moral development, experiences of studies, influence of significant others, studying strategy (cf. Miller & Parlett, 1973) and probably also other factors. The result is a wide spectrum of definitions ranging from liberal to conservative. Hence, the need for normative documents is apparent. Evenso they do not seem to exist, at least not in Finland. Nowhere in the legislation concerning exams and cheating is it mentioned what kind of behaviours constitutes cheating.
The examples above illustrate what a complex problem cheating is. In the study presented in this paper all not strictly correct behaviours were classified as cheating for claritys sake.
To what extent does cheating occur?
Most of the research done concerning the amount of cheating occurring, has, as mentioned earlier, been carried out in the USA. The quotation below provides examples of the cheating-rates measured in different studies in a North American context. The reader ought to observe that these studies were different in design; concentrated on different behaviours and therefore some of the variation in the percentages might be accounted for in that way, and thus can not only be taken to convey a steadily increasing rate of cheating.
Drake (1941) reported a cheating rate of 23%, whereas Goldsen, Rosenberg, William, and Suchman (1960) reported rates of 38% and 49% for 1952 and 1960, respectively. Hetherington and Feldman (1964) and Baird (1980) reported cheating rates of 64% and 76%, respectively. Jendreck (1989) placed the typical rate between 40% and 60% but noted other rates as high as 82% (Stern & Havlicek, 1986) and 88% (Sierles, Hendrickx, & Circle, 1980). (Davis et al., 1992,s.16)
Davis et al. (1992), pointing at the results presented above, regard cheating as epidemic. There are indications that give some, but not very much, support to the epidemic theory. McCabe and Trevino (1996) found that the tendency to cheat had increased only little, from 63 percent in 1963 to 70 percent in 1990-91 but that the cheating methods had been more developed and the repertoire wider. Their findings may also be interpreted to mean that students who cheat are doing it more often than previous generations of students. Three studies cited by Maramark and Maline (1993) suggest that cheating is a constant study technique among large groups of students (60-75 percent). Also Davis and Ludvigson (1995) found in a more recent study that the individuals who cheat during their university-level studies are the ones that also have cheated earlier in their studies.
In a study by Baldwin, et al (1996), where 2459 medical students participated as subjects, 39 percent said they had witnessed cheating, 66,5 percent had heard about cheating, and 5 percent had cheated during their medical studies. Graham et al (1994) found that among 480 college students 89 percent admitted cheating and in a study by Lord and Chiodo (1995) 83 percent of the undergraduates investigated (n=300) admitted to cheating on significant tests and major projects.
In a European context Newstead et al. (1995) also present high rates of cheating. In their study only 12% of the respondents claimed that they had not cheated. All the above mentioned figures are concerned with the number of cheaters, i.e. the number of students who have at least on one occasion been involved in academic misconduct, they do not tell us anything about to what extent these people do cheat. It is, however, likely that the more cheating is done, the more probable it is that the numbers of behaviours used vary. It is therefore of importance to find out what kind of behaviours students utilise.
What methods are used?
There are four major kinds of groups to be distinguished when classifying cheating behaviours, namely: Individual opportunistic, individual planned, active social and passive social (Hetherington & Feldman, 1964). Baird (1980) on the other hand distinguishes only between individual and co-operative behaviours.
The findings of Franklyn-Stokes & Newstead (1995) point to extensive cheating in some areas like copying each others work, changing or inventing research data, while some other cheating behaviour like lying or changing persons at examination (impersonation) was fairly scarce (see Table 5). Hence, there seems to be a correlation between level of perceived seriousness of the behaviour and its frequency of occurrence the more serious the behaviour, the less frequent it is. Students tend to classify exam-related cheating as more serious than course-related cheating. These classifications were also confirmed by Newstead et als results, where all exam-related items were among the least frequent and course-related items among the most frequent.
McCabe and Trevino summarise their findings in a table showing what kind of cheating and the frequency students admit they are engaged in. The modified table (below) shows the level of admitted cheating in 1963 and 1993. The two tests make a comparison possible.
Table. 2. Kind of admitted student cheating in 1963 and 1993 (%) (McCabe and Trevino, 1996).
|Copied from another student||26||52||+26||Increase|
|Helped another student||23||37||+14||Increase|
|Used crib notes||16||27||+11||Increase|
Copied material without footnoting
|Falsify a bibliography||28||29||+1||Similar|
|Turned in work done by another||19||14||-5||Decrease|
|Collaborated on assignments requiring individual work||11||49||+38||Increase|
Table 2 shows that some kinds of cheating are more frequent than other kinds. It is also interesting to find that in most of the cases the tendency is an increase of the cheating between 1963 and 1993. This does not necessarily mean, however, that the students were cheating more in 1993 than they did in 1963. Another reasonable explanation is that the students were more prone to admit cheating in 1993 than the students were in 1963.
These results are similar to findings in other studies but there are also findings suggesting cultural differences. Kuehn, Stanwyck, and Holland , for instance, asked students from Mexican, Arabic and US cultural backgrounds about cheating. The main focus was on three typical cheating behaviours: using crib notes, copying another students test, and allowing another student to copy course work. The findings suggest that there were differences between the culturally different groups of students in how they looked upon and rated cheating.
Also new technique, like the World Wide Web, is used by students in order to download papers, essays, etc produced by other students but presented to the examiner as own work. One illustration of this is a report from a Swedish university, where several students were found out using not accepted means for getting course credits among which the downloading of ready-made course works from the web was mentioned (Lunds Universitet Meddelar, 1998). Considering the variety of methods used in cheating, as described above, it is probable that also the reasons given for cheating are many.
Reasons for cheating and not doing it
The reasons or motives for cheating are not very well known but must be assumed to be complex. In a North American study of school students cheating by Anderman, Griesinger, and Westerfield (1998) it is claimed that the schools obsession with performance measures spurs cheating. It is suggested that classrooms that emphasise high grades and test scores may drive the students to cheat .
Similar conclusions are reported from several investigations, where the students workload is found to be an important explaining factor (Lipson & MacGavern, 1993). Davis et al (1992) point out that pressures for good grades in higher education, student stress, ineffective deterrents, teacher attitudes, and an increasing lack of academic integrity are important determinants of cheating. Baird (1980) previously reported similar findings. In that study 35 percent of the students stated that they had too little time for studying for the exam and 26 percent of the students said their working load made it necessary to cheat. In a study by Singhal (1982) as much as 68 percent of the students regarded the wish to get good results as the reason for cheating. Newstead, Franklyn-Stokes, and Armstead (1995) found that 21 percent of the cheaters say it was lack of time to study that made them cheat and 20 percent explicitly stated that their cheating was a consequence of their wish to get better grades. A third frequently occurring reason for cheating was "everybody else does it" (16%), which effectively reflects students attitudes towards cheating. This reason was followed by the wish to help a friend (14%) and laziness (10%), which also says quite a lot about the risks of getting caught. It is obviously easier to help a friend cheat than to e.g. help the friend learn to an exam. Also Maramark and Maline (1993), when looking for causes for cheating, found that stress, competition for jobs, scholarships and admission to post-graduate programs were important determinants.
On a general level the causes or explanations identified can be organised in two classes of factors, external, and individual/personal. In Table 1 below the two super-ordinate factors and some elements/reasons mentioned in research done by Baird (1980), Davis et al (1992) and Hetherington & Feldman (1964) are presented.
Table 1. Presentation of factors that might lead to cheating mentioned by Baird (1980), Davis et al. (1992) and Hetherington & Feldman (1964).
Importance of the test
Level of test-difficulty
Awareness of the
performance of fellow
A certain expectation of
Davis et al.
Overcrowded, great classes
Wish to help a friend
Aversion to teacher
To gain social
At a closer examination of the reasons mentioned by these researchers it seems obvious that the strongest reasons are to be found among the personal factors and that the external factors merely help to ease the cheating. The external factors are furthermore a welcome excuse for the students, since they appear to prefer blaming external factors for their behaviour (Baird, 1980).
Anderman et al (1998) identified two general types of study approaches, which on a general level seem to be similar to the deep and surface approaches to studying and learning. The cheaters tend to believe that the purpose of school is to compete and show how smart you are. Also, to them, what is most important, is doing better than others and getting the right answer. They also worried about school and made use of self-handicapping behaviours, blaming others and making excuses for not performing well at school, more often than their counterparts. Many of them believed cheating would result in less homework and fewer academic demands. The non-cheating group of students, in comparison, expressed interest in their learning of science concepts and tried various problem-solving methods and sought to connect ideas.
In several previous studies it is suggested that the effect of an explicit and unanimously accepted honour code will lower the frequency of cheating behaviour (McCabe & Bowers, 1994). But honour code may have an effect in two opposite directions. A very common reason for some types of cheating is the wish to help a friend (Franklyn-Stokes and Newstead, 1995; McCabe & Trevino, 1996). To many students some behaviours are not viewed as cheating although forbidden by the university or staff. For instance, letting a fellow student borrow or copy an individual course work or a written assignment or even have a look at the answer in a test may be regarded as honest and correct behaviour. Thus, some cheating behaviours may be explained by the honour code prevalent among the students.
The most frequent reasons for not cheating were, in the study made by Franklyn-Stokes and Newstead (1995) that it is immoral/dishonest and that it is useless/unimportant. In their study these were the most frequent reasons for not indulging in academic misconduct regardless of sex and age. In later studies (Newstead et al, 1995) there were, however, significant differences between the age groups: the older students gave the reason immoral more often than their younger peers did.
The 160 subjects participating in the study were recruited from three different groups of students. In Table 3 below, the samples and some characteristics are presented.
Table 3. Participants in the study
The collection of data was carried out at the university during ordinary lecture time. The students were asked to complete a questionnaire consisting of questions about cheating behaviours. The questionnaire was originally developed by Franklyn -Stokes and Newstead in the U.K. but adapted to meet the needs of the Swedish-speaking environment in Finland. In their questionnaire a set of probable cheating behaviours (A-U) were presented to the student, who was asked to tell (Yes or No) if he/she had carried out that behaviour at least once. Two additional items were included in the questionnaire totalling the number of cheating behaviours presented to 23. Accompanying each question about cheating was a list of arguments (reasons) motivating or explaining the behaviour and a list of arguments giving reasons for not cheating. The subjects were asked to select one reason for each Yes/No response.
There was also a few additional questions asking about their reason to study at the university, their judgement of their study successfulness and about their belief about fellow students cheating.
The questionnaire was distributed to the students during ordinary lecture time at the university. The respondents completed it immediately and anonymously. It took about 15 minutes to complete. The data was analysed by quantitative methods.
4. The result of the data analysis
The overall frequency of cheating
75 % of the respondents in this study had engaged in at least one of the behaviours listed in the questionnaire. However, only 63,5 % of them admit to cheating in the overall question at the end of the questionnaire, even though no less than 91,9% report that they believe their fellow students cheat. The over all tendency to cheat only correlated with year of study (Spearmans rho= ,160, P=.046), reason to study (Spearmans rho= ,213, p=.012) and the respondents estimation of how much other students cheat (Spearmans rho= ,159, p=.046). This seems to imply that the over all amount of cheating is relatively stable, but that the methods used vary depending on discipline of study, gender, age and success in studies, since there are some significant correlations for the individual items on the basis of these background variables
This study was not designed to study the moral development of the respondents, but the results do, however, point in one certain direction as far as moral is concerned. In Table 4 below, the reported tendency to cheat is cross-tabulated with respondents own evaluation of their inclination to cheat.
Table 4. Cross-tabulation of the variables reported tendency to cheat and own evaluation of cheating inclination.
Of the ones who have reported that they never cheat 53,4 % have admitted to exercising at least one of the behaviours mentioned in the questionnaire, whereas 12,9 % of the ones of the opinion that they cheat rarely have not reported cheating on any of the behaviours. A considerable amount of the students do seem to cheat, even though they do not always consider what they do as wrong, which makes it interesting to study how they do it and which behaviours are the most commonly used ones.
Cheating methods used
In this section the occurrence of the different methods listed in the questionnaire are presented. Observe that the behaviours listed in the questionnaire are various behaviours that can be regarded as cheating and dishonest behaviour, but do not necessarily need to be considered as such (cf. the definition of cheating used in this paper). Below, in Table 5 the students responses to the behaviours described in the questionnaire are presented in order of frequency. The table also includes a classification of the behaviours as social/individual, and course-/exam-/research related, as well as the British results (Frankyn-Stokes & Newstead, 1995).
Table 5. The cheating behaviours listed in order of frequency. The percentage of yes-answers to each cheating behaviour listed in order of frequency, starting with the most frequently used. The figure to the right is the percentage of positive answers received for the same item in the study made by Franklyn-Stokes & Newstead (1995).The letters to the left represent the classification of the behaviour. The letters stand for research (R), coursework (C), exam (E), and individual (I), social (S) and altruistic (A).
|Situation||Percent (FI)||Percent (UK)|
|CI||O) Copying without reference||35,8 %||54 %|
|CI||N) Paraphrasing without references||27,0 %||66 %|
|CSA||A) Allow copying (coursework)||24,4 %||72 %|
|CS||E) Copying coursework with knowledge||21,4 %||64 %|
|CS||V) Reporting presence||15,7 %||---|
|EI||Q) Copying (exam)||13,8 %||20 %|
|CI||C) Fabricating references||12,0 %||54 %|
|EI||K) Advance information (exam)||11,4 %||6 %|
|RI||R) Altering data||10,8 %||66 %|
|I||M) Library||10,1 %||31 %|
|CSA||S) Doing anothers coursework||6,9 %||21 %|
|C||T) Collusion (coursework)||6,9 %||25 %|
|CI||F) Lying (coursework)||6,3 %||16 %|
|EI||B) Cribs (exam)||5,7 %||13%|
|CI||G) Essay banks||5,1 %||9 %|
|CI||J) Copying coursework without knowledge||5,0 %||7 %|
|ES||P) Collusion (exam)||3,8 %||6 %|
|EI||D) Lying (exam)||2,5 %||3 %|
|I||L) Inventing data (NB! translation)||0,6 %||60 %|
|I||W) Keeping silent||0,6 %||---|
|ES||H) Impersonation (exam)||0,0 %||0 %|
|CS||I) Peer assessment||0,0 %||65 %|
|I||U) Corruption/bribery||0,0 %||---|
In Table 5 one can see that some cheating behaviours are more frequent than others are. The most frequent ones among the Finnish respondents are "Copying material for course-work from a book or other publication without acknowledging the source", "Paraphrasing material from another source without acknowledging the original author", "Allowing own course-work to be copied by another student", and "Copying another student's course-work with their knowledge". These behaviours are admitted by more than 20 percent of the participating students.
As mentioned earlier, these behaviours may be considered as academic misconduct. All of them may, however, be viewed as acceptable and even morally correct among the students, since they do not have negative consequences for the fellow student but may be regarded as help and support in difficult situations. In that sense it can be assumed that there exists a conflict between staffs and students social and ethical value systems, creating a moral borderline area where what is right and wrong are not easily delimited.
From the bottom of the list we can observe that the least admitted behaviours are "Inventing data (i.e. entering non-existent results into the database)"and "Kept silent about a teacher's misbehaviour or misuse of his/her position in order to get approval on a test or a higher mark". These behaviours were reported only by one respondent/ behaviour. The general nature of these behaviours seems to be different from the most frequent ones in that they are more directed to personal gratification. The behaviours also represent more active deception of teachers and fellow students in order to gain personal reward. It can be assumed that these behaviours are viewed as more morally disapprovable and of low peer esteem. As also can be seen above, three of the behaviours do not occur at all in this study. This is probably due to the limited sample and perhaps also (judging from cryptic comments of the respondents) to fear of punishment.
The students responses to the items in the questionnaire depicting various cheating behaviours were in most cases similar for the both sexes; that is, there are almost no differences between female and male students responses in this respect. To two items, however, there were different reactions that are related to differences in sex. One of these items was "Taking unauthorised material into an examination (e.g. cribs)". The outcome is presented in Table 6 below.
Table 6 Relationship between students responses to item "Taking unauthorised material into an examination (e.g. cribs)" and students sex
Response Yes No All Female 3 111 114 % 2.6 97.4 100.0 Male 6 38 44 % 13.6 86.4 100.0 Total 9 44 158 % 5.7 94.3 100.0
The result in the table indicates that there are clear differences between female and male students ways of responding to the item suggesting cheating in the form of taking unauthorised material in the testing situation. Among the female students only 2.6 percent admitted to the behaviour while 13.6 percent of the male students said Yes to having carried out the cheating. The differences are statistically significant (Fishers Exact Test, D.F.=1, p=.015).
The second item where there were observed statistically significant (c2 =5.82,D.F.=1, p=.016) response differences related to sex was the item "Signing as present a not present fellow student at a course where obligatory attendance is asked for". This item was added to the original questionnaire. The outcome is presented in Table 7 below.
Table 7. Relationship between students responses to the item "Signing as present a not present fellow student at a course where obligatory attendance is asked for" and students sex
Response Yes No All Female 23 91 114 % 20.2 79.8 100.0 Male 2 42 44 % 4.5 95.5 100.0 Total 25 133 158 % 15.8 84.2 100.0
As can be seen in the table more than 20 percent of the female students admitted that they had signed on a fellow student at a lecture although he/she was absent. This can be compared with 4.5 percent of the male students admitting the same behaviour. Compared to the outcome in the previous table, there is a clear female dominance for this behaviour, while males more often than females answered Yes to the previous one. Another difference is that the total proportion of Yes-responses are much larger for the item "Signing as present a not present fellow student at a course, where obligatory attendance is asked for" when compared with students Yes-responses to the item "Taking unauthorised material into an examination (e.g. cribs)" (se Table 6 above), showing the response variation between the items regarding the tendency among the students to accept or not accept a specific cheating behaviour.
The social individual relation
In the following, the frequency of certain cheating behaviours are discussed in relation to the nature (see classification in Table 5 above) of the behaviour. 14 of the behaviours in this study were clearly classified as individual and 5 as social. The mean for yes-responses was 14,4 % for the social behaviours and 10,5 % for the individual ones. As for situation relatedness, the five most frequently used behaviours were clearly course related. The study only contained one item concerning research related cheating (R), and this was the ninth in order of frequency (10,8 %) and had mostly been used by male respondents at the age of 21-23 successfully (16-24.99 credits/term) studying education . Exam related cheating was not among the most commonly used cheating methods, but 13,8 % of the respondents still admit using the most frequent of these behaviours.
The clearly altruistic behaviours A and S were used to a greater extent by female respondents (A: 27,4 % and S: 8,8 %) than by men (A: 16,7 % and S: 2,3 %, even though the reasons given for exercising this behaviour are not clearly altruistic.
Reasons for cheating
Another area of interest to us concerns the reasons and the arguments selected as explanations and sometimes also as excuses for the behaviour. In Table 8 below all the reasons used to motivate cheating are listed in order of frequency. It should be remembered that the reasons available to be selected were generated by the researchers, but that the respondents also were given the possibility to express other reasons/motives. These less frequent reasons are also listed in Table 8.
Regarding reasons given for not cheating the most frequent one (27.5 %) is the choice stating that cheating is immoral or dishonest. The reasons following in frequency of appearance represent on a general level a completely different class of attitudes, since it may mean that the subject do not distance him/herself from cheating, only that it was not considered or regarded as useful ("I never thought of it", 21.3 % and "Situation did not arise", 19.5 %). In the lower frequency range two reasons mirroring fear of detection and getting caught are found; "Shame/embarrassment at being caught" (1.3 %) and "Fear of detection/punishment" (1.4 %). In a way these reasons like the two previous ones are focusing the social condemnation for cheating and dishonest behaviour and are not clearly a statement against cheating.
When looking at students ways of choosing reasons for cheating or for not cheating there seems to exist a strong connection with the cheating behaviour that is in focus. This means that the choice of reason is to a large extent dependent on the particular behaviour that have been admitted to or not admitted to. This topic will be discussed no further in this paper.
In most cases, however, there are no obvious differences between female and male students ways of selecting their reasons for their responses. Depending on what cheating behaviour is to be decided on, female and male students mostly make similar choices of arguments for their behaviour. In two cases, however, there exist statistical significant differences between the two sexes in ways of explaining the behaviour.
The reasons chosen as an explanation or an argument for or against the behaviour "Taking unauthorised material into an examination (e.g. 'cribs')" are different between female and male students. In the table below the outcome is presented.
Table 10. Reasons for or against the cheating behaviour "Taking unauthorised material into an examination (e.g. 'cribs')"among female and male students
|To increase the mark||1||0.9||0||0.0||1|
|Fear of failure||0||0.0||3||7.1||3|
|Everybody does it||0||0.0||1||2.4||1|
|It would devalue my achievement||9||8.0||1||2.4||10|
|It is immoral/dishonest||48||42.9||18||42.9||66|
|It was unnecessary/pointless||6||5.5||1||2.4||7|
|Shame/embarrassment at being caught||4||3.6||2||4.8||6|
|I never thought of it||23||20.5||6||14.3||29|
|Fear of detection/punishment||9||8.0||3||7.1||12|
|I would not know how to go about it||1||0.9||0||0.0||1|
|It would be unfair to other students||0||0.0||2||4.8||2|
|Situation did not arise/not applicable||4||3.6||0||0.0||4|
The outcome points to statistical significant differences (Phi and Cram�rs V =.404, p=.048) between the female and male ways of selecting the reason for their behaviour regarding "Taking unauthorised material into an examination (e.g. 'cribs')". First of all 7.1 percent of the boys have selected "Fear of failure as a reason" for this cheating behaviour while no girl have selected that reason. Also "It would be unfair to other students" were chosen by 4.8 male students but not one female student.
Among the female students reasons like "To increase the mark", "Laziness", "I would not know how to go about it" and "Situation did not arise/not applicable to my course" were chosen by a few female students but no male student. A relatively large difference between female and male ways of choosing among the reasons for explaining the Yes/No-answer can be found for reason "I never thought about it", where 20.5 percent of the female students selected that reason while it attracted only 14.3 percent of the male students. Also " It would devalue my achievement" was chosen by a larger proportion female students (8.0 %) than male students (2.4 %).
The second statistical significant difference (Phi and Cram�rs V=.348, p=.028) concerns the reasons chosen for item " Taking an examination for someone else or having someone else take an examination for you". The outcome is presented in Table 11 below.
Table 11. Reasons for or against the cheating behaviour " Taking an examination for someone else or having someone else take an examination for you". among female and male students
|It would devalue my achievement||2||1.8||2||4.8||4|
|It is immoral/dishonest||49||43.8||18||42.9||67|
|It was unnecessary/pointless||2||1.8||2||4.8||4|
|Shame/embarrassment at being caught||0||0.0||1||2.4||1|
|I never thought of it||37||33.0||6||14.3||43|
|Fear of detection/punishment||2||1.8||0||0.0||2|
|I would not know how to go about it||9||8.0||1||2.4||10|
|It would be unfair to other students||2||1.8||1||2.4||3|
|Situation did not arise/not applicable||8||7.1||10||23.8||18|
In one case the male students have chosen a reason ("Shame/embarrassment at being caught") that is not chosen by any female student. Large difference on the basis of sex are found for the reason "Situation did not arise/not applicable to my course", where more than 16 percent more boys have chosen that reasons for their behaviour. Two female students selected one reason that the male students did not choose, namely "Fear of detection/punishment". Largest difference (18.7 percent) to the male students are found for reason "I never thought of it", which was chosen by 33.0 percent of the female students but only 14.3 percent of the male students.
Various methodological problems that have been discussed elsewhere (see Bj�rklund, 1997), are not mentioned here, since they do not seem to affect the reliability and validity of the results discussed. There is, however, one point of importance as far as methodological bias is concerned and that is the fact that the instrument in this study was translated from English and a British context, which in some cases have called for adjustment and in one case yielded an erroneous translation (item L).
The frequency of individual cheating behaviours in comparison to the British results
The over all frequency of cheating reported in this study does not differ significantly from the ones reported by previous researchers, and can, hence, be taken as a further proof of the fact that the over all cheating rates seem to be fairly constant in the western word. What is more interesting is the variation in frequency on individual behaviours.
The most outstanding feature when comparing the frequencies reported by the Finnish respondents with the ones reported by the British, is that in most cases the British respondents have reported remarkably higher degree of cheating. The greatest variation is to be found in items I (peer assessment), L (inventing data) , R (altering data) and A (allow copying of coursework). The great difference concerning peer assessment is probably due to differences in the academic traditions: Peer assessment is not very common in the Swedish speaking university level studies in Finland. Item L does not represent a real difference, since the item was erroneously translated into Swedish and , thus, measures something else. Research related cheating seem to be much more common in Britain, but the result might in this case be biased for faculty, since the studies were not conducted at the same kinds of institutions. Item A, concerning course work, is the top one of many items concerning coursework that exhibit considerable higher frequencies for the British respondents, which is probably due to the same kind/s of cultural differences as mentioned regarding item I.
Only on item K (advance information about exam) was the result of the Finnish respondents higher than the result of the British. The items concerning examrelated behaviours generally exhibit the smallest differences between the groups, which seems to indicate that exam conditions are more or less alike between the two countries. It is also possible to claim that the results indicate that Finnish students seem to find examrelated cheating less serious than British, who , in turn, do not seem to regard research related cheating as particularly serious.
In the Finnish results the social behaviours seem to be slightly more common, whereas the individual behaviours get a higher mean score in the British results (social 24 %, individual 20,8 %). This can be seen claimed to indicate that the British academic environment is more competitive than the Finnish, but it ought to be remembered that the mean score used here is a very crude measure.
Reasons for cheating in comparison to the British results
The most frequent reasons for cheating mentioned by the Finnish students were time pressure, laziness and the wish to help a friend. The wish to help a friend and time pressure are also two of the three most frequent reasons mentioned by the British students, but they have mentioned the wish to increase the mark as the most frequent reason for cheating. Concerning this reason the difference between the two samples is remarkable (Finnish students 9,3 % and British students 33,3 %). Finns on the other hand contribute their cheating to laziness and extenuating circumstances considerably more often than their British peers, who, in turn, seem to fear failure more and also tend to justify their behaviour with the reason "everybody does it".
Out of these differences it is easy to create caricature image of the cheating British student as an ambitious person , who wishes to perform well and of the Finnish student who mainly cheats because it seems to be the easiest way to go about the studies.
Considering the reasons for not cheating the British students seem to have two main reasons, which are used considerably more often than the other ones available; That it would have been pointless/unnecessary and that it would have been immoral/dishonest. The immorality aspect is mentioned as the most frequently used among the Finnish students, but the second most frequently used is that the student never thought of it, closely followed by the reason that the situation didnt arise or wasnt applicable. Again, then , the British students seem to be more focused on the outcome/the result of the cheating behaviour than the Finnish ones.
Even though morality is one of the most frequently used reasons for not cheating in both of the groups, the "potential cheater-reasons", i.e. the ones giving I never thought of it, the situation didnt arise and/or it was unnecessary/pointless, amount to about 50 % in both of the groups. In connection to the fact that the reasons shame /embarrassment at being caught (1,3 % of Finnish answers, 0 % of British ones) and fear of detection/punishment (1,9 % of Finnish answers and 5,8 % of British ones) were used quite infrequently, this implicates that it is of the utmost importance to reduce the opportunities of successful cheating, e.g. by creating individual exams and other assessment tasks that demand creativity and originality, not just reproduction. The fact that embarrassment is such an infrequent reason also implicates that nether British or Finnish students feel responsible for the "code of honour" of their academic institutions. Hence, by establishing a functioning code of honour one could most likely reduce the instances of cheating remarkably, since the socio-moral climate is known to affect the behaviour of students more effectively than their own level of moral development (MacCabe & Trevino, 1996).
The reduction of opportunities for successful cheating is, of course, the most immediate way of reducing cheating, but in the long run that measure will not suffice. According to the findings in this study and other ones (cf. Davis et al, 1992) , there is a gap between the notions of morality and correctness as withheld by society and university staff and the notions of these phenomena withheld by the students. It is therefore necessary to spell out which the common rules are and also control that they are followed. To go even further it is also important to stress the importance of moral education for moral development in order to secure a functioning society, presuming that that is what is what is wanted.
Variations in cheating behaviour on the basis of the back ground variables
Contrary to previous research very few of the background variables seem to affect the tendency to cheat to a significant extent. This was, however, also the case for Haines et al (1986, in Davis et al, 1992). They came to the conclusion that it was because of the unproportionality concerning sex and year of study in the sample, which also seems to be the case in this study. Except the gender differences on some items, mentioned in the results, there were, however, also weak, but statistically significant positive correlations between the overall tendency to cheat and year of study, the perception of how much other students cheat and reason for studying. This result implies that academic misconduct, at least to some extent, may be epidemic and that students reasons for not cheating are gradually worn down when they see fellow students cheat, without being caught. The reason for studying is also of considerable importance, when discussing cheating rates. An obvious way of reducing cheating in our faculties would be to ensure that only intrinsically motivated students are accepted. The question is then: How do we control for that, and do we really want to; It is all linked to the kind of professionals we want to educate.
Summary of implications
Academic staff can no longer presuppose that students know and behave according to unwritten moral rules or an inner code of honour. One, obvious way of reducing cheating in universities is then to spell out what rules and codes the students are subjected to. Such a document ought, however, to be carefully thought out and produced in co-operation with the students, in order to establish it as a "code of honor2, otherwise it will only fill the purpose of a list of potentially successful cheating behaviours.
According to previous research, students moral behaviour and ethical reasoning seems to develop under continuous education. I am convinced that this influence can be made stronger through focused attention to the area and an open ethical dialogue, not in any specific course, but as every teachers concern. This would create a good socio-moral environment for moral development, which is what universities ought to foster in their students, since that is something they will need in their everyday life as well as in their professional activities, and of which society will benefit or suffer in the long run.
Even though the personal factors causing or preventing cheating are probably the primary ones, it is also a good idea to try to reduce or eliminate the external factors that seem to cause cheating. One of the major external reasons for cheating was time pressure. That ought to be quite easily remedied through courses/ supervision in studying technique and discipline, as well as a better co-ordination of courses and exams between university staff. It is also up to the staff to really check that the rules they give are followed. Such a behaviour signals that the rules are judged as important and might awaken conscience in the students, or at least make the "cheating alternative" less attractive and easy to carry out. In this case it is, in fact, most important to catch the small fish.
Davis and Ludvigson in turn present a twofold way of reducing cheating in the long run, namely by a) using positive reinforcement and b) by encouraging and fostering the students to acquire an outlook on life that will prevent them from cheating.
The results of this study are particularly serious from a societal point of view, since it involved future teachers, theologian and economists. What kind of teachers does the society of today want? Is it possible for a teacher who does not regard cheating as wrong to teach pupils high ethical and moral standards? Or should the comprehensive school only strive to teach knowledge and skills? The compulsory schoolteachers are of strategic importance, since they are the ones who ought to start the process of moral development, if "academic freedom" is to be a reality in the future.
Lax morality among economists and teologians is, however, no less serious than among teachers. If those particular groups in society are not to be trusted, then who? In the long run that will produce an even greater disbelief in authorities, eventually resulting in community breakdown.
In order to be able to deal with the problem in an efficient manner it is necessary to reach the causative factors, which probably are best reached with a flexible and qualitative approach. To understand delicate and inaccessible phenomena like the one at hand it is important to benefit from as many sources of knowledge as possible; an interdisciplinary approach would probably be most adequate. It is also important to realise the problem with truthfulness. In this study it was generally found that the students tended to answer the questionnaire with less anxiety, when it was stressed that the researcher was a fellow student and not a member of the university staff.
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A) Allowing own course-work to be copied by another student
B) Taking unauthorised material into an examination (e.g. 'cribs')
B)Fabricating references or a bibliography
D) Lying about medical or other circumstances to get special consideration by examiner
E) Copying another student's course-work with their knowledge
F) Lying about medical or other circumstances to get an extended deadline or exemption from a piece of work
G) Submitting course-work from an outside source
H) Taking an examination for someone else or having someone else take an examination for you
I)In a situation where students mark each other's work, coming to an agreement with another student or students to mark each other's work more generously than it merits J) Copying another student's course-work without their knowledge
K) Illicitly gaining advance information about the contents of an examination paper
L) Inventing data (i.e. entering nonexistent results into the database)
M) Ensuring the availability of books or journal articles in the library by deliberately mis-shelving them so that other students cannot find them, or by cutting out the relevant article or chapter
N) Paraphrasing material from another source without acknowledging the original author
O) Copying material for course-work from a book or other publication without acknowledging the source
P) Premeditated collusion between 2 or more students to communicate answers to each other during an examination
Q) Copying from a neighbor during an exami-nation without them realizing
R) Altering data (e.g. adjusting data to obtain a significant result)
S) Doing another student's course-work for them
T) Submitting a piece of course-work as an individual piece of work when it has actually been written jointly with another student
U) Attempting to obtain special consideration by offering or receiving favors, for example, bribery, seduction, corruption
V) Signing as present a not present fellow student at a course where obligatory attendance is asked for
W) Kept silent about a teacher's misbehavior or misuse of his/her position in order to get approval on a test or a higher mark
Many parents believe that growing up now presents adolescents with more complicated challenges than were encountered by previous generations (Sciafani, 2004). Teenagers need to develop certain attributes so they are able to cope with some predictable difficulties they can expect to face (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). A nationwide sample of 1,600 parents with students in elementary and secondary school was surveyed regarding the relative importance of teaching eleven values that relate to character development (Farkas, Johnson, Duffett, Wilson & Vine, 2002). The value ranked highest, chosen by 91% of the parents as being absolutely essential for them to teach their children, was "to be honest and truthful." One method of evaluating the performance of parents, in their own estimate, is to compare the percentage identifying a goal as essential with the percentage stating they have succeeded in teaching that particular attribute to their children. In this survey, a large gap of 36 percentage points separated the 91% of parents declaring honesty and truthfulness are fundamental lessons and the 55% reporting their instruction had been successful. This type of analysis shows that, even for aspects of role performance that parents consider indispensable, significant gaps can exist between their educational intentions and what they have been able to accomplish.
Prevalence of Dishonesty
Teachers and students are also appropriate sources to assess whether family lessons about honesty and truthfulness have been learned. A survey of 356 high school teachers found that over 90% of them saw cheating as a common problem at their school and 50% speculate that students cheat in most courses (Bushweller, 1999a). The accuracy of these estimates is corroborated by a national survey of 20,000 secondary students responding to a poll in which 70% admitted cheating on assignments and examinations (Whitley & Spiegel, 2002).
Some people may assume that the students who cheat are characterized by marginal abilities that cause them to depend on dishonesty as the only way to keep up with more intelligent classmates. On the contrary, when 3,000 students selected to appear in the prestigious Who's Who Among American High School Students were asked to describe their experiences, 80% acknowledged cheating on teacher-made and state tests (Lathrop & Foss. 2000). The high level of participation in deceptive behavior by this group of academic achievers reflects a 10% increase since the question was first presented to honor students twenty years ago. Among the adolescent leaders who admitted cheating in school, 95% also stated that they were never caught and considered themselves to be morally responsible.
Cheating is not confined to the students attending middle school or high school. Considerable evidence suggests that deceptive practices are ubiquitous in colleges and universities (Cizek, 2003; Johnson, 2004; McCabe & Pavela, 2000). The Center for Academic Integrity at Duke University represents over 250 colleges that are collaborating to restore ethical behavior to the academic environment. Scholars participating in this consortium are developing principles for defining the levels of integrity that should be expected of students and formulating effective strategies for helping faculty encourage students to adopt honesty and ethical behavior as a lifestyle. The Center for Academic Integrity website is http://www.academicintegrity.org
Motivation for Cheating
Why do students from all age groups and levels of achievement participate in cheating? One line of speculation is that dishonesty in school is just a reflection of a much broader erosion of ethical behavior that has become commonplace in a society that tends to support self-centeredness over concern for others (Sommers & Satel, 2005). Another observation is that the concern over high stakes testing by states is a primary reason for resorting to deception, particularly by students who have difficulty in meeting the minimal competency skills required for high school graduation (Callahan, 2004). Other observers contend that teachers appear to be partially responsible for blame because they ignore evidence of character failure and do not hold their students accountable (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). There is general agreement among educators that an increasing number of parents seem obsessed with having their children perform better than classmates, regardless of the steps taken to attain desired results (Baker & LeTendre, 2005; Nichols & Good, 2004).
There is a way to obtain a more accurate appraisal of how students feel than reliance on adults to interpret the adolescent experience. Polling, more than any other educational reform, could show students that society is interested in their points of view and wants to consider them. Since computers are in every school and electronic polling is an option, educators should make an effort to become more aware of how students perceive life in the classroom. In order to increase awareness, the authors have designed a set of polls for adolescents. All of these polls, administered on the Internet, focus on the student perceived conditions of learning and instruction. The multiple-choice format augmented by self-defined responses, demographics for data analysis, and explanation of how outcomes can be used to improve school environments are presented elsewhere (Strom & Strom, 2005).
One of the polls emphasizes cheating at school and includes items regarding observed prevalence in classes, reactions to deception by classmates, punishment for test abuse and plagiarism, teacher usage of software for detection, observation of cheating adults, parent response to dishonesty of a daughter or son, identifying situations that constitute cheating, conditions that legitimize dishonest behavior, characteristics of cheaters, frequency of involvement with cheating, and reasons that motivate misconduct. This sample item reflects motivation and justification.
The main reasons that peers in my classes cheat are:
a. high test scores and good grades are necessary to get into college
b. desire to please the parents who expect high levels of achievement
c. others cheat which forces me to do so or risk getting poor grades
d. standards that are required to pass some courses are too difficult
Most adolescents agree that the identified options reflect prominent reasons to cheat. For the write-in, option e, students often mention "lack of access to free competent tutoring," and that "adults teach this kind of behavior by example."
Every school district should have policies and procedures about cheating so faculty can respond to incidents they observe or are reported to them without fear of being subject to duress. Whereas 80% of students responding to the Who's Who Among American High School Students survey admitted they had cheated on tests, a separate survey administered to their parents found 63% felt certain that their child would not cheat in any circumstance (Lathrop & Foss, 2000). Perhaps such parents believe that teaching distinctions between behavior that is right and wrong is enough without also helping adolescents link this understanding with a sense of responsibility to behave in honest and truthful ways at school. A familiar outcome is that educators feel vulnerable to threats of lawsuits by parents when their child is accused of cheating. Many teachers worry that they may wrongfully accuse a student of cheating and have to suffer dreadful consequences that could follow. Indeed, 70% of educators agree that their concern about parent reaction discourages them from identifying and punishing cheaters. A disappointing and unintended outcome is student awareness that misconduct seldom leads to any punishment and therefore poses a low risk for them (Whitley & Spiegel, 2002).
Technology and Test Monitoring
Teachers are advised to be vigilant when administering tests. A perennial form of student deception involves referral to messages that are written on parts of the body, clothing or belongings kept nearby. A common practice has been to remind test takers not to glance at the papers of others during a test. Emergence of technological devices has spawned new and more sophisticated approaches to dishonest conduct. Students with personal digital assistants or cell phones can "beam" or call data silently from across a classroom or, with a cell phone, from anywhere off campus. During a test such tools are frequently hidden under the table or in baggy pockets. Both devices could be equipped with text messaging, instant messaging, email, and a camera or a video recorder which makes capture or transmission of answers a relatively easy task. Cell phones could have a hands-free function that allows the user to listen to sound files (i.e prerecorded class notes). Applying the same method of sound files, others make use of music playing devices such as iPods. The listening piece connected to a cell phone or a music-playing device could be concealed beneath long hair of a student, covering their ears from the teacher's view (Cizek, 2003)
Some teachers appropriately permit the use of personal data assistants and graphing calculators during tests because these tools provide helpful functions for solving problems. However, educators must be aware that, when a device displays data on the screen (liquid crystal display), it might also have a minimized screen containing cheat data that can be accessed for a few seconds and then entirely hidden (minimized) from a teacher's view with just the press of a key. In a similar manner, screen protectors include decorative patterned holograms intended to allow only the user to see the screen and prevent viewing by onlookers from other angles. If a teacher permits calculators or PDAs, certain ground rules should be understood. Technology contributes to learning and assessment but devices must be applied in a responsible and ethical way. Barbara Davis from the University of California in Berkeley offers helpful tips on prevention of cheating, scoring and returning test results, handling fraudulent excuses to postpone an examination, turning in a late assignment or missing a class, and clarifying expectations for coursework performance at http://teaching.berkeley.edu/bgd/prevent.html
When there are multiple sections of a course, tests are usually scheduled on different days and times. This practice allows students to buy questions from someone who has already completed their examination. In such cases, buyer and seller are both engaged in cheating. A more daring risk involves paying a person to take a test for someone else (Johnson, 2003). The identity of all students in an examination should be verified and the test for all sections of a course should be scheduled on the same day and at the same time. In addition, teachers should modify course tests of their own making each semester in order to lessen impact and likelihood of cheating by students able to access the previous answer keys. Administration of multiple versions of a test helps because items appearing in different sequence prove frustrating to anyone who tries to borrow answers by peering over the shoulder of another individual thought to know the material better than themselves. Changing the seating location of students is beneficial during testing because students are less likely to copy from classmates whose record of achievement is unknown. When a teacher leaves the room or permits students to do so during an examination, the chances for cheating are increased. No student should be out of a teacher's sight while taking a test (Johnson, 2003).
Giving periodic open book examinations and allowing students to bring notes can increase their familiarity with the content, of a course, improve their review process, and reduce the incidence of cheating. While some considerations that have been described may seem to be unduly cautious, collectively these steps do much to prevent dishonesty and support the integrity of a test environment. Students take academic honesty more seriously when they see that their teacher makes an effort to ensure fair and honest conditions for assessment. Fremer and Mulkey (2005), experts within the emerging field of test fraud and piracy, have portrayed the "ten most wanted test cheaters" and describe how their actions often compromise the value of judgments based on the outcomes of testing. See http://www.caveon.com (click articles).
While the forms of student cheating continue to become more complex, a related but unexpected threat has also become more common. During this era of high stakes testing, faculty and administrator salaries and careers are increasingly tied to the academic performance of students. Some teachers and principals have been fired for providing test answers to students, prompting change in responses of students while being tested, altering answers after the tests are completed and before they have been submitted to the school district official for processing, and providing students more time to complete examinations than is permitted by test directions (Axtman, 2005).
The extent to which some educators are willing to go to fabricate student achievement is illustrated by a case receiving great attention in Long Island, New York. A student taking the 2005 Regents' annual high stakes test was caught with blue writing on his hand that matched all of the correct responses. The source of answers was quickly traced to the student's father, an assistant principal who was responsible for the state examinations in a nearby school district (Lambert, 2005). Public outrage over this kind of illegal activity is prompting new initiatives as well as policies to protect the evaluation process. In Ohio teachers are obliged to sign a code of conduct and warned that inappropriate monitoring of examinations could lead to revocation of certification licensure. Kentucky administers six different versions of their state tests to frustrate the practice of teaching students answers that might be easier known by faculty where there is only a single version of the measure (Callahan, 2004).
Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas are among the growing number of states contracting with Caveon, the nation's first test security company that monitors annual assessments for the No Child Left Behind Act. This company has developed a process called Data Forensics that searches for unusual response patterns of students such as getting difficult questions correct while missing easy questions, abnormally high pass rates for one classroom or school, tests where incorrect answers have been erased and replaced with correct ones. The service includes protection of existing instruments from fraudulent practices, erecting barriers to prevent unauthorized access to copyright materials, and applying sophisticated statistical and web patrolling tools that track cheaters, and hold them accountable by providing evidence to school administrators (Foster, 2003).
Ethics and the Internet
In 2000 Congress passed the Children's Internet Protection Act requiring public schools and libraries to install filters that minimize student exposure to objectionable materials like pornography. Another feature of the same legislation includes guarantees to safeguard copyright materials of authors and artists whose music and ideas are made available on the Internet. A national rush to make sure that all age groups have an opportunity to be online has overlooked the essential training everyone should have to support ethical behavior on the Internet. There is a rapidly growing population of young computer pirates choosing to bootleg music and misrepresent themselves as authors of assignments and projects they submit to teachers without identifying original sources. Dishonesty is not unique to students but seems widespread among adults in the workplace too and presents similar challenges involving integrity, trust, and giving credit where credit is due (Evans & Wolf, 2005; Maciariello, 2005). One estimate is that the unauthorized copying and distribution of software alone costs businesses $12 billion a year (Schwartz, 2001).
There are websites like http://www.schoolsucks.com/ that warehouse term papers students are able to access without cost. These papers can be downloaded for presentation instead of having to write a document containing personal views based on reading and the inclusion of proper citations. There are also expensive sources students can turn to such as http://www.termpaper.com This site has a data bank of 20,000 on-file papers for purchase from $20 to $35. Another general site is http://academictermpapers.com that offers 30,000 research papers at $7 per page to a maximum of $120 and even more expensive pricing for preparation of new custom papers designed to fit the unique needs of a client.
When students lack training regarding the ethical commitment necessary for searching the Internet, they may suppose it is all right to present the words and views of someone else as if they represent their own thinking. Plagiarism on the Internet is a monumental problem educators in middle school, high school, and college are struggling to confront (Axtman, 2005; Bushweller, 1999b). Cyber law proposals that define offenses and penalties have begun to emerge as agenda that, in the future, could be determined in the courts rather than by teachers and school administrators. Ronald Standler (2000), a copyright attorney, has an informative web essay about plagiarism that illustrates the wide range of issues involved along with results of court cases at http://www.rbs2.com/plag.htm
Parents share responsibility for helping their daughters and sons realize that looking up a topic on the web is only the initial step in conducting research, similar to visiting the library. Copying materials from books, journals or sources on the Internet and portraying these products as one's own invention is dishonest and defined as cheating. Because of a growing access to the Internet, deceptive practices by students have been reported as moving downward to earlier grades. The Center for Academic Integrity surveyed middle schools throughout the country and found that 73% of seventh graders and 66% of the sixth graders admitted to regularly borrowing materials without giving credit to their sources (McCabe & Pavela, 2000). The practice of cut and paste plagiarism is widespread with students acting as though whatever they find on the Internet can be submitted as their own work.
Prevention of Plagiarism
Teachers want their students to practice search skills on the Internet but are finding it difficult to cope with the increasing level of plagiarism. To encourage originality in expression of ideas and prevent students from taking credit for the writing of other people, school districts are turning to a service that can quickly identify academic work that is plagiarized. This service detects whenever more than 8 words are used in a paper without identifying the original source and can serve as evidence to confront misbehaving students and parents. This prevention resource, already applied by public schools in many states and the authors of this presentation with their college students can be found at http://www.turnitin.com On a typical day, 30,000 papers are submitted to the service for checking. More than 30% of these documents include cheating. Bruce Leland (2002), a Professor from Western Illinois University, provides suggestions for teachers about how to deal with plagiarism and what to tell students regarding ethical expectations of them. See http://www.wiu.edu/users/mfbhl/wiu/plagiarism.htm
Adolescents are rarely asked to evaluate the merit of assignments their teachers give them. Another way to assess student reaction is from conversations in which they describe aspects of their school experience. For example, Jamal is a sophomore from Montgomery, Alabama. He believes that it is misleading to focus only on the inappropriate motives of students. Jamal suggests, "Maybe a bigger problem is that teachers require students to memorize instead of teaching them how to think. You can cheat if all you are going to be tested on are facts but it is much harder to cheat when you are asked to attack or to defend a particular position and actually write an essay."
Jamal's outlook may not reflect the consensus of classmates. Nevertheless, his view that teachers could minimize cheating by developing more challenging tasks, which are less vulnerable to cheating, is gaining support. Assignments that motivate students to learn by doing, encourage reciprocal learning in cooperative groups, support self-directedness, and foster original thinking are essential shifts in teaching that will allow students to become actively involved in construction of their own knowledge. Traditionally, teachers have devoted most of their effort to preparing for the direct instruction to be presented in class and spent little effort on developing assignments that permit students to learn on their own.
Individual and team projects are another problematic context for cheating. These suggestions can help teachers reduce the likelihood of dishonest behavior.
1. The purpose of every project should be clear, identify anticipated benefits, and invite dialogue regarding methods, resources, and the types of products that are acceptable for submission.
2. Relevance for the students should be established. The connection between curriculum and real life is confirmed when students can get credit for interaction with informants of other generations or cultures whose experience goes beyond the perspective that is offered by the teacher and text (Strom & Strom, 2002).
3. Encourage students to express their feelings and describe the processes they use to reach their conclusions. These presentations are more interesting to write and more satisfying to read (Johnson, 2004).
4. Emphasize higher order thinking and creative behavior. Instead of reporting only knowledge, student participation should involve practice with higher-level abilities identified in the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (Krathwohl, 2002).
5. Go beyond the customary scope for problem solving. Students are frequently presented questions the teacher already knows answers for or could readily find. Yet, generating alternative solutions and then making choices is often the key to overcoming challenges in life (DeBono, 1999).
6. Encourage varied types of information gathering. Submissions might include a hard copy of located web data accompanied by the same information summarized and interpreted in a student's own words, results drawn from polls or interviews, and descriptions of steps in an experiment.
7. Identify the criteria that will be used for evaluating the quality of performance. When students know ahead of time criteria to be applied in judging their work, they can concentrate instead of being anxious and reporting at the end "I wasn't sure if this is what you wanted."
8. Allow students to reflect, revise, and improve their final product. Having access to suggestions from classmates who have read their work and being expected to revise a product supports perseverance and learning how to accept constructive criticism.
9. Consider the use of oral critique. This method allows students to make their views known verbally, permits classmates to practice offering helpful criticism, enables teachers to call for clarification when points are unclear, and eliminates the use of technology tools for deception.
Student Integrity and Maturity
Legalistic syllabi and tough policies alone are insufficient ways to rely on for prevention of cheating. Instructional efforts are needed as well. Students are able to understand that honesty is an important indicator of developing maturity. Indeed, maturity cannot materialize without a sense of obligation to treat other people fairly. Adolescents can benefit from periodic discussions about the need to maintain integrity across all sectors of life. They can also be informed of seldom considered damaging effects of cheating, those gaps in knowledge and skills that can adversely affect later success when the foundation of knowledge necessary to understand processes in higher level courses has not been acquired.
Academic dishonesty results in another long-term significant disadvantage. The moral compass students need to guide personal conduct in class and outside of school can be thrown off course. This message is effectively portrayed in "The Emperors Club" (2002), a film that features Kevin Cline. As teacher and assistant principal at St. Benedict's High School for Boys, he motivates students to choose a moral purpose for their lives in addition to selecting occupational goals. The story illustrates how great teachers can have a profound influence on students and how cheating during the teenage years can become a life-long habit. The interactive website for this film includes an interesting quiz on how to define morality at http://www.theemperorsclub.com/
Educators cannot provide all of the guidance that students require to adopt honesty as a lifestyle. Some parents tell daughters and sons that cheating is a fact of life in the world of work and this has forced them to cheat in order to succeed. When parents act in this way, condoning dishonesty and deception as normative and defensible, it becomes far more difficult for educators to counter the message that prevalence of cheating makes it an acceptable practice. Schools could provide workshops for parents that focus on the range of cheating issues adolescents face and offer agenda questions for discussions at home about honesty, integrity, trust and maturity. In this way, mothers and fathers would be enlisted to sustain their efforts to nurture these valuable attributes in their children. Successful academic performance rooted in honesty enables students to take pride in work that is their own and to make known when tutoring is needed to improve learning (McCabe & Pavela, 2000). Ultimately, the success of individual students depends on positive values they adopt and the level of maturity they are able to attain. These aspects of healthy development warrant greater attention in a society that aspires to provide world leadership.
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