Acceptability of Treatments for Cheating in the College Classroom

Article excerpt

This study focused on various treatments for addressing incidents of academic dishonesty (cheating) by college students. College students rated the acceptability of different responses by college faculty to a case description of a college student who engaged in cheating during an examination. The findings revealed that students found some methods of addressing this problem behavior by faculty more acceptable than other methods of treating the behavior. The implications of these findings are discussed with respect to student-faculty relationships, classroom compliance gaining, and student evaluations of faculty.


Academic dishonesty can take several forms in the college classroom such as copying from a nearby student's paper, using crib notes, nonverbal signals with hands or feet, trading papers, etc. (Davis, Grover, Becker & McGregor, 1992; McCabe & Bowers, 1994). Davis et al. found that 80% of cheating techniques were comprised of copying answers from a nearby student's paper or by using notes to cheat. With increasing technology it would seem that the forms of cheating would incorporate more elaborate techniques such as the use of digital organizers, cell phones, etc. Fishbein (1993) noted that cheating has become a very important concern on several college campuses. It has been found that 40% -60% of college students admit to cheating on at least one of their examinations (Davis, et al., 1992). Davis et al. (1992) also found that college students were more likely to cheat if faculty did not appear to care if cheating occurred. Davis et al. (1992) in reporting data from over 6,000 college students, stated the most popular "punishment" for cheating as reported by students, was for the college faculty to tell the students to keep their eyes on their own paper. The students may have perceived this "punishment" as an effective or appropriate method for addressing cheating in the classroom, while the college faculty may not have felt this was a sufficient method for dealing with cheating in the classroom. Research on the acceptability of treatments is somewhat new to the area of education and psychology. The term treatment acceptability, a component of social validity, was defined by Kazdin (1980) as judgments of treatments by actual or potential consumers of treatments, such as nonprofessionals, clients, laypersons, and others. Within the college classroom, the consumers of treatment are the college students taking courses.

Research examining differences between student and faculty attitudes toward cheating has shown that faculty considered variations of cheating as more severe than students (Graham, Monday, O'Brien, & Steffen, 1994). Additionally, when compared to the perceptions of college students, faculty believed that students would behave more dishonestly when faced with a moral dilemma (Smith, Nolan, & Dai, 1998). Based on these findings, faculty may also consider actions taken in response to academic dishonesty as more acceptable than college students would for the same offense of academic dishonesty. Doyle (1977) noted that students' perceptions and reactions to teachers' actions affect the level of student engagement and learning that occurs. Doyle stated that teachers and students do not always assign the same meaning to events that occur in the classroom, due to the different experiences, expectations, and needs those individuals bring into the classroom. For example, Wragg (1995) noted drastic differences between teacher and students' interpretations and meaning they perceived in classroom management events. Some students thought the teacher's behaviors were ineffective and the teacher thought some of the ways to handle classroom misbehaviors were effective. It is evident that teachers and students might not view classroom behaviors in the same way. It does not appear that there is a wealth of research to address some apparent disparities, which may exist between college faculty perceptions of what is considered an acceptable treatment for classroom misbehavior and treatments considered acceptable by college students. …