Can a Business Ethics Course Affect Academic Dishonesty?

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Academic dishonesty is a concern of both instructors, who must deal with the unethical behavior, and business practitioners, who feel this unethical behavior leads to unethical professional behavior as these students graduate and enter the workforce. Many in both groups believe that student behavior can be modified, corrected, or shaped so that unethical behavior is reduced, both in the classroom and after graduation. The purpose of this study is to assess the effects of a business ethics course on students' level of academic dishonesty. The effects are assessed by a pretest and posttest of multiple sections of an environment of business course with an ethics component. Several hypotheses are proposed based on several types of academic dishonesty. New measurement scales were developed based on previous work in the area. The results revealed a decrease in academic dishonesty during the course in one of the five factors analyzed. Conclusions, limitations, and future research directions are discussed and interesting questions are raised regarding the business school curriculum and how it is addressing ethics.

INTRODUCTION

Academic dishonesty is regarded as unfair and unethical by most academicians and those students who do not engage in it. In the short term, academicians can be frustrated and honest students can legitimately feel that they are at a disadvantage as a result of academic dishonesty.

Academicians are concerned with the problem of academic dishonesty and the rate at which it is increasing (Park, 2003; Pullin et al., 2000; Williams & Hosek, 2003). Brown and Mclnerney (2008) found that there were significant differences between 1999 and 2006 for seven of the 16 unethical behaviors examined in their study. All seven differences were increases, with a mean increase of 19.2%. Furthermore, business students are consistently ranked as students most likely to cheat, possibly due to the adoption of a "bottom line" mentality that the ends (better grades) justifies the means (cheating) (Riley, 2004). Choong and Brown (2007) state that this phenomenon is just one component of a broader, "culture of cheating," that includes not only students but also school administrators and teachers who have inflated students' test scores and have manipulated statistical data. Moreover, this culture extends from dishonest practices by businesspersons and politicians to inaccurate and misleading reporting by members of the media.

Academic dishonesty or cheating may be described as "a conscious effort to use proscribed data and/or resources on exams or written work submitted for academic credit" (Sierra & Hyman, 2008, p. 51). Similarly, academic dishonesty or cheating has been defined as behavior that breaches, "the submission of work for assessment that has been produced legitimately by the student who will be awarded the grade, and which demonstrates the student's knowledge and understanding of the context or processes being assessed" (Lambert et al, 2003, p. 98). Alternatively, it "refers to any instance in which a student claims credit for the work or efforts of another without authorization or citation" (Becker et al., 2006, p. 37). Anitsal et al. (2009) identified two types of academic dishonesty, active and passive, and state that research has been largely focused on active academic dishonesty, which includes behaviors to raise one's own grade. Passive academic dishonesty includes behaviors to assist another student (Finn & Frone, 2004). Anitsal et al. (2009) concluded that both constructs are of equal importance in the intention to cheat.

Academic dishonesty involves deceptively violating rules in order to gain something of value and personal advantage (Bloodgood et al., 2008). It has been characterized as a type of fraud (Becker et al., 2006). This issue is critical for universities as it seems to mirror the growing concerns of ethical problems in the business community (Chapman et al. …