Academic Integrity among Community College Students: Findings of a Preliminary Investigation

Article excerpt

Recent studies in the United States and the United Kingdom indicate that the majority of college students have cheated during their college careers (LaBeff, Clark, Haines, & Diekhoff, 1990; Davis Grover, Becker, & McGregor, 1992; Jendrek, 1992; McCabe, 1992; McCabe & Bowers, 1994; Diekhoff, LaBeff, Clark, Williams, Francis, & Haines, 1996; Whitley, 1998). Qualitative studies (Partello, 1993; Payne & Nance, 1994; McCabe, 1999) and quantitative studies (Newstead, Franklyn-Stokes, & Armstead, 1996; Pulvers & Diekhoff, 1999) have produced similar results. In contrast, according to Kerkvliet (1994) only 25%-42% of students have cheated at one time or another. Nonetheless, most students who have admitted to cheating reportedly engaged in the behavior no more than five times during their undergraduate careers (LaBeff et al., 1990; McCabe, 1992).

Rationalizations, or behavioral neutralizations, associated with student cheating have included the absence of a threat of punishment, peer pressure, irrelevant assignments, competitiveness, successful personal histories of cheating, and efficiency (Daniel, Blount, & Ferrell, 1991; Payne ix Nantz, 1994; Whitley, 1998). Students typically view cheating as more serious in college; even if they have cheated in high school they are more reluctant to cheat in college (Partello, 1994; McCabe, 1999). Students who cheat in college are later in their lives likely to bring unethical practices into their work environments or graduate program of study (Crown & Spiller, 1994; Whitley, 1998).

When students know that academic dishonesty is expressly forbidden they are less likely to engage in cheating (Payne & Nance, 1994). Adequate pro-active countermeasures enable cultures where integrity and honesty prevail (Hollinger ix Lanza-Kaduce, 1996). Kibler (1994) calls for training about academic integrity for faculty, staff, and teaching assistants. The content of training would include discussions of standards of academic integrity, programs promoting academic integrity, disciplinary measures to engage students in questioning their ethical frameworks, and involvement of faculty and students in the development of policies. Additionally, Hollinger ix Lanza-Kaduce (1996) included the call for appropriate staffing and funding for implementation of measures that students consider cheating deterrents, such as smaller classes, multiple objective test randomizations, and subjective in-class writing assignments. McCabe (1999) pointed out that where students have had a significant role in academic honesty policies, the resulting sense of ownership has helped reduce student cheating.

The wealth of information regarding academic integrity, honesty, and dishonesty at the four-year level, for both private and public institutions, is extraordinary. However, significantly more study is required at community colleges, as the composition of the student population has typically included more diversity. A search of the ERIC database from 1970 to 2001 and the PsychLIT database from 1985 to 2001 yielded just one study specific to community college students' cheating behaviors (i.e., Antion & Michael 1983) as well as another study whose student sample was 30% community college students (Graham, Monday, O'Brien, & Steffen, 1994). Because community college students might seek completion of the four-year degree, investigation of their cheating behaviors could help not only community college faculty and staff but also their university counterparts. The present study sought to report student's cheating behaviors, neutralizations, and ethics regarding reporting peers who cheat.

METHOD

Participants

Eighty-nine students in a large multi-campus metropolitan communi ty college district, lacking an honor code, were involved in the research. The participants were 48.3% female and 51.7% male. Their ages ranged from 16 - 34 (M = 19.4; SD = 2.0). …