Cheating in Higher Education: The Case of Multi-Methods Cheaters

By Josien, Laurent; Broderick, Britton | Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, September 2013 | Go to article overview

Cheating in Higher Education: The Case of Multi-Methods Cheaters


Josien, Laurent, Broderick, Britton, Academy of Educational Leadership Journal


INTRODUCTION

In the academic world, a major problem exists. That issue is cheating. Pullen, Ortloff, Casey, and Payne (2000) refers to it as "the bane of higher education" (p.616), and Moffatt advance that "the university at the undergraduate level sounds like a place where cheating comes almost as naturally as breathing, where it's an academic skill almost as important as reading, writing, and math" (in Whitley, 1998, p.2). However, determining how many students cheat is difficult to figure out precisely as most data comes through self-reporting, and it is likely that students do not want to advertise their cheating, making measurement difficult.

Nevertheless, several studies tried to establish a baseline of how many students engage in academic dishonesty. One of the first studies (Baird, 1980) found that 75.5% of undergraduates from several majors had cheated while in college. In 1992, Meade reported a rate of cheating of 87% in various majors at top universities. McCabe and Trevino (1997) reported a range of 13% to 95% of students cheated at one point during their academic career. In his 2005 study McCabe reported that 70% of the 50,000 undergraduate students surveyed from 2002 to 2005 had cheated; the data was gathered from over 60 campuses nationwide. In his research Park (2003) advanced that a minimum of 50% of students are cheating. Other studies put that percentage at 63% (Nonis and Swift, 1998), or even up to 75% (Kidwell, Wozniak, and Laurel, 2003; Chapman, Davis, Toy, and Wright, 2004). Moreover, Whitley (1998) reviewed 46 studies conducted from 1970 to 1996; the range of the number of students engaging in academic dishonesty was from 9% to 95% across the different samples. The mean across the samples was 70.4%. This mean is similar to the number found by Kidwell, Wozniak, and Laurel in their 2003 study, where students self-reported any academic dishonest activity that they had participated in more than once. According to that measure 74.5% of students are cheaters. Those who only cheated once were not included because they are less of a threat to the academic community. Furthermore, students also reported to more frequently cheating in forms that they considered less serious such as collaboration and plagiarism of small excerpts.

Also, there is a developing body of evidence that academic dishonesty is increasing; with the increase in tuition, the advance in technology, and the increase in online class offerings, new ways to engage in academic dishonesty are available for potential cheaters (Born, 2003; Park, 2003; Scanlon, 2004; Eastman, Iyer, and Eastman, 2006; Brown, McInerney, 2008, Josien and Seeley, 2012). Indeed, Brown and McInerney found significant increases in 7 of 16 cheating practices between a 1999 and a 2006 sample using the same questionnaire, with an average usage increase of these 7 practices of 19.2%. Finally, one of the latest studies confirms this trend, Jones (2011) found that 92% of her students surveyed indicated that they had or they knew someone that cheated. Finally, Mason (2006) also report an increase in cheating, reported to be as occurring frequently to very frequently by 61.7 percent of students. Furthermore, it is disheartening to know that many students (52.1 %) perceive cheating as only a minor problem at their university. (Mason, 2006).

Therefore, the only conclusion that one can have is, that cheating does take place in higher education and that the number of participants is significantly high. This is a very important issue as Nonis and Swift (2001), based on the study of 1,051 business students, reported that the frequency of cheating in college was highly correlated with cheating at work. Also, Lawson (2004) found that business school students who cheat are more likely to be accepting of unethical workplace behavior, and there is a growing body of evidence that a positive correlation between cheating while in college and behaving unethically while at work exists (Brown & Choong, 2005; Nonis & Swift, 2001; Sims, 1993; Hilbert, 1985). …

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