Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

The Future of Academic Honesty

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

The Future of Academic Honesty

Article excerpt


Cheating has permeated many facets of American life. Reports on cheating are found in business, the media and on college campuses. Perhaps one of the more disturbing trends is reports on increasing cheating among grade and high school teachers and administrators. This makes the behavior, motivation and training of education students relevant for scrutiny. The paper examines academic dishonesty among college students training to be teachers. The study uncovers through factor analysis four salient dimensions of cheating, namely Flagrant Cheating, Insidious Cheating, Collusion and Illicit Collaboration. It also uncovers the key motivators of cheating, identifies relevant individual characteristics and demonstrates their relation to the salient dimensions of cheating Policy implications are also discussed to improve ethics education.


Cheating in America used to be an aberration. Today, however, the culture of cheating in America has permeated many facets of our lives, from businesses engaging in dishonest practices to CEOs and politicians cheating and news reporters fabricating quotes and reporting fiction as fact. Schools have not been exempt from these kinds of behavior. High school and grade school students have been found to engage in dishonest behaviors (Green & Saxe, 1992; Meade, 1992; Sims, 1993; Brown & Abramson, 1999; Coverdale & Henning, 2000; Brown & McInerney, 2001) and there are studies which report increases over the years (McCabe & Trevino, 1993; Callahan, 2004). However, it is perhaps the reporting of cheating among school administrators and teachers of our young children that have brought home just how pervasive and serious this epidemic really is. School administrators and teachers have been caught cheating on standardized tests, in reporting inflated gains in student test scores and learning and in manipulating statistical information (Jacob & Levitt, 2003; Starnes, 2005).

Schools have always played a crucial role in preparing our youth to be responsible world citizens. While many will agree that guidance counselors and parents are the key players in providing a child's moral compass, the opportunity of the classroom teacher in his or her daily interaction with the student to provide positive influence should not be overlooked (Chaille, 2004; Halverson, 2004). As such, the conduct of students training to be teachers becomes relevant for scrutiny. More specifically, an investigation of the cheating behavior of education students as well as their motivation for engaging in these behaviors becomes pertinent.

While the literature offers good insights into the relationship between various specific acts of cheating and individual characteristics as well as into specific reasons for engaging in these deviant behaviors, it has generally omitted to uncover the underlying salient dimensions or commonalities among these behaviors and motivations that will help us understand more fully the practice and motivation of these behaviors.

The purpose of this paper is to investigate cheating among college students preparing to be teachers by uncovering the salient dimensions of cheating and the key determinants of these dimensions. The paper will also identify the key motivators for cheating and demonstrate their relationship to participating in the various dimensions of cheating.


A questionnaire was constructed incorporating sixteen unethical academic practices which were selected based on a review of current literature. Respondents were asked to indicate their participation in each of these practices on a six-point Likert scale. The questionnaire also included twelve reasons students might engage in unethical academic practices. These were also taken from current literature. Respondents were asked to rate on a five-point scale the likelihood that each of these reasons was the impetus for a student's unethical behavior. …

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