Academic journal article High School Journal

Multidimensional Scaling of High School Students' Perceptions of Academic Dishonesty

Academic journal article High School Journal

Multidimensional Scaling of High School Students' Perceptions of Academic Dishonesty

Article excerpt

Although cheating on tests and other forms of academic dishonesty are considered rampant, no standard definition of academic dishonesty exists. The current study was conducted to investigate the perceptions of academic dishonesty in high school students, utilizing an innovative methodology, multidimensional scaling (MDS). Two methods were used to gather data: a sorting task, which was used to indirectly assess the students' perceptions, and a rating scale task, which was used to externally validate the results of the sorting task. Two dimensions emerged: Seriousness and Papers versus Exams. Implications for future research regarding high school students' perceptions of academic dishonesty are discussed.


Academic integrity is one of the fundamental values of education. Yet, cheating on tests and other forms of academic dishonesty are rampant, with McCabe (1993) concluding that "student cheating is pervasive" (p. 648). Data reflect students are engaging in cheating behavior; however, how much is occurring and at what academic levels?

Research suggests that incidents of students' cheating increases from elementary school through high school. Cizek (1999) estimates that over one-third of students engage in some form of academic dishonesty during elementary school. Further studies found that 70% of students reported cheating in high school (e.g., Davis & Ludvigson, 1995; Schab, 1991). A variety of factors-such as ambiguity of what constitutes academic dishonesty, the use of varying time frames when reporting the last time one engaged in academic dishonesty (such as last week or in the last year), or the types of cheating behaviors, such as tests or homework assignments (Pincus & Schmelkin, 2003)--affect the range of prevalence of cheating. Although a wide range of prevalence rates exist, most studies tend to report prevalence rates in the range of 66% to 70% of high school and college students as engaging in some type of academic dishonesty (Cizek, 1999; Whitley, 1998). Clearly, reports indicate that academic dishonesty is occurring, but in order to address the issue, we must explore what constitutes academic dishonesty and how academic dishonesty is perceived.

Correlates of cheating have been explored to better understand why cheating behavior is prevalent among students. For example, the pressure to make good grades has been linked to academic dishonesty, as well as cheating because a task is seen as unfair or deemed too difficult (Cizek, 1999; LaBeff, Clark, Haines, & Diekhoff, 1990; Trabue, 1962). For example, if a task is viewed as too difficult or as busy work, a student may justify engaging in academic dishonesty because the task is deemed unfair or pointless in their minds. Additionally, researchers have found that students cheat simply because the risk of detection is minimal (McCabe & Trevino, 1993). Whitley (1998) reviewed the literature and found that students will typically cheat when given the opportunity to do so. For example, lack of vigilance by professors tends to motivate some students to engage in academic dishonesty (Hall & Kuh, 1998), and thus, if an opportunity presents itself, students are likely to take advantage of that situation. Furthermore, pressure to succeed may motivate cheating behaviors. Schab (1991) surveyed 1,629 high school students in 1969, 1,100 students in 1979, and 1,291 students in 1989, and found that high school students between 1969 and 1989 reported cheating more often; when asked why, students reported fear of failure as the most cited reason for engaging in academic dishonesty.

Ambiguity exists in the literature because academic dishonesty lacks a standard classification in terms of seriousness. It is difficult to arrive at agreement as to the particular behaviors that could be classified as cheating, not to mention examining the dimensions that people use in arriving at that classification (e.g., seriousness of offense, justification). …

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