Academic Dishonesty and Cheating: Proactive and Reactive Action Implications for Faculty and Students

Academic Dishonesty and Cheating: Proactive and Reactive Action Implications for Faculty and Students

Aditya Simha (Gonzaga University, USA) and John B. Cullen (University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-510-6.ch027
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This chapter provides a comprehensive review of the literature on academic dishonesty and cheating, by defining the different kinds of cheating behaviors, and then illustrating the different factors that have an impact on cheating behaviors. The authors then offer suggestions derived from their synthesis of these studies, as to how to better react to this phenomenon and take corrective as well as proactive action, so as to be able to control and perhaps reduce instances and occurrences of academic dishonesty and cheating.
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I would prefer even to fail with honor than to win by cheating – Sophocles

If the entire world and all of its denizens were to follow and truly abide by the admirable words of Sophocles listed above, then perhaps the world would be a much nicer, pleasanter, and better place to live in. But alas, that is sadly not the case! We live in a world where there is rampant corruption, a seemingly disdainful attitude towards ethics, and where one needs to be careful in dealings with other individuals, as it is always possible that one could end up getting fleeced if not careful in such transactions. Similarly, it becomes increasingly obvious that students who cheat in school are very likely to continue their cheating ways well into other situations, including workplace transactions (e.g. Swift & Nonis, 1998).

Unfortunately, this situation is also very rampant in colleges and universities and other such academic settings, including elementary, secondary, and post-secondary educational contexts (Firmin, Burger, & Blosser, 2009). And a rather sobering statistic reveals that this trend of cheating is ever increasing rather than reducing in frequency (Firmin et al, 2009). Similarly, Iyer and Eastman (2006) mention the increasing rate of academic dishonesty, even though the ranges do seem to differ depending on the researcher/study. McCabe and Trevino (1997) offer an estimated range from about 13% to about 95%, whereas Park (2003) states that about 50% of students cheat. Kidwell, Wozniak, and Laurel (2003) and Chapman, Davis, Toy, and Wright (2004) all found that about 75% of students cheated. Nonis and Swift (1998) found a similar percentage (63%) of students cheating. McCabe, Trevino, and Butterfield (2006) reported that about 56% of graduate students and 47% of undergraduate students engaged in some form of dishonest or cheating behavior.

This kind of endemic academic dishonesty and cheating is not peculiar only to a particular country, but is indeed prevalent in several different countries (spanning the globe), and in several contexts (both undergraduate and graduate students), as well as both public and private schools of all sizes (Park, 2003). For instance, Duke University shot into the public limelight in a rather unsavory fashion in 2007, after about 10% of the graduating class of 2008 was caught cheating on a final exam (Conlin, 2007; Simkin & McLeod, 2010). About, 69% of surveyed Russian business students reported having cheated (Lupton, Chapman, & Weiss, 2002), whereas Grimes (2004) reported that about 74% of undergraduate students from eight Eastern European countries (part of the erstwhile Soviet Union) had personally engaged in cheating during their college education. 84% of surveyed Slovakian students too reported that they had engaged in cheating behaviors (Lupton, Chapman, & Weiss, 2000). Gbadamosi (2004) demonstrated that a high percentage (56%) of his sample of students from Swaziland and Botswana also indicated that they were prepared to do anything to excel in exams, even if those methods were unethical and dishonest.

Students from Asian countries also demonstrate a high prevalence of engagement in academic dishonesty and cheating. Lin and Wen (2007) conducted a study of college students in Taiwan, and determined that cheating was fairly endemic and prevalent in Taiwan as well – they determined that the prevalence rate for all types of dishonest behaviors among college students in Taiwan was about 61.7%. These behaviors comprised of all possible forms of cheating, as delineated by McCabe (2009). Similarly, in a study of Japanese students, about 55.4% of them reported that they engaged in cheating on tests (Diekhoff, LaBeff, Shinohara, & Yusukawa, 1999). Similarly, Chang (1995) and Shen (1995) demonstrated a high prevalence in cheating behaviors associated with Taiwanese students. There is some evidence to attest that Iranian students see cheating in their academic studies as acceptable (Yahyanejad, 2000; Mirshekary & Lawrence, 2009).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Reactive Action: This involves reacting to an event after the event has already occurred. An example of that would be a teacher responding to a student cheating on an exam after the cheating has already occurred.

Proactive Action: This involves being proactive and anticipating events before they occur, as well as being prepared and ready for the incident if it were to occur. An example of this would be a teacher ensuring beforehand that a student cannot get an opportunity to cheat during an exam.

Academic Dishonesty: This refers to acts of dishonesty in an academic context, which may differ slightly from cheating. For instance, not reading an article and yet citing it, would not be cheating, but would be considered dishonest.

Personality Factors: These are factors that are trait dependent, and often vary from one person to another depending on that person’s personality. Some commonly used personality factors include variables such as openness, agreeableness, neuroticism, and locus of control, among others.

Cheating: In an academic context, this refers to the act of breaking rules in order to gain advantage in competitive situations. For instance, copying answers from one’s neighbor on an exam would be considered cheating.

Situational Factors: These are factors that often depend on external situational factors rather than by internal traits or motivations. Some commonly used situational factors include class size, proctoring, seating, test directions, and class content, among others.

Demographic Factors: These are factors that are used to define the characteristics of a person or a population. Some commonly used demographic factors include variables such as race, age, income, marital status, and educational achievement, among others.

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