Why Students Cheat: A Conceptual Framework of Personal, Contextual, and Situational Factors

Why Students Cheat: A Conceptual Framework of Personal, Contextual, and Situational Factors

Hongwei Yu (Baylor University, USA), Perry L. Glanzer (Baylor University, USA) and Byron Johnson (Baylor University, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1610-1.ch002
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The authors present an extensive summary of significant factors associated with college student cheating. They compared these findings to a synthesis of the authors' own research findings from empirical studies based on a large national sample of college students. Overall, the authors found student characteristics and pre-college experiences (e.g., gender, age, family financial background, self-control, life purpose), individual college experiences and peer environment (extracurricular involvement, favorable perception of cheating environment), organizational context (student perception of faculty's actions towards academic cheating) are all significant factors associated with academic cheating. More importantly, student academic preparation, extracurricular activities, attitude toward cheating, and perceived opportunities to cheat all served as important mediating variables between lack of self-control and academic misconduct. Implications about research and practice and directions for future research were presented at the end of the chapter.
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There is little doubt that academic misconduct among college students is a pervasive and serious problem on college campuses in the United States (US) (Beasley, 2014, 2016; Bernardi, Baca, Landers, & Witek, 2008; Bertram Gallant & Drinan, 2006; Jurdi, Hage, & Chow, 2011; Levy & Rakovski, 2006; McCabe, Butterfield, & Treviño, 2012; Schmelkin, Gilbert, Spencer, Pincus, & Silva, 2008; Wowra, 2007). According to a review of various national studies over the past five decades, scholars found that more than two-thirds of college students consistently self-report being involved in incidents of academic dishonesty (McCabe, Butterfield, & Treviño, 2012).

To better understand this problem, scholars in the US undertook numerous studies of correlated factors of academic misconduct from educational, managerial, psychosocial, and sociological perspectives (e.g., Bowers, 1964; Davis, 1993; Haines, Diekhoff, LaBeff, & Clark, 1986; McCabe et al., 2012; Tibbetts & Myers, 1999; Vowell & Chen, 2004; Whitley, 1998). With rare exceptions, prior studies took a segmented rather than a holistic approach when studying student academic misconduct. In other words, they selected a few important factors that are hypothesized to be linked with academic misconduct (Whitley, 1998). While the first part of this chapter provided an overview of these findings, the authors agree with other scholars who acknowledged piece-meal strategies or initiatives derived from this segmented approach was ‘not the most effective way to manage the problem’ (Bertram Gallant & Drinan, 2006).

Given that a paucity of studies exist that took a systematic approach to study academic cheating, the authors introduced a conceptual framework that can help readers holistically study college students’ academic misconduct. The authors then reviewed the findings from prior studies using this framework. The authors further utilized this framework to summarize multivariate analysis of a large sample of college students (n = 2,503) at both two-year and four-year institutions based on the Gallup Organization’s daily tracking survey. In particular, the authors examined how some of these important factors work together to explain or predict student academic misconduct/cheating among college students. In the end, the authors offer various suggestions for institutional initiatives and interventions that may be effective in light of the research findings.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Unproctored Examinations: Unsupervised examinations. In honor code institutions, it is often regarded as privilege held by students.

Peer Environment: The beliefs, values, and expectations that feature a student body at a certain institution.

Honor Code: A statement that addresses student academic misconduct/cheating. It is often made by academic institutions where students make a pledge to follow rules or policies regarding academic honesty.

Moral Reasoning: Individual or collective practical reasoning about what an individual should do morally.

Four-Frame Model: A model proposed by Bolman and Deal (2008) that views organizations from the structural frame (focusing on rules, role, goals, and policies), human resource frame (focusing on relationship), political frame (focusing on power, conflict and competition) and symbolic frame (focusing on culture) respectively.

Holistic Approach: In this study, it refers to an approach that addresses academic cheating holistically by taking various factors into the consideration.

Mediation Effect: In this study, mediation effect refers to the effect of variables that mediate the relationship between various independent variables and the outcome variable, academic misconduct/cheating.

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