Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Frequency and Long-Term Consequences of College Cheating

We all know that some students can cheat. Why these students cheat and under what circumstances is important for professors and administrators to understand. A paper by Josien & Broderick (2012) explores 16 scenarios that may encourage students to cheat and how often they may engage in such activities. They bring forward the concept of multi-method cheaters and the dangers of their behaviors later in life.

Previous reports on the subject give a fairly large range of students cheating throughout their academic careers. This ranged from 40-85% but a composite of the studies put the figure around 70%. Cheating is part of the academic life even if it is shunned by professors. Yet the level and methods of cheating may be more important than the cheating itself. 

The author further finds through her literary research that cheating is increasing in higher education. Some of the issues are blamed on a host of factors that include cost, available technology, and general ease of the process. Research indicates that there is an association with cheating at school and cheating on one’s job and therefore such actions by students should be taken seriously, as they lead to larger actions in the future. 

Previous studies found that cheating often occurred more among younger and more immature students. Likewise, as students progressed into higher level classes such cheating was found less. Unmarried students cheated more than married ones. This indicates that such students are self-focused on their behavior and lack certain skills and perceptions to navigate the academic environment. 

One of the most significant factors in cheating was related to how people viewed their behaviors within their social group. They found that when norms, values, and beliefs were related to disapproval of cheating such students within these social networks cheated less. Those social networks that accepted cheating influence the frequency of such cheating. Much of cheating was social by nature.

There is a difference between those who cheated once and those who have cheated multiple times. Some students may use a single method or may have cheated only once. They are of less concern than those students who used multiple methods to cheat and cheat on a regular basis. They are more opportunistic and will use any method to achieve desired ends. Such behaviors will follow them into the workplace.

 In their study Josien & Broderick used 236 surveys with a cross representation of students from all four undergraduate grades. The results flew in the face of the literary search in that only 30+% indicated they cheated and that these cheating behaviors were exhibited more at higher end classes. Multi-method cheaters were 15% of the total sample or 40% of all cheaters. As people progressed to higher level classes the cheating became more sophisticated. The far majority of cheating occurs out of class where students interact with others to complete tests and other school work. 

The study is interesting in the sense that it gives an alternative perspective that as students progress in school they become more likely to cheat at higher levels. This would coincide with the social aspects of cheating that are a result of learned expectation and behavior. However, without catching such cheating the behavior becomes ingrained as an acceptable method and is likely to display itself within the workplace. Both colleges and business leaders should be concerned with cheating as it will impact the success of the student and their institutions in the future. 

Josien, L. & Broderick, B. (2013). Cheating in higher education: the case of multi-method cheaters. Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 17 (3).

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