ERIC Identifier: ED447840
Publication Date: 2000-07-00
Author: Gerdeman, R. Dean
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Community Colleges Los Angeles CA.
Academic Dishonesty and the Community College. ERIC Digest.
Cheating on exams, plagiarizing, falsifying bibliographies, turning in work
done by someone else, receiving improper assistance on assignments, and
intentionally facilitating cheating on the part of others are commonplace in
American higher education. All of these behaviors comprise academic dishonesty,
a widespread problem at colleges and universities (Burke, 1997; McCabe &
Trevino, 1997). Dishonest academic behavior occurs at all types of institutions
and involves a wide array of students (Desruisseaux, 1999). A primary issue
facing community colleges is how to effectively reduce dishonest student
conduct. This digest cites studies on academic dishonesty from both two- and
four-year institutions. Though studies focusing specifically on community
colleges are relatively rare, many findings from four-year institutions are
relevant for community colleges.
FREQUENCY OF DISHONEST BEHAVIOR
By most measures, cheating
is prevalent on college campuses around the nation. McCabe and Trevino (1996)
found that two out of three students admitted to dishonest academic behavior in
a study of 6,000 students at thirty-one highly selective colleges and
universities. In a sample of 1,800 students at nine state universities, seventy
percent of students admitted to cheating on exams, eighty-four percent to
cheating on written assignments, and almost half to inappropriately
collaborating with others on assignments (McCabe & Trevino, 1996). Genereux
and McLeod (1995) reported that eighty-five percent of males and seventy-nine
percent of females at an urban community college admitted engaging in at least
one dishonest behavior. Over twenty-five percent of students had engaged in one
of the following: sharing of exam questions, listing false references in papers,
allowing others to copy during an exam, or plagiarizing parts of papers. A
survey of faculty at a multi-campus community college found that eighty percent
of respondents had suspected academic dishonesty in their classes and sixty-five
percent had been certain of dishonesty (Burke, 1997).
A number of authors and commentators have suggested that cheating is on the
rise among college students, although relatively few longitudinal studies exist
to confirm this assertion. Methodological inconsistencies between studies
conducted over the last fifty years greatly complicate meaningful comparisons
(Crown & Spiller, 1998). McCabe and Trevino (1996) reported that the overall
percentage of students admitting to at least one incidence in test cheating rose
slightly from 63 to 70 percent between 1963 and 1993. Substantial increases in
the number of students copying from others on exams (from 26 to 52 percent),
using crib notes during tests (from 16 to 27 percent), and improperly
collaborating on written assignments (from 11 to 49 percent) were observed.
Other dishonest behaviors such as plagiarizing, falsifying bibliographies, and
turning in unoriginal work remained essentially unchanged or had decreased.
Overall, these data indicate moderate increases in academic dishonesty over the
last few decades.
FACTORS ASSOCIATED WITH DISHONESTY
Research has revealed
numerous individual and environmental factors associated with dishonest student
behavior. The following four categories represent common factors cited in the
literature: individual characteristics, peer group influences, instructor
influences, and institutional policies.
(1) Individual Characteristics
Five student characteristic variables are frequently related to the incidence
of dishonest behavior: academic achievement, age, social activities, major, and
gender. In a study of students at a suburban community college, Antion and
Michael (1983) found that students with lower GPA's were more likely to cheat on
an examination. Crown and Spiller (1998, p. 689) noted that "a significant
negative relationship between cheating and GPA," as well as other measures of
achievement, is a recurring theme in the literature. Younger students,
traditional college students, and underclassmen are more likely to engage in
cheating and other forms of academic dishonesty (Crown & Spiller, 1998;
McCabe & Trevino, 1997; Whitley, 1998). Social activities such as membership
in a fraternity/sorority, frequent partying, and increased extracurricular
involvement have also been related to higher levels of dishonesty (Crown &
Spiller, 1998; McCabe & Trevino, 1997). Several studies have indicated that
business majors are more likely to cheat than non-business students and that
business majors have more tolerant attitudes toward dishonesty (Crown &
Spiller, 1998; Roig and Ballew, 1994). The relationship between gender and
dishonesty is less clear. Studies indicating that males are more likely to cheat
are common, as are studies indicating no significant differences in gender
(Crown & Spiller, 1998; Whitley, 1998).
Peer Group Influences
The behaviors and attitudes of peers influence student decisions regarding
academic misconduct. McCabe and Trevino (1997) found that students' perception
of peer disapproval was the strongest predictor of reduced cheating behavior.
Genereux and McLeod (1995) reported that estimates of the prevalence of cheating
among peers significantly predicted cheating behavior. According to Crown &
Spiller (1998), studies have consistently indicated that students are more
likely to cheat if they observe other students cheating or if they perceive that
cheating is commonplace or acceptable among peers (Crown & Spiller, 1998).
Students who perceive instructors to be concerned for students and actively
involved in the learning process are less likely to engage in dishonesty. If the
professor seems indifferent or if the subject matter seems unimportant or
uninteresting, students feel less moral obligation to avoid cheating (Ashworth,
Bannister, & Thorne, 1997; Kerkvliet & Sigmund, 1999; McCabe &
Trevino, 1996). A number of studies have indicated that the environment within
the classroom or examination setting, as established by the instructor, can have
significant impacts on cheating (Crown & Spiller, 1998; Roig & Ballew,
1994; Whitely, 1998). Genereux and McLeod (1995) reported that permissive
instructor attitudes and low instructor vigilance tend to increase cheating,
while higher vigilance, use of essay exams and spacing of students further apart
tend to reduce cheating. A study of classroom settings by Kerkvliet and Sigmund
(1999) found that higher number of test proctors, use of non-multiple choice
exams, and use of multipe versions of an exam reduce cheating. Exam content and
structure is also important, as students are more likely to cheat on tests
perceived to be unfair or confusing (Ashworth, Bannister, & Thorne, 1997;
Genereux &McLeod, 1995).
Aaron (1992) found that over ninety percent of community colleges in a
national sample have academic integrity policies and almost ninety-eight percent
have procedures for dealing with student misconduct. Community colleges were
significantly less likely than four-year institutions to have separate
guidelines for academic dishonesty distinct from other types of student
misconduct. The community colleges were more likely to rely on student handbooks
and orientation to communicate policies rather than specific programs and
faculty presentations. Effective communication of policies and increased student
awareness of penalties and enforcement tend to reduce dishonest behavior (Aaron,
1992; Crown & Spiller, 1998; McCabe & Trevino, 1996). Students do not
seem to be opposed to strict penalties, as long as they are clearly articulated
and evenly enforced (Ashworth, Bannister, & Thorne, 1997; McCabe &
RESPONSES OF FACULTY
College faculty members tend to be
highly disapproving of academic dishonesty but may not necessarily be vigilant
about dishonest behavior. In Burke's (1997) sample of community college faculty,
respondents did not believe dishonesty to be a serious problem at their
institution. When student dishonesty was suspected or occurred, faculty tended
to employ informal measures with students rather than pursue official
procedures. Time constraints, due process protocol, fear of backlash, lack of
administrative support, and misunderstanding of policies may all contribute to
faculty reluctance to act on suspicions of cheating (Burke, 1997; Roig & Ballew, 1994). Aaron (1992) reported that twenty-five percent of community
colleges sampled did not employ any specific method for disseminating
information on academic integrity to faculty and that less than three percent of
the colleges relied on faculty to disseminate information to students.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TWO-YEAR COLLEGES
should establish an environment where dishonesty is viewed as unacceptable and
where any possible benefits are outweighed by risks of being caught and peer
disapproval. Specific recommendations are as follows:
Communicate policies on academic misconduct to students and faculty. Regular
communication through a variety of media (e.g. handbooks, orientations,
programs, course materials) conveys the message that academic integrity is an
important institutional priority.
Encourage faculty to discuss dishonesty with students. Faculty comments
reinforce and remind students of unacceptable behavior.
Establish non-permissive examination environments. Watchful instructors, spaced
seating, and varying exam formats are effective deterrents.
Apply consequences in a consistent, fair, and timely manner. Inconsistent and
unpredictable responses to dishonesty erode student support for existing
Maintain an environment of trust and honor. An emphasis on mature behavior,
self-responsibility, and proper conduct enhances academic integrity. (Burke,
1997; Kerkvliet & Sigmund, 1999; McCabe & Trevino, 1996, 1997; Roig
& Ballew, 1994; Whitley, 1998).
Aaron, R. M. (1992). Student academic
dishonesty: Are collegiate institutions addressing the issue? NASPA Journal,
29(2), 107-113. (EJ 442 669)
Antion, D. L., & Michael, W. B. (1983). Short-term predictive validity of
demographic, affective, personal, and cognitive variables in relation to two
criterion measures of cheating behaviors. Educational and Psychological
Measurement, 43, 467-482. (EJ 287 627)
Ashworth, P., Bannister, P., & Thorne, P. (1997). Guilty in whose eyes?
University students' perceptions of cheating and plagiarism in academic work and
assessment. Studies in Higher Education, 22(2), 187-203. (EJ 549 250)
Burke, J. L. (1997). Faculty perceptions of and attitudes toward academic
dishonesty at a two-year college. Unpublished dissertation. (ED 431 486)
Crown, D. F., & Spiller, M. S. (1998). Learning from the literature on
collegiate cheating: A review of empirical research. Journal of Business Ethics,
Desruisseaux, P. (1999, April 30). Cheating is reaching epidemic proportions
worldwide, researchers say. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 45, p. A45.
Genereux, R. L., & McLeod, B. A. (1995). Circumstances surrounding cheating:
A questionnaire study of college students. Research in Higher Education, 36(6),
687-704. (EJ 518 273)
Kerkvliet, J., & Sigmund, C. L. (1999). Can we control cheating in the
classroom? Journal of Economic Education, 30(4), 331-351.
McCabe, D. L., & Trevino, L. K. (1996). What we know about cheating in
college: Longitudinal trends and recent developments. Change, 28(1), 28-33. (EJ
McCabe, D. L., & Trevino, L. K. (1997). Individual and contextual
influences on academic dishonesty: A multi-campus investigation. Research in
Higher Education, 38(3), 379-396. (EJ 547 655)
Roig, M., & Ballew, C. (1994). Attitudes toward cheating of self and
others by college students and professors. Psychological Record, 44(1), 3-12.
Whitley, B.E., Jr. (1998). Factors associated with cheating among college
students: A review. Research in Higher Education, 39(3), 235-274. (EJ 567 552)