Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The What, Why, and How of Academic Dishonesty

Contributed by: Johnny Campbell and Lisa Kresge

According to the Washington post, more than 75% of college students cheat in some way during their undergraduate careers. While this number may be surprising, there are important questions to ask regarding academic dishonesty, such as what exactly is it, why does it matter, and if anything, what should be done about it?

First, the general types of academic dishonesty include:
  • cheating on coursework, quizzes, or exams
  • fabrication and falsification,
  • coursework resubmission,
  • misuse of academic materials (sabotaging other students)
  • and complicity with others’ dishonesty.

Studies show that the causes and prevalence of academic dishonesty are vast. Several reasons for increased academic dishonesty are purported. To begin, the internet is known be linked to be widely linked to academic dishonesty. Some of the common online resource students use for cheating are:
  • Social networking and content sharing
  • Homework and academic support sites
  • News and other traditional media online
  • Paper mill and cheat sites
  • Online encyclopedias – i.e. Wikipedia

Although the internet is commonly used for cheating, many students do not actually know they are doing so.  In this regard, it is common that students do not have an awareness of what does constitute academic dishonesty. In addition to a lack of understanding, there are numerous student rationalizations, such as the fact that cheating is common and thus necessary to compete with other students. In addition, a sort of laissez-faire approach of professors, who do not consider it a problem or address it.

It is important to look at why students cheat. When asked why students cheat, some common responses include:
  • “The professor is too demanding and unreasonable; therefore, it is okay for me to make things easier on myself.
  • I have too many competing demands on myself, so I have to cut some corners in order to survive.
  • Everyone else is doing it, and I cannot let someone else gain advantage over me by having stricter standards of honesty.
  • No one would ever know, so what does it matter?”

If academic dishonesty is considered a problem, there are a number techniques that instructors and institutions may use, such as:
  • Deterrence - i.e. proctoring
  • Honor codes
  • Cheating detection – i.e. Turnitin.com
  • Increasing clarity in what constitutes dishonesty.
  • “to convey reasons to students why they should not cheat…greater dialogue on campuses (including workshops) may reduce the level of cheating somewhat, and make honest performance not just a matter of avoiding deterrence but also of internalized values” (Reifman, 2012).

An important question discuss is ‘why does academic integrity matter?’ According to the UC Regents, academic integrity matters because:
  • “The esteem of others”
  • “Self-confidence”
  • “Better skills”
  • “A more accurate sense of where your strengths and deficiencies lie”
  • “A Diploma that has value in the marketplace”
  • “But what is most important is the self-respect that comes from knowing you’re doing your part to create the kind of world that you want to live in: a world where people are honest and the playing field is fair”

An important consideration in this discussion is what instructors can do to prevent academic dishonesty by supporting students, rather instilling fear of consequences of cheating. The follow are a few examples of how students can supported and thus hopefully not need to resort to dishonesty.
  • Make expectations clear for students so they are not overwhelmed or surprised by coursework.
  • Be available, accommodating and encouraging with regard to office hours
  • Inform students of where to find academic support such as study skills workshops and tutors
  • Make sure students know about the disability resources department on campus

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