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Friday, March 23, 2012

Who Cheats, and How

By Allie Grasgreen
Inside HigherEd

Eighty-four percent of students at a public research university believe students who cheat should be punished, yet two of every three admit to having cheated themselves. Most of the cheating students admit to involves homework, not tests, and they see academic misconduct applying differently to those two kinds of work.

These findings were part of a study presented here this week at the annual convention of NASPA: Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education. Depending on how much you buy into the “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” theory – the idea, for which this session was named, that faculty believe students are “just a bunch of cheaters” – the findings may or may not come as a surprise. But either way, those results, coupled with the fact that many instructors devote little if any time to discussing academic integrity, led the researchers to an obvious conclusion: setting clear expectations, and repeating them early and often, is crucial.

“It’s about communicating clearly in the classroom and spending time on the topic,” said Angela Baldasare, divisional manager of assessment and data analysis at the University of Arizona, about clarifying expectations and increasing the intrinsic values of assignments, “so that there’s something more to it than just a grade.”
The study into the frequency and type of offenses, and the faculty policies and responses, surveyed more than 2,000 students and 600 instructors on the Arizona campus.

It found the highest rates of cheating among fraternity and sorority members and international students, the latter of whom were most likely to use technology to cheat. Fewer than 10 percent of Arizona students said they’ve used technology to get answers during an exam, but more international than American students admitted to obtaining test answers online (21 versus 11 percent), having copied material from the Internet for a writing assignment without citing the source (23 versus 13 percent), and sending or receiving text messages during an exam (12 versus 3 percent). Cheating was reported least among students receiving need-based aid, and non-degree seeking and first-generation students. (The more education a student’s parents had, the more likely he or she was to have cheated.)

Freshmen were least likely to have cheated, and the likelihood that students had cheated rose from year to year at an almost linear, small but significant rate. (Interestingly, under most circumstances, the opposite was true when students were asked how likely they think they would be to cheat in the future.)