How Students See Cheating, and How Colleges Can Contain It

How Students See Cheating, and How Colleges Can Contain It

During Pamela Vallejos’s freshman year at Hofstra University, she learned a tough lesson when a peer on a group project got away with passing off her work on a lab report as his own. “My teammate had to write the intro, but he asked me to help. So I wrote what I would have done for the intro, and he used that entire thing,” says Vallejos, a biochemistry major with plans to go to med school after her 2022 graduation. Her conclusion didn’t fare as well as that intro grade-wise. “He ended up getting better compensated and taking all the credit.”

Reporting his actions didn’t help. “I spoke to the professor, and he kind of laughed in my face,” she says. Surely the Google document history, showing only her name as intro author, would rectify the injustice? “The professor didn’t end up taking my side,” Vallejos says.

Rather than focusing on that frustration, Vallejos got involved in supporting the university’s honor code, a statement of shared values adopted by faculty members, the Student Government Association and the president in 2012. This academic year, she’s one of seven undergrads serving on the Honor Board, a group of faculty, staff and students overseen by the provost’s office that helps promote and implement the code.

As with any behavior, understanding why students cheat is key to addressing the problem, which existed long before the pandemic exacerbated it by abruptly changing in-person teaching and learning to virtual. Among the 2,000 students responding to the latest Student Voice survey in mid- to late October, nearly three-quarters see pressure to do well as a reason for cheating in postsecondary education. Lack of preparation for exams and heavy or unrealistic course workloads are the next most common reasons cited in the survey, conducted by Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse with support from Kaplan.

A lot of students, feeling overwhelmed (pandemic or not), may remain conscientious about coursework in classes they see as most important, but they “end up doing things they don’t want to” in other classes, says Vallejos.

Eren Bilen, a professor in the department of data analytics at Dickinson College who has conducted research on cheating during the pandemic , sees the issue this way: “If the students have an option to choose between cheating and not cheating—cheat to get an A, don’t cheat to get a C—the temptation is just too strong. If they have the ability, they go for it.”

But cheaters are not the enemy, notes David Rettinger, president emeritus of the International Center for Academic Integrity.

“Your data shows this as much as anything I’ve seen. Everyone has their price: stress, family pressure, time constraints. Everyone has a breaking point. Most students are able to reach that breaking point over the course of a semester,” says Rettinger, a professor of psychological science and director of academic integrity programs at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia.

As one survey respondent from a private college in Massachusetts wrote, “Cheating isn’t something bad people do. It’s something desperate people do.”

Intrinsic versus extrinsic motivations are another piece of the academic integrity puzzle. It’s easy to blame cheating on bad decision-making in 17- to 21-year-olds. “To focus on that misses out on the larger context. The system encourages cheating because it’s so focused on extrinsic rewards” such as test scores and grades, says Tricia Bertram Gallant, director of the academic integrity office at the University of California, San Diego, and a former board member of ICAI.

Don McCabe, considered the founding father of the field of academic integrity, started ICAI in 1992, a year before conducting the first academic study of cheating at the college level. While behaviors around cheating haven’t changed much since that time, says Bertram Gallant, research on the impact of college on students reveals a shift from most students going to college to develop a meaningful philosophy of life to most students going to college to get a job. That extrinsically motivated focus sets the scene for more cheating.

Interest in academic integrity as a topic of concern within higher ed over the past decade has ebbed and flowed, at least in the experience of Renee Pfeifer-Luckett, director of learning technology development in the University of Wisconsin system’s Office of Learning and Information Technology Services. “I see it as kind of a wave. Over the last 11 years, I’ve seen this topic come up, crescendo and come back down, come up, crescendo and come back down,” says Pfeifer-Luckett, who has presented on learning tech tools used to ensure academic […]

source How Students See Cheating, and How Colleges Can Contain It

Leave a Reply