In almost all education set up, the academic cheating is prevalent in all cultures, age groups, and various educational contexts. In fact, where cheating is detected, the learners admit varying reasons for cheating. Many agree that they cheat to get better grades, please their parents and guardians, and attain social acceptance, while others cheat because of their personality characteristics, which is likely to lure them into the act. During the past few decades, the issues concerning cheating among college students have become apparent, especially in academic institutions. However, cheating is not a new phenomenon because it is well-known in the United states of America and in many European countries. In fact, cheating in exams and other academic dishonesty have been found to undermine the validity of the student learning measures. When a student engages in cheating, the teacher is not aware of the concepts that the student failed to understand (because when they cheat, the teacher will assume that they understood the concepts). Therefore, the teacher will not know whether to slow down or accelerate in the teaching approach, or whether to re-design their approach, or whether to modify their lecture in the next semester. In essence, cheating affects the students and inhibits the teacher from giving the learners the relevant feedback. Although there are many aspects cited by the students on why they cheat, it is evident that the entire concept of cheating undermines the learning process and becomes an obstacle to academic achievement. When students engage in cheating, including copying of assignments instead of tackling them, then they fail to learn what they should. Therefore, the justification for this research is to provide a persuasive discussion that will encompass the aspect of cheating in school, including history, motive, remedy, and how to deal with cheating. In addition, the study will focus on various cases of cheating, results of punishments, and how cheating is connected to psychology. In essence, to reach into the conclusion, the work will focus on qualitative studies to understand the underlying motivation, reasons, and opinions for cheating.
It is worth noting that to get more and accurate information in this field is challenging because of the moral and ethical character of the problem such as student integrity. Although the problem of cheating is a challenge to any institution of learning, some university authorities are not ready to deal with it, and others do not want to know about, a situation that has seen the cheating cases become more prevalent and more rampant. In fact, according to Murray (1996), out of a sample of 500 professors, 20% agreed that they had ignored to implement further measures amid cases of evident cheating. These university professors hesitated to take measures against cheating because of the discomfort and stress that follow. Therefore, the approach taken by those professors clearly indicates that the problem is far to be over. On the other hand, students who cheat, believe that everyone cheats and it is a normal part of life, a situation that encourages cheating. In fact, it is worth noting that earlier research indicated that cheating cases are as high as 75% to 87%, but the detection rate may be as low as 1.3%, a situation that jeopardizes fight against cheating (Baird, 1980). In essence, the problem is far from being eliminated because there is a gap between the efforts made by the institution in detecting and punishing the culprit.
Meaning of Cheating
Cheating in schools is defined as representing other peoples’ work as your own with or without their consent. Cheating can be in many forms, including paying someone to do work for you, sharing the same assignment and submitting it, making up data, plagiarizing, using crib notes during exams, copying from others on tests, allowing other students to copy your work, copying from others, obtaining information about test from other learners, and receiving answers from friends during exams. In addition, cheating can also be in the form of paraphrasing without acknowledging the original author, fabricating references, as well as inventing data (Anderman & Murdock, 2007).
Facts about Cheating
Statistics show that the cases of cheating among students in high school have increased drastically in the past 50 years. In fact, currently, many students have accepted that they have ever cheated on their exams than ever before. In the past decades, the cases of cheating were common in those students that used to struggle in their studies, but today even above-average students have been reported cheating their way to get the best grades. Notably, in the 1940s, only a small percentage of about 20% admitted that they cheated during their high school years, while in today’s education set up, many students who have been surveyed have admitted that they cheated in their high school education with statistics showing that the number stands at 75% and 98% (Whitley & Keith-Spiegel, 2002). For instance, more than three decades ago cheating was more prevalent in males who were more dishonest in academic than females.
However, currently the gap has been closed, and the studies indicate that there is no big difference in cases of cheating between males and female students in the college. In the same aspect, statistics show that 73% of those students taking tests, including teachers and prospective graduate agree that many students have cheated in their lifetime. Indeed, in high school students, the trend is even worse with more than 86% reported having cheated in school (Murdock, & Anderman, 2006). The cases of cheating continue to rise because the act no longer attracts the stigma it used to have. The increased struggle for admission into graduate schools and universities coupled with less social displeasure have made student to embrace cheating to get better grades. The shift of paradigm of education to grades has made many students seek the best grades without considering the harm caused by cheating in the future. In addition, the members of the public, as well as college officials, have not embraced the fact that cheating has become a problem.
On the other hand, students in higher learning are not ready to report rampant cases of cheating because they feel that they will be ratting out their friends. It has also been established that those students who usually cheat justify themselves by indicating that if they do not cheat, and others are cheating, then they will be disadvantaged during grading. Another aspect of cheating indicates that most students who cheat are often caught, but they seldom receive the punishment they deserve.
Although cheating is brought by pressure for high grades, there are some courses that cheating occurs more often, especially in sciences and mathematics. In the same aspect, computers have made cheating easier than in earlier decades because in today’s world a student can download a whole term paper right from the internet make some few changes and submit the work to the faculty. It is worth noting that academic cheating starts at junior levels even at middle school children aged between 12 and 14 years (Kohn, 2007). In elementary schools, the student will continue to cheat because there is more motivation to win against their classmates. Indeed, there is a big motivation to cheat in this early age because the education starts focusing more on grades. Even those learners who feel that it is wrong to cheat, they may end up cheating if the motivation is to record good grades. Davis, Drinan, and Gallant (2011), avers that the aspect of cheating peaks at the high school years where many students admit that they participated in cheating with an average 75% of high school students accepted to have participated in academic misgivings.
History of Cheating
The origin or the first cases of cheating can be traced back in the ancient China after the introduction of standardized test movement. In fact, cheating was elevated by the imperial examination where cheating methods were adopted. During that time, the penalty for the iniquity was death, an aspect that controlled more cases to take place (Whitley & Keith-Spiegel, 2002). The methods of cheating have been elevated over the years, and they are alive and well in the current world of technology. Therefore, cheating should not be considered as a recent phenomenon and should be linked to the functions, purpose, and characteristics of education. The characteristics of the learners have played a significant role in shaping the behaviors in cheating, but also situational factors, including professors’ teaching styles, nonproctored exams, the chance of success, and classroom environment. In addition, the education system and campus characteristics (pressure for good grades, the inadequate connection between academic misconduct and morality, and organizational moral climate), as well as fear of failure have also shaped the cheating behavior in schools. However, the most appropriate time that would give an overview of academic misconduct is in the 18th century, especially in the American Universities and Colleges (Davis, Drinan, & Gallant, 2011).
For instance, in the 18th-century students would cheat to avoid public humiliation and fear of failing their classes. Cheating was used to maintain someone’s honor since deceiving the teacher was more admirable than failing the entire class. During this time, those who were caught cheating were expelled from the school, but this alone too did not inhibit the students from cheating in exams. In the 18th century, Diploma Mills was prevalent in America. Therefore, students would get a diploma and falsify their academic achievement to secure employment even after they had cheated on their exams and expelled from their school (Davis, Drinan, & Gallant, 2011). In history, educational credentials enhanced the social mobility, a situation that made education to be relevant in America and other places across the world.
In the 19th century, campuses increased in size, especially those in post-secondary, a situation that made students view assignments and courses as hurdles that needed to be cleared to achieve professional and personal progress. In a survey, 40% of the students admitted that they had cheated in their exams and assignments (Davis, Drinan, & Gallant, 2011).
By the middle of the 20th century, institutions had diversified and expanded, especially post-secondary schools. Some scholars believed that the increase in cheating exhibited during the period was because of the Watergate era and Vietnam turbulences. In fact, the intensification of term paper mills enabled many students to cheat on examinations. When such resources were exposed, there were tremendous cases of plagiarism that were reported in the country. In fact, as the post-secondary education became imperative to the American society, the public also became more concerned about campus education. Consequently, there were many cases of cheating that were reported by press reports in the middle of the 20th century, a situation that led to a disaster that attracted demand for action on universities and colleges. By the end of the 20th century, it was apparent that many students in America were cheating in almost every exam, and they had all the reason to rationalize their engagement in academic malpractices (Davis, Drinan, & Gallant, 2011).
Bowers (1964) published the first large-scale study regarding cheating in higher learning institutions. In the study, he surveyed a diverse sample of 99 US universities and colleges where 5000 students participated. His study found that three-quarters of all the students had engaged in one or various instances of academic dishonesty. McCabe and Trevino replicated the same study after 30 years in 1997 in nine schools that had previously participated in 1964 Bower’s survey. McCabe and Trevino observed that there was an increase in the overall cheating, and the significant increase was recorded in the exam and test cheating. In addition, there was an increase in cheating found among women in collaborative cheating, especially in written assignments.
In the 21st century, The Josephson Institute of Ethics as cited by Davis, Drinan, & Gallant (2011) has been instrumental in providing the information about students cheating in American schools. In 2004, the institution surveyed 85 secondary schools in America where 24,763 students took part. Out of the entire population that was interviewed, 62 % admitted having cheated on exams, at least, a single instance, while 38% indicated that they had cheated for more than twice. In addition, 35% had plagiarized once, while 18% indicated to have plagiarized more than twice. In essence, 83% of the interviewed students indicated that they had copied their homework from their friends at least once, while 64% admitted that they copied more than twice. In addition, the institute took another survey in 2006 where the statistics almost remained virtually unchanged. However, an additional 11,000 students in high school were included in the 2008 survey, but the trend recorded a slight increase from the levels of cheating in 2004 (Davis, Drinan, & Gallant, 2011).
In the history, people have ever involved themselves in cheating as far as there are social structures in the society. There are those people who want to circumvent the rules and establish illegal and illicit shortcuts to achieve their goals. Despite the achievements made in the modern society as well as presence of advanced technology, this fundamental human nature has not reformed or changed. Instead, the methods of cheating have advanced while the motivation behind cheating has remained the same. According to Kleiner and Lord (1999), it is evident that almost everybody was doing it from the graduate school as well as in grade school. The author continues to indicate that around 78%-98% of all the students interviewed admitted that they had cheated at least once. The study also confirmed that despite the passage of time the instincts to cheat has not changed, but has improved and become more refined where the cheaters have adopted refined methods of cheating.
Understanding the history of cheating is critical given that the trend is widespread and still on the rise. Every year since the first study of cheating was conducted; it is evident that the majority of the students have ever engaged in cheating whether once or in various instances. In the recent decades, cheating has risen to unprecedented levels, and the frequent alarm made regarding cheating have done little in understanding the behavior. In fact, the efforts to curb cheating fail to address the rationale behind cheating.
Cheating Cases and Results of Punishment
Cheating at Harvard University
The cheating scandal took place in 2012 when approximately 125 students from Harvard University were investigated for cheating and collaborating on the final examination take-home assignment. The scandal was reported as the biggest cheating instance, in the memory of Ivy League in its scope and magnitude (Carmichael, 2012). In this class, more than half of two hundred students were suspected of copying their assignments from their classmates. The investigation identified that the collaboration was through email and other means, which facilitated the copying of essay assignment and responses to short questions. In fact, this was a violation of the school no-collaboration policy, which was printed on the assignment itself. According to the investigation, some students were found to have copied the text from outside sources, a considerable context of the assignment was plagiarized from their friend work where the answers were identical, and others were copied verbatim from their classmates.
The cheating was detected by a teaching fellow during grading of a subset of the university exam and alerted the professor who later highlighted the issue to the college Administrative Board. The board oversees the behavior of the student, therefore, spent the entire summer interviewing the suspected student and reviewing all the exams. The students suspected of cheating were nearly 2% of the entire university population (Carmichael, 2012).
Result of the Punishment
The scandal tainted the name of the world’s greatest institution of education where around 17 students were forced to leave the school. On the other hand, the scandal was a big blow to the sports programs since the affected class had many athletes, including basketball players. Some accused players opted to withdraw instead of risking more years of eligibility because of the disciplinary action. The investigations were concluded earlier than expected because the university involved more staffs in investigating every student exam to an extent of color-coding particular words found in multiple papers. Some of the implicated learners argued that the similarities were because of the shared notes from the lecture and having the same teaching fellows in many of the sessions (Carmichael, 2012).
The students were also required to face a subcommittee of the Administrative board where they were interviewed, and the assessment handed to the full board who voted on their cases. Many students were encouraged to withdraw from the school, but others stayed put hoping that they will be exonerated or at worse, if they are found guilty they will receive a refund of their tuition for the semester. In addition, the administration initiated forced withdrawals for those who collaborated in cheating, which lasted for two to four semesters where the student would decide to return. However, the committee agreed that it was not easy to conclude behold reasonable doubts those students who cheated and participated in academic dishonesty from those who had sought assistance, which they had assumed was appropriate.
Cheating in Georgia
Although cheating has been found to take place among the students and collaboration among the classmates, the Georgian case was exceptional because the custodian of ethics and integrity were accused of engaging in cheating. In fact, the teachers and school officials were at the center of the scandal, which is regarded as one of the greatest cheating scandal in America. One of the most recent and high magnitude cheating cases took place in the district of Atlanta in Georgia at a public school in 2008-2009 state assessment examinations. The case was reported by the Georgia Governor in 2011through a report that indicated a widespread cheating by teachers. The specific ways and extent of cheating were reported by almost all news agencies across the country.
The number of the implicated individuals was 178 of which most of them were teachers (82 were teachers, and 38 were principals) (Lang, 2013). After the investigations, the teachers confessed that they participated in modifying the exams by erasing and changing their students’ answers after the exam was completed. In fact, one of the schools held a party, which was specifically for erasing the initial answers given by the students. The party had complete pizza for the teachers who were expected to work together to alter and improve the performance of their learners on the completed exams. In fact, there were other accounts that were reported before the exams, where teachers had placed the low-performing learners next to the higher-performing learners to assist and facilitate cheating (Lang, 2013). In the same aspect, high achievers could point the correct answers during the tests as well as reading aloud answers to assist the low-performing learners. The cheating scandal affected the entire Atlanta system of education, a situation that led to a public disgrace for the then superintendent who was accused of assuming the cheating that was going on. In this case, we are able to see the essential characteristics of the culture of cheating.
When the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Policy took place, all the teachers were involved in the creation of the state assessments, but they do not have the impact of the implementation process (Lang, 2013). They see the policy as a burden on their professional expertise, and they believe that the policy just compel them to spend much of their time teaching for the tests, and they do not have the mandate to develop the contents as well as they do not score their student’s tests yet they are the one who teach. In the surveys carried, many American teachers were skeptical of the credibility of these exams. For instance, University of California surveyed seven hundred and forty highly rated teachers and came up with the following statistics. There were 61% indicated that the policy of No Child Left Behind formed a narrow idea of the rationale of education. Again, 59% felt that the policy had unintended consequences where the textbook companies had more influence on the content development and instruction. In addition, 46% felt that the policy reduced creativity because the system was more exam oriented. In essence, almost all teachers indicated that the policy narrowed the aspect of their career, diminished their control in the classroom, and subdued pedagogical innovations.
Result of Punishment in cheating in Georgia
The teachers and administrators that were convicted of tampering and inflating test scores were imprisoned, a situation that brought to an end the divisive and ugly instance to the single most cheating scandal in American history. The school executive directors expected to improve district education sector were not spared as well, and they received a 20-year sentence where they were to serve seven years in prison. In addition, they were required to undertake community service on top of the imposed fine. The investigation revealed that more than 250,000 answers were altered during their investigation, which took two years to conclude. Other defendants were convicted of false swearing and giving false statements. The rest of the teachers were sentenced to seven years each where they were supposed to serve one year in prison and a thousand hours of community work as well as a $1,000 fine. The punishment was an attempt to discourage the student, teachers, and the community from dishonesty and understand the repercussion of changing test scores and how it affects the children. The punishment was not in vain despite how long it took to conclude the entire investigation.
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