A study of academic dishonesty of secondary school students
The problem. Academic Dishonesty of American secondary school students is problematic. This research analyzes the occurrence of cheating behaviors are among Midwestern secondary school students, what behaviors students define as academically dishonest, and what circumstances justify cheating. A narrative analysis summarizes reasons students cheat and provides a possible description of student perceptions of cheating. Finally, the research seeks to identify whether the character education program, Character Counts!, has an impact on academically dishonest behavior.
Knowledge and insight of current student behaviors and perceptions of academic dishonesty will be gained for the purpose of proposing strategies to discourage academic dishonesty.
Procedure. Participants in this study include 196 public secondary school juniors and seniors. Ninety are from a Midwestern secondary school that has included Character Counts! instruction. Ninety-six are from a Midwestern secondary school that has not included any formal character instruction. Ten students served as a focus group and 60 students served as a pilot group from a different Midwestern secondary school.
Subjects were administered a single-stage bubble type survey that was developed, scored, and interpreted by the researcher. A pilot study preceded the survey in order to evaluate the validity, reliability and interpretation techniques of the survey instrument. Quantitative data were reviewed to determine whether statistical differences in academically dishonest behavior between the Character Counts! and non-Character Counts! secondary school sites existed. A narrative analysis of the open-ended responses to survey questions augmented the quantitative findings and provided additional insight into student perception of academic dishonesty. Results were compared between the Character Counts! and non-Character Counts! school sites in respondent answer profiles.
Findings. Students In both sample schools are self-reporting cheating at high rates as 70.6% of the combined sample admitting they had whispered questions or answers during a test or quiz and 83.4,% turning in work copied from another student. Members of each group have identified multiple reasons cheating can be justified. Compared to their Non-CC! counterparts, the CC! students reported higher percentages of engagement in academically dishonest behaviors in 14 of the 20 behaviors, and identified behaviors as academically dishonest at higher rates in 15 of the 20 behaviors. However, the differences were not statistically significant. Narrative analysis data supports quantitative findings that the practice of cheating is widespread and rationalized by many students. Character Counts! curriculum was not a deterrent for cheating in secondary schools.