Why Do Students Cheat?

1065 Words Feb 24th, 2013 5 Pages
Why do students cheat?

It is a rare individual who actively chooses to be dishonest. But why do a few students make compromising choices? What can lead people to act in ways that they aren 't proud of? Below are some underlying beliefs and confusions which students at Carnegie Mellon give as explanations for slipping standards of integrity.

A Victimless Crime?

Students generally are familiar with the disciplinary actions and penalties for getting caught. However, they may fail to understand that one of the personal consequences of cheating and/or plagiarism is that they aren 't actually learning or practicing the material. They may not realize that they will actually need and be accountable for certain knowledge and skills.
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Even if specific instructions are given for students not to access past materials, students report that past materials are very easy to come by and often too alluring to pass up.

Do We Have to Spell Everything Out?

Students recognize the obvious examples of academic dishonesty such as copying during an exam or quoting extensively without a citation. They can be much less clear on how much collaboration is allowed, what kind of paraphrasing is appropriate to summarize a source or whether one assignment can be turned in for two different classes. If students are not accustomed to thinking about the ownership of ideas, they tend to underreport their sources.

Instructors often state their expectations for tests and about quoting, footnoting, and paraphrasing in papers and they outline the consequences of being dishonest. However, they may not state precisely what they consider to be appropriate collaboration (if any) and what they recommend as guidelines for teamwork.

Playing the Odds

Students sometimes feel that receiving a zero for an exam or a paper is a justified penalty for cheating, but they may also convince themselves that they won 't get caught. And they can be reinforced in this thinking if grading procedures aren 't planned carefully or if instructors don 't follow up on suspicious incidents.

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