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Student Attitudes on Academic Integrity through Elementary, Middle, Secondary, and Undergraduate Education a case study. Joshua M. Ward Johnny Johnson, Ph.D. . Introduction.
Joshua M. Ward
Johnny Johnson, Ph.D.
This preliminary investigation attempts to explore when academic integrity problems and misconceptions arise during students' basic levels of education: elementary, middle, secondary, and undergraduate.
Understanding when attitudes of students shift concerning academic ethics and behavior, can serve as an indicator as to when educational tools should be put into place.
General observations between educational levels can lead to conclusions that help institutions know what type of educational program might be appropriate and when such a curriculum should occur in a student's academic career.
Participants should gain:
A greater understanding of the correlations between four institutions of learning, such as the attitudes of elementary, middle, secondary, and undergraduate students regarding academic integrity.
Information that qualitatively provides a better working understanding needed to design future educational programs concerning academic integrity from elementary to undergraduate levels.
Is it too late for a university or any other institution of higher learning to be implementing programs focused on molding students’ perspectives on academic cheating?
Do elementary students believe that a certain act constitutes cheating when secondary students believe that the same act is acceptable?
Observations between educational levels might lead to conclusions that would help institutions know what type of educational program might be appropriate and when such a curriculum should occur in a student’s academic career.
This study attempts to harness the general attitudes of academic integrity in a way that provides a better working understanding needed to design future educational programs.
Certainly knowing what personal or contextual factors influence higher levels of cheating is important, but it is also important to implement in a practical manner programs that teach students about academic integrity.
This study focuses on when such programs should be implemented in a student’s educational career.
It is important to ask whether or not students from differing educational levels believe that the same actions constitute breaches in academic integrity.
It is not a question of whether or not elementary students cheat more often than secondary students or undergraduates.
It is a question of whether elementary students believe an action constitutes a breach in academic integrity when secondary students or undergraduates do not.
It is important to understand at what point, if one exists, in a students’ academic careers do beliefs concerning academic integrity change.
Knowing this could be beneficial in designing educational programs concerning academic integrity.
McCabe, Donald L. and Trevino, Linda Klebe. 1999. Academic Integrity in Honor Code and Non-Honor Code Environments. Journal of Higher Education. 70(2):211-234.
McCabe, Donald L. and Trevino, Linda Klebe. 1993. Academic dishonesty: Honor codes and other contextual influences. Journal of Higher Education. 64(5):522-538.
Instead of researching statistical, quantitative data associated with academic integrity (such as how many students cheated last year), this study proposes to understand where students do not have a clear understanding of the topic.
Such areas may include what violates academic integrity and the students’ knowledge of the consequences associated with a violation in their own school.
Surveys were chosen for their ability to gather generalized opinions from a wide variety of age groups (elementary, middle, and secondary).
Three similar surveys were created, utilizing a single survey instrument, modified specifically for the readability and appropriateness of students in differing grades, yet reliable enough to be used to create correlational statements about students’ attitudes over the four institutions of learning.
Each survey consisted of three parts.
A section intended to assess the knowledge and understanding of the academic integrity policies and procedures that the student has of his or her own institution.
Also provides feedback of the student’s opinion of how affective the academic integrity policies and procedures are at his or her institution.
The section also assessed where or from whom (or if at all) the student has become acquainted with academic integrity.
A section intended to assess students’ opinions on the prevalence of different types of violations of academic integrity at their institution.
Also explored how often the student reported instruction in academic integrity at their institution and how such education (if any) was received.
Asks students of the differing levels of educational institutions whether or not a certain action constitutes in their mind a breach of academic integrity.
Intended to find trends in what constitutes ethical behavior in differing educational grade levels.
For example, do middle school students think that an action is a minor violation of academic integrity where most secondary students would answer that the same violation is a minor one?
Three schools from the Edmond Public Schools District, Edmond, Oklahoma, were asked to participate in the surveys.
The schools were Northern Hills Elementary, Sequoyah Middle School, and North High School.
Students were asked to complete a 15-minute survey consisting of about 36 questions in the general format described above.
Responses from the surveys sent to the elementary, middle, and secondary institutions are correlated to that of the information provided by the Oklahoma State University 2004 Survey of Academic Integrity.
All survey instruments were approved by the Oklahoma State University Institutional Review Board under Expedited-Special-Population standards.
The following italicized statements represent generalizations of students’ attitudes concerning different aspects of academic integrity observed at their specific type of academic institution.
The majority of elementary students (81%) responded “strong yes” or “yes” to whether or not they understood their institution’s academic integrity policies and procedures.
14% of middle school students responded “no” or “strong no” to the question.
In Figure I, one can visually identify a trend in student understanding of academic integrity policies and procedures.
The majority of students in each institution (elementary, middle, and secondary) feel that they have received the most academic integrity instruction from their primary teacher.
Primary teachers are the most effective source of academic integrity education, followed by counselors, advising/introductory classes, and advisors during elementary, middle, and secondary years.
The majority of secondary students (99%) responded that they received academic integrity education through their primary teacher.
Of undergraduate students, 89% reported learning about academic integrity through their course instructors (The Center for Academic Integrity, 2004).
In Figure II, trends in student reported sources of academic integrity education are displayed.
The majority of students in each institution (elementary, middle, and secondary) do not understand or support their institution’s academic integrity policies and procedures.
Elementary student attitudes indicate that they do not understand or support their school’s academic integrity policies and procedures.
Secondary students’ attitudes indicate that the majority of these students do not support their institution’s academic integrity policies and procedures, but more so than those of middle school students and less than those of elementary students.
In Figure III, trends concerning student support of academic integrity policies and procedures are shown.
This is indicated by the dramatic decrease in “don’t know” responses. As the academic timeline progresses, students indicating “strong yes” and “yes” increase only slightly. Responses of “strong no” decrease slightly, however, responses of “no” increase dramatically.
____23. A student’s friend asks for an old copy of an exam that he or she is taking to study with. The student gives him or her the exam.
Elementary students believe that most actions they were queried about constitute a major violation of academic integrity.
From the majority of questions responded to, middle school students believe that a selected action constitutes a less than major violation.
A minority of secondary school students (19%) responded that the identical actions surveyed constituted “major violations,” whereas 54% responded with “minor violations,” and 27% responded with “no violations.”
In Figure IV, the results from presenting identical actions to elementary, middle, and secondary students are presented as the academic timeline progresses.
Figure IV illustrates this by showing a steady, dramatic increase during the academic timeline of believed “minor violations.”
McCabe, Donald L. 1999. Academic Dishonesty Among High School Students. Adolescence. 34(136):681-687.
It is often clear that the microcosm of an elementary school student’s primary classroom has the advantage of simple, clear academic integrity standards.
It was found that students’ understanding of and agreement with their institution’s academic integrity policies and procedures decrease with age.
The simple and easily conveyed academic integrity policies and procedures (or perhaps only seen by the student as a set of moral guidelines) by the student’s primary instructor towards the beginning of his or her academic career no longer exists when he or she progresses in the educational system.
The particular grade level or institutional level cannot be specified, although one could generalize the institutional level to be middle school (grades 6-8) as representing an important developmental period concerning academic integrity standards.
Even so, a student’s main source of academic integrity instruction was found to come from his or her specific teachers.
It is for this reason and due to its success in secondary and undergraduate programs that specific programs or courses should be implemented in grades 6-8.
The second focus of the learning program is to educate students about how to avoid breaches in academic integrity by showing how to properly format papers including citations, referencing, and so on.
It is also important not to forget that institutions give students themselves some sense of responsibility and ownership when considering the academic integrity policies and procedures of their own academic environment.
It is the responsibility of academic institutions to secure an academic atmosphere that promotes learning in a fair and ethically standardized environment.
Questions and Answers
Undergraduate Academic Integrity Panel Chair
Oklahoma State University
444 Stout Hall
Stillwater, OK 74077
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078