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Thou Shall N ot C heat? How High School Students Think about Cheating. Monica J. Kowalski, Ph.D. ACE Consulting, University of Notre Dame Research conducted at The Ohio State University. Do YOUR students cheat?. Background.

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thou shall n ot c heat how high school students think about cheating

Thou Shall Not Cheat?How High School Students Think about Cheating

Monica J. Kowalski, Ph.D.

ACE Consulting, University of Notre Dame

Research conducted at

The Ohio State University

  • Generally, research has shown high rates of cheating in high school
    • 74% admitted to cheating on tests (McCabe, 2001)
    • Nearly all students report cheating when other assignments are included (Miller et al., 2007)
    • Cheating tends to increase from K-12 and decrease again during college years
      • High school is peak time for cheating
the study
The Study
  • Research Objectives:
    • To examine high school students’ perceptions of cheating in academic settings
    • To examine the cheating patterns and beliefs among students relative to their school (Catholic vs. public, high vs. low affluence)
the study1
The Study
  • Schools:
    • Highly affluent school in high performing public school district
    • High poverty urban school in low performing public school district
    • Catholic high school, racially and socioeconomically diverse
the study2
The Study
  • One-on-one, semi-structured interviews
    • 39 ninth- and eleventh-grade students
      • 14 Catholic school, 25 public school students
    • Part 1: General questions about cheating in their school
    • Part 2: Specific questions about own cheating
  • ALL students reported cheating
    • Catholic school students no less likely to cheat than public school students
  • Decision to cheat related to probability of getting caught
    • Cheat less with stricter, more vigilant teachers
  • Catholic school students more frequently talked about consequences of cheating
    • Demerits, Saturday schools, meeting with Dean

Excessive workload = pressure to cheat

Meaningful assignments = less cheating

Strict discipline = less cheating

  • Do teachers care if students cheat?
    • High variability
    • Perception of condoning cheating for high performance
but what else
…But what else?

No perceptions of moral issues

No connection to Gospel/religious values

“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.” –Proverbs 10:9

“For we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord's sight but also in the sight of man.” – 2Corinthians 8:21

so what
So what?

Cheating in school = cheating in life?

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. “ –Luke 16:10

what can we do
What can we do?

Talk about it

Improve conditions

Take consistent action


“One of the stated goals of X school is to provide opportunities for students to achieve their maximum academic potential and to master various learning techniques. The achievement of academic potential and the mastery of learning techniques require honest and consistent effort by the student. These goals are underminded by plagiarism and other forms of cheating. Therefore, each student is expected to submit only his or her own work on tests and assignments (including daily homework). The student should acknowledge all sources of information on research assignments. The student should neither give nor receive assistance on tests.”


“A student shall not cheat on tests or other school assignments, or plagiarize. Any student caught cheating on a quiz, test, or project will receive a zero and may be subject to disciplinary action. Any student who steals the instructional materials from a teacher or staff member will be subject to disciplinary action. Any student, who knowingly provides a term paper, project or test information for another student will be subject to disciplinary action.”


“X holds itself to the highest standards in all endeavors and defines excellence as achievement with integrity. The core values of honesty, fairness, and responsibility are central to the discussion of academic integrity. There can be no excellence without strong commitment to these values. Violations of academic integrity will be dealt with seriously and consistently, but also with understanding, compassion, and with education in mind. Instances of dishonesty, however, cannot be excused, and if the nature and extent of the pattern of misconduct warrants it, a student may be dismissed from the school.”


“The school community strives to implement moral values in all aspects of the school’s operation. Understanding the moral responsibility of the school as a Christian community to address the issues involved when academic violations by students occur, the following policy has been established to deal with these academic violations…

…. The student will then meet with the Dean of Academics, who will make a record of the violation. ..The purpose of this meeting is not to be seen as punitive, but rather as pastoral.  The Dean will dialogue with the student for the purpose of determining the root causes of the behavior and choices that led to the violation.  It is the goal of the meeting to help the student recognize his responsibilities as a student of X and a citizen of the United States to act with integrity and honesty.”


“Learning is the pursuit of truth. As truth is the goal, truthfulness must also characterize the pursuit. Each student’s academic integrity is of paramount importance and must be preserved for the student’s moral good as well as that of the school. Just as academic integrity must be preserved, academic dishonesty must be intolerable. Should a student choose to be dishonest, the student will suffer the consequences outlined below. All students sign the Honor Code as part of their Commitment to the High School Mission.”

talk about it
Talk about it
  • Clearly define cheating
  • Mission-driven policy
    • Moral and religious rationales
  • School and classroom level discourse
improve conditions
Improve Conditions

Workload awareness

Meaningful work

Authentic and/or personal assignments

take action
Take Action
  • Consistent monitoring
  • Consistent enforcement
  • Mission-driven consequences
    • Opportunity for formation
thank you
Thank You