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Campus Survey Explores the Issue of Academic Dishonesty

More than 500 students and 40 faculty were surveyed by members of Phi Theta Kappa

A group of honors students at Phi Theta Kappa surveyed more than 500 fellow students and 40 faculty members on the campus regarding the issue of academic dishonesty. The answers they received were surprising.
“The student surveys were administered in classrooms by several different PTK (Phi Theta Kappa, the community college honor society) members,” said Elaina Mattingly, one of the survey’s organizers. “We asked students 29 different questions that had multiple choice answers and were filled out on Scantrons. The faculty survey was administered via SurveyMonkey after an email was sent out containing directions and link to participate.”
The survey results will be presented at the PTK National Conference April 4-6 in San Jose.
“While we used the topic of academic honesty to fulfill a requirement for the PTK Honors in Action project, it was also an opportunity for us, as a group of students, to dig deep into an issue that many students turn a blind eye to,” said Doris Vargas, co-president of Beta Zeta Nu, Cañada’s chapter of PTK.
Members of PTK conducted the study on academic dishonesty
“Academic dishonesty isn’t just an act of ‘doing wrong’, underlying problems such as integrity and incentives must also be taken into account,” Vargas said. “When we became aware that faculty on the campus were discussing this topic, we thought it would be a great opportunity to move it beyond conversation and do some research on our own.”
Mattingly, who attended Sitka High School in Sitka, Alaska, said she was surprised that 27 percent of the students surveyed admitted to using a prohibited electronic device during a test. She was also surprised that 41 percent believe they should do nothing when they notice another student cheating. “This statistic is especially alarming when you consider that 32 percent of the students surveyed said they would be more likely to cheat if they knew it would get them the best grades in the class.”
Vargas, who attended Mercy High School in San Francisco, said 75 percent of the students agreed that acts of academic dishonesty are more prevalent in high schools, yet only 65 percent said they have never cheated or plagiarized on a college test or assignment. “In addition, 62 percent of the students admitted to using up to three methods of cheating. It’s really thought provoking.”
In addition, Mattingly said it would be useful to promote programs on campus that offer students an opportunity to improve their college applications without pointing to GPA. “Assuming that most students cheat to get a competitive edge, there may be other ways to gain an advantage such as being involved in the Honors Transfer Program, Phi Theta Kappa, student government, or the tutoring program. If we show them how to improve their college application by being involved on campus they will feel less pressure to cheat.”
Vargas said that 60 percent of the students surveyed agreed that having an instructor read aloud the exact consequences for cheating before an exam was also an effective strategy. It suggests a combination of positive reinforcement and communicated consequences may be the most effective deterrent to academic dishonesty.
Vargas, Mattingly and other PTK students have been asked to give a campus-wide presentation on the results of the survey and they have developed a short video that can be viewed at this link http://youtu.be/mgd0ilwlIFg.

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