Dealing with High School Plagiarism

© 2004 Christopher Nagy

RETURN
edited 8/21/11

 

Introduction

Competition in high schools today to get into the college of choice is very high and places pressure on the student, parents, colleges, professors, and teachers to provide every opportunity for students to gain that extra edge to get into that college or be eligible for a certain job. What do students do to stay ahead of the rest of the students? Is academic honesty maintained or necessarily compromised? What are teachers and professors to do?

In a 1999 survey of 2100 students on 21 campuses across the country conducted by The Center for Academic Integrity at Duke University, 75% of students in the survey admitted to having cheated while 1/3 of the those surveyed admitted to heavy test cheating and ½ of the surveyed admitted to cheating on written assignments (www.academicintegrity.org/cai_research.asp).

When looking at high schools according to this same source, 4500 students were surveyed at 25 schools in the 2000-2001 school year. Of those who participated, 74% of the students admitted to having cheated on a test at least once, and over 72% admitted to serious cheating on written assignments. More than ½ surveyed also admitted to having plagiarized using information taken from the internet. Further evidence was found in a 1998 study conducted by "Who's Who Among American High School Students" that noted that 80% of students in high schools reported that they cheated, and among those, 95% were not caught (Lathrop and Foss, 2000).

Proposal

Program support should be provided to staff at ABC high school to promote academic integrity and clear understanding to the students of the penalties for academic dishonesty at ABC high school.

Evidence

ABC high school is one of over 300 high schools in New Jersey that competes among the very best students in private institutions and top tiered high schools. Over the past two years, more students have been caught cheating and plagiarizing than ever before in the history of the school. Local principals have noted the same problem. This situation has created a hardship on those students who work hard, sacrifice their time and personal efforts to learn, only to have their class rank affected, their group work compromised and chances of getting into the colleges of their choice more difficult because students who do not study and get away with cheating or plagiarizing may enjoy a higher grade or class rank as a result.

Payne and Nantz (1994,Summer) examined student cultures across the nation and found that students perceive academic dishonesty and the social constructs and values that students consider cheating as something more acceptable and less serious than school officials see the problem. Rutgers University Professor Don McCabe concurs as he has done extensive research on cheating for decades. In a conversation with Kevin Bushweller, senior editor of the American School Board Journal (Lathrop and Foss, 2000), Bushweller is concerned about the attitude toward cheating will have on future generations and the work force environment. Consider a doctor, lawyer, mechanic or electrician who cheated on key tests, papers or apprenticeships or internships, what would their response be when a mistake was made or something pertinent was omitted or brakes were not calibrated correctly and an accident occurred.

McCabe and Trevino (1993, September/October) determined that there are five factors that influence academic dishonesty: peer behavior, existence of an honor code, severity of penalties, certainty of being reported, and the understanding of the institution's policy on academic integrity. In the same reference, McCabe and Trevino noted that the most evident of all factors is peer behavior that in itself provides normative support for cheating.

There are three approaches noted by L.M. Hinman (2000) to address cheating and plagiarism: the virtues approach, the prevention approach, and the police approach. On one hand a teacher develops students who do not want to cheat while the other minimizes opportunities for students to cheat, and the last speaks for itself as it catches individuals and punishes them accordingly. Yet on the other hand according to Clabaugh and Rozycki (2001), many professionals are concerned about pushing too hard to catch students in the act of cheating as this may detract from a collaborative, trusting, and functional environment in their respective classrooms.

Backing

Addressing the principle of academic honesty must consider careful preventative measures to limit as much as possible opportunities for academic dishonesty to take place. Secondly, academic honesty must be made a part of the culture of the respective institutions and appropriate measures be taken to prepare the professional to alter lessons, tests, assignments in such a way as to minimalize the possibility of cheating. All staff and students need to be made aware of the technical support mechanisms such as computer software or web based programs to recognize the work of individuals who may contemplate the practice of academic dishonesty.

Students deserve to be able to do their best, study hard and be able to compete accordingly and be rewarded with an appropriate grade or rank in class without undue influence. Students need to be given a model to "know the good, love the good and do the good" (Lathrop and Foss, 2000).

Warrant

If left without consequence after clear directions and explanations of the academic code were shared with all students at the beginning of the school year, academic dishonesty at ABC high school will continue to bring injury to students who work consistently and honestly to obtain their grades and place within their class to be positioned to apply to schools of their choice.

Defining the Term Academic Integrity

Whether cheating on a test or a paper or internet site, the real issue is academic dishonesty. If we were to accept as a definition of academic dishonesty (cheating) by Kaplin and Lee (1995), the term academic dishonesty can be considered as "a set of deliberate, unacceptable behaviors -- plagiarism, cheating, alteration of institutional records... and misrepresentations...theft, forgery and counterfeiting." Academic dishonesty is an ethical issue that affects every educational institution, the students, its mission and its goals.

Advantages

The ABC high school addressed this issue of academic honesty and rewrote the code of conduct and honor code to address the issue of this topic. In addition, special class meetings were held with the administrators to address the changes at the beginning of the year. Staff were provided inservice training on a new recognition software program for students who plagiarized. Staff development opportunities were provided staff to alter the way tests, quizzes, papers, assignments and group work were done.

Disadvantages (Rebuttal)

Academic dishonesty is systemic problem that treats the acquisition of knowledge as simply a grade without intrinsic value or appreciation. Unless there is a concerted effort on the part of every academic institution to safeguard the value of academic pursuits within the confines of acceptable use policies, and at the same time provide expectations that are clear for those who go against these policies, and unless institutions integrate the use of appropriate teaching methods to minimalize academic dishonesty and look to the assistance of technology to discourage academic dishonesty and unless professional teachers and professors make academic honesty an integral part of their coursework, little will be able to done to stop the practice of academic dishonesty. Ultimately, society as a whole may be adversely affected through goods and services, and, as a result, may continue to require such agencies as police, FBI, SEC and OSHA to provide oversight.

 

Cost/Benefit Analysis

Party

Benefit

Received

Kind of

Benefit

Cost

Suffered

Kind of

Cost

Proximity

Probability

Academically Honest Students

Access and Opportunity and High Self-Worth

Indivisible Absolute Substantial

   

Immediate, Long term

High

Academically Dishonest students

None

 

Disciplinary Action

Divisible Positional Symbolic

Immediate, Long term

High

Professors/ school teachers

Integrity and Good Reputation

Indivisible Absolute Substantial

   

Long term

Moderate

Parents of Academically Honest

Pride and Accomplishment and Appreciation of Family Values

Indivisible Absolute Substantial

   

Long term

Moderate

Parents of Academically Dishonest

None

 

Possible tuition costs if course is retaken or student is kicked out of school

Divisible Positional Symbolic

Immediate, Long term

High

ABC High School

Good Reputation Innovative Ethics Centered

Indivisible Absolute Substantial

   

Immediate, Long term

Moderate

Academic Institutions

Organized
Student Centered Values Centered

Indivisible Absolute Substantial

   

Immediate, Long term

Moderate

Workplace

Good workers Ethical Environment

Indivisible Absolute Substantial

   

Long term

Moderate

Cue

Given the reported incidents of cheating and students who were caught in an act of academic dishonesty over the past two years as confirmed by ABC high school vice principals, something needed to be done on a building wide level to change the culture of the school. The general consensus among my principal colleagues was that after 9/11 and the Clinton scandals, students began to look at the ability to get away with something without great implications. Colleagues thought that their students looked at academic dishonesty as a variation of copying homework and not a big deal. However, I saw a national teen issue if unchecked be the demise of accountability of youth within academic institutions. This was not an invention, but a serious shift in values of our youth who attend academic institutions.

Concern

As principal of ABC high school, I saw the raw data and heard the concerns from the faculty over the past year. Clearly, academic dishonesty was on the rise over the past two years as indicated by the data collected by my teachers and vice principals, and honest students were paying a price for being honest; class grades, class rank and opportunities to attend colleges of their choice were all being affected. As principal I was concerned about the welfare of the students, staff and my institution.

I looked at the literature, spoke with other principals and realized that many students were being adversely affected by academically dishonest students. Something had to be done on my part as soon as possible and on a building wide level to effect a change in culture, academics, policy, discipline and student and personnel expectations relative to academic honesty. Being a position to change the culture of the school and address the inclination of some students, I had an obligation and desire to intervene on behalf of the students who were being hurt by an unacceptable student practice. Failure to do so would provide a message to the students who were academically honest that their work was not valued, but that the final grade was what counted and that the means to the end of an assignment or test did not matter. This is an unacceptable solution.

Control

As noted in the this paper, the various interventions made over the past three months at ABC high school have directly and indirectly changed the attitude and morale of the students and staff in the building. Students who have been academically honest feel like they have been vindicated. The incidents of academic dishonestly have decreased by over 50% when compared to the same time last year at the peak point of the problem.

That which was learned and changed to address the problem of academic dishonesty will be part of the daily operation of the school and a permanent part of the school culture. For a relatively small economic cost of a software program, cost of staff development and time of teachers and interventions, the benefits outweighed the costs by a large margin. When looking at the results so far, I am pleased with the interventions, but I would have to take into consideration next time items of rebuttal and knowledge of foreign languages on the part of students who may use their knowledge to circumvent any prevention program.

References

Aaron, R. M. & Georgia, R. T. (1994, Winter). Administrator perceptions of student academic dishonesty in collegiate institutions. NASPA Journal, 31 (2), 83-91.

Bricault, D. (1998, March). Legal aspects of academic dishonesty:policies, perceptions, and realities. [Online Article]. Retrieved November 7, 2004, from http://campus.northpark.edu/esl/dishnst.html

CAI Research. (2001).[Online Article] Retrieved November 7, 2004, from The Center for Academic Integrity Website: http://www.academicintegrity.org/cai_research.asp

Clabaugh, G. K. & Rozycki, E. G. (2001). Preventing plagiarism and cheating: an instructors guide (2nd ed.).Oreland, PA: NewFoundations Press.

Harris, R. A. (2001). The plagiarism handbook. Los Angeles, CA: Pyrczak Publishing.

Hinman, L.M. (2003). Ethics (3rd ed.) Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning.

Hinman, L. M.(2000, November 2). Academic integrity and the World Wide Web. [Online Article]. Retrieved June 16, 2002, from http://ethics.acusd.edu/presentations/cai2000/index_files/frame.htm

Hricko, M. (1998). Internet plagiarism: strategies to deter academic misconduct. [Online Article]. Retrieved November 7, 2004, from http://www.mtsu.edu/%7Eitconf/proceed98/mhricko.html

Kaplin, W.A.&Lee, B.A. (1995). The law of higher education. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.

Lanthrop, A. & Foss, K. (2000). Student cheating and plagiarism in the internet era. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.

McCabe, D. L. & Trevino, L. K. (1993, September/October). Academic dishonesty: honor codes and other contextual influences. Journal of Higher Education, 64 (5), 522-38.

McCabe, D. L. & Trevino, L. K. (1996, April).What we know about cheating in college. Change, 28 (1), 28-33.

Payne, S.L. & Nantz,K.S. (1994, Summer). Social accounts and metaphors about teaching. College Teaching, 42 (3), 90-6.

Walker, W. (2001, September 3). Teachers fight back against 'rampant' cyber-cheating. Toronto Star, A07. [Online Article]. Retrieved October 28, 2001, from Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe database.

 

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