June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.322.1 - 11.322.13
Cheating in College and its Influence on Ethical Behavior in Professional Engineering Practice
Research has demonstrated that engineering undergraduates report rates of cheating higher than those in most other disciplines, and that students who cheat in college are more likely to make unethical decisions as professionals. To explore the relationship between academic and professional ethical behavior, the authors launched the Work Experience Study (WES) that examines students' decision-making processes in situations where they are tempted to engage in unethical behavior in academic and professional settings. The population sampled for WES includes engineering undergraduates with substantial work experience in engineering. Such a sampling strategy enables us to make comparisons between academic and work-place scenarios based on responses that are both contemporary and relevant.
Previously the authors presented findings from the study which suggest that individuals who reported cheating in high school were much more likely to do so in college and in the work- place, as compared to those who indicated they had not cheated in high school. In addition, these findings identified similarities between the pressures to cheat reported by students for an academic scenario and a work-place scenario. This paper focuses on the interaction of several variables involved in this decision, including prior engagement in academic dishonesty, the perception of unethical behavior among one’s peers, the context of the unethical behavior, and the frequency with which respondents are tempted to engage in unethical behavior. The results suggest that while there are many similarities in the decision-making processes involved at the academic and professional level, there are also substantial differences in both the nature and magnitude of the relationships between predictor variables. Such a finding points to the need for further research into developing a better understanding of the complex interplay of psychological, moral, and situational factors on the ethical decision-making of students and professionals alike.
For as long as tests and homework have been a part of higher education, students have been finding ways to cheat on these assessments. What has only more recently become apparent is that the extent to which individuals engage in cheating is dependent on the field of study of the individual. For example, Bowers1 and McCabe2 both showed that engineering students self- reported significantly higher rates of cheating than did students in other disciplines (excluding business). Explanations for elevated cheating among engineering students include higher work loads, the vocational orientation of the discipline, and the grade orientation (as opposed to learning orientation) of engineering students. However, the interaction of these and other explanatory factors is not understood, leaving faculty and academic institutions with little more than a trial-and-error approach to reducing cheating among engineering students.
Furthermore, recent research among professional disciplines (e.g. business, engineering, medicine, etc.) has revealed a correlation between engagement in unethical behavior in college
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