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Cheating In College And Its Influence On Ethical Behavior In Professional Engineering Practice

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

New Horizons in Academic Integrity

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.322.1 - 11.322.13



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Paper Authors


Trevor Harding Kettering University

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Dr. Trevor S. Harding is Associate Professor of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at Kettering University where he teaches courses in engineering materials and manufacturing. Dr. Harding's research interests include wear phenomenon in orthopeadic implants, ethical development in engineering undergraduates, and pedagogical innovations in environmental education. Currently, Trevor serves on the ERM Division Board of Directors and on the Kettering University Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Advisory Board.

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Cynthia Finelli University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Cynthia J. Finelli is Managing Director of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching North and Associate Research Scientist of Engineering Education at University of Michigan. Her current research interests include evaluating methods to improve teaching, exploring ethical decision-making in engineering, developing a tool for comprehensive assessment of team-member effectiveness, and assessing the effect of the first year experience on under-represented student retention. She serves on the Executive Board of the Educational Research and Methods Division (ERM) of ASEE and was the ERM Division Program Co-Chair for the 2003 Frontiers in Education Conference and the 2006 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition.

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Donald Carpenter Lawrence Technological University

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Dr. Carpenter is an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering. Dr. Carpenter also serves as Chair of the Educational Innovation Collaborative at LTU and Coordinator of the Civil Engineering Assessment Program. He is actively involved in ASEE and serves as Faculty Advisor for the ASCE Student Chapter at LTU. His research interests involve academic integrity, assessment tools, urban stream restoration, and watershed processes.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

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

Harding, T., & Finelli, C., & Carpenter, D. (2006, June), Cheating In College And Its Influence On Ethical Behavior In Professional Engineering Practice Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--357

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