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Perception of Academic Integrity among Students and Faculty: A Comparison of the Ethical Gray Area

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Ethical Reasoning and Responsibility

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

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Paper Authors


Teresa J. Ryan East Carolina University

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Dr. Teresa Ryan teaches mechanical engineering fundamentals such as Dynamics, Mechanics of Materials, Acoustics and Vibrations. She also focuses on technical communication skills within an engineering context. Her research interests include acoustics and the dynamics of complex structures. She uses optical measurement systems (laser Doppler vibrometry) for characterization of a wide variety of targets including percussion instruments, landmines/IED, and coupled resonator arrays.

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Colleen Janeiro East Carolina University

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Dr. Colleen Janeiro teaches engineering fundamentals such as Introduction to Engineering, Materials and Processes, and Statics. Her teaching interests include development of solid communication skills and enhancing laboratory skills.

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William E. Howard East Carolina University

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William E (Ed) Howard is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering at East Carolina University. He was previously a faculty member at Milwaukee School of Engineering, following a 14-year career as a design and project engineer with Thiokol Corporation, Spaulding Composites Company, and Sta-Rite Industries.

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As long as there is schooling, there will be cheating. At times, it may be a front page scandal such as recent willful fraud by administrators and teachers on high stakes testing in primary schools. At other times, a cheating incident may provide a teachable moment with regards to the ethics and integrity that are so critical to the engineering profession. As with many complex issues, cheating exists on a continuum of sorts: what is acceptable to one may be highly unacceptable to another, with a wide range of perceptions given a particular scenario. This work addresses related aspects of academic integrity at the university level. The authors first present a case study of a concerted effort to hold students accountable to a high standard and cultivate a culture of integrity and honor. This effort was initiated by the principal investigator within a [redacted] program at [name redacted] in the spring semester of 2014. The program’s core mechanics of materials class is at the epicenter of the effort. It is a required course for all students in the program, and it is the first engineering course in the typical sequence requiring rigorous formal laboratory reports. At the outset, casting a fine net for plagiarism of all sorts brought many students into the academic integrity process who were not accustomed to being considered cheaters. In response, the effort has evolved to include more thorough education on what constitutes plagiarism during the first weeks of the course. As a result, in the subsequent semesters, the culture of a higher standard is developing and the more rigorous expectation is generally known through the student population. The second focus of this work grew as natural questions from the effort to bring rigor to technical writing in the department. What is the perception of academic integrity issues among undergraduate students and faculty in the department and does it shift during a student’s career? Where on the spectrum of “unacceptable” do various actions fall? Is it “more ok” to copy a homework from a peer than it is to scour the internet for a solutions manual? A survey instrument was developed and used to elicit an indicator of the degree to which different actions are considered bad or ethically unacceptable. The populations compared include faculty, students in their first year of college, and upperclassmen who have taken the mechanics of materials class.

Ryan, T. J., & Janeiro, C., & Howard, W. E. (2016, June), Perception of Academic Integrity among Students and Faculty: A Comparison of the Ethical Gray Area Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25878

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