22 SES 08 C, The Dark side of Academia: Cheating and Unethical behaviour
Academic dishonesty is a widespread phenomenon in higher education. The results from a number of US, European and Russian studies demonstrate that more than 50% of sampled students admitted cheating whilst at university (McCabe et al., 2001; Marsden, Carroll & Neill, 2005; Roschina, 2013).
Cheating and plagiarism as well as other dishonest practices of students at a university lead to negative effects. According to Whitley & Keith-Spiegel, students who cheat at the universities are more likely to be engaged in unethical practices at their future workplaces (2002).Furthermore, the reputation of universities is at the stake when cases of academic misconduct are publicized (Cizek,2003). Moreover, student academic misconduct leads to the graduation of unqualified professionals (Cizek, 2003; Starovoytova & Arimi, 2017).
Due to these reasons, researchers all over the world attempt to find more effective ways to prevent students from dishonest behavior at the university (Altbach, 2015; McCabe, 2012). However, the prevalence of academic dishonesty varies by country (Denisova-Schmidt, 2017). Therefore, cross-cultural studies of student dishonest behavior are widespread. However, they are mostly limited to comparing the prevalence of student academic misconduct and their attitudes towards it in different countries (McCabe et al., 2008).
Very few studies investigate national differences of the way students justify their dishonest acts at the university. The knowledge about these differences may help to develop effective methods for preventing academic misconduct in the “diverse classroom”, which is especially significant for student exchange programs. Moreover, there is also a possibility of applying methods for preventing student academic dishonesty in different educational contexts.
The purpose of this study is to identify differences in students` justifications of engaging in dishonest behavior at the university in different countries.
This study aims at addressing the following research questions: What are the similarities and differences of students` justification of cheating behavior at the university in different countries?
What neutralization techniques do students use to justify dishonest behavior in different national contexts? What caused these similarities and differences? How are students` national differences related to their justification of dishonest behavior?
Neutralization theory was adopted to explain students` justification of involvement in dishonest acts in the university. The theory of neutralization was chosen as the most theoretically suitable for this research.. The reasons for choosing this theoretical framework are: firstly, this theory can be easily applied to different national settings, so the findings can be compared without any difficulties (Diekhoff et al., 1999). Secondly, this theory allows explaining students` justification of involvement in dishonest acts at the university.
For the first time, the concept of neutralization was presented in the work by Sykes and Matza (1957), they showed how the process of neutralization relieves a person from responsibility for dishonest behavior by eliminating or diminishing their feeling of guilt for wrongdoing. Sykes and Matza (1957) also identified neutralization techniques that are used by people to justify their deviant behavior. The neutralization techniques include:
1. The Denial of Responsibility;
2. The Denial of Injury;
3. The Denial of the Victim;
4. The Condemnation of the Condemners;
5. The Appeal to Higher Loyalties
This study compares Russian and British students` justification of academic dishonesty. The choice of countries is determined firstly by the fact that these countries have different educational systems. Secondly, as previous research has demonstrated that more than 60% of Russian students confirmed involvement in academic dishonesty (Golunov, 2009) whereas only 40% of UK students admitted cheating at the university (Cosma et al., 2017; Salter et al.; 2001).
Thirdly, the possibility of adapting methods, used in Britain to prevent student academic dishonesty, in the Russian system of education.
Using snowball sampling technique, 15 students from Russia and 15 students from the UK were interviewed for this study. To be considered as a participant, individuals were required to be an undergraduate in business educational programmes in Russian or British universities, as previous studies have demonstrated that cheating is more prevalent among business students (Maloshonok, 2016; Cronan et al., 2018). The topic of academic dishonesty is rather sensitive so the favoured style of the interviews is informal and casual. The interview style is influenced both by the interpretive paradigm with its focus on "seeking understanding of the meanings of human actions and experiences, and on generating accounts of their meaning from the viewpoints of those involved" (Fossey et al, 2002, p.718) Semi-structured interviews were used for data collection. According to Gill et al. (2008), this type of interviews has some advantages such as pre-prepared key questions help to define the areas to be examined; also, it allows the interviewer the flexibility to ask additional questions in order to discover a response in more detail. Moreover, this approach confirms the information, which is already known and usually provides not only answers but the reasons for the answers. The length of the interviews ranged from 30 minutes to one hour. First interview questions were more generic asking about person’s previous academic and professional background and later on narrowing to the topics concerning academic misconduct, the attitudes towards academic dishonesty, the way university dealt with cheaters and whether or not the interviewee were engaged in cheating behaviours or witnessed other students` dishonesty. During the interviews, participants reflected upon their experiences of being involved in academic dishonesty or other students` cheating. Content analysis approach is used to identify themes and patterns among transcribed interview recordings. Multiple coders are used to identify themes and patterns.
Preliminary findings reveal both national differences and similarities in cheating behaviour and its justification. Compared to British students, Russian students reported more incidents of cheating on exams, showed a greater tendency to neutralize dishonest behaviour and greater indifference to the other students` cheating. The cheating actions that used students in Russia and the UK were different, which may be due to different systems of education. For example, providing false information for exam date delay by British students or using a mobile phone on the exam by Russian students. Our data also demonstrate national similarities. Both countries rated the fear of punishment as an effective deterrent. The most common response to observed dishonest behaviour was to disregard it by both Russian and British students. However, more British students stated that they would take active actions to confront cheaters by telling to academic or administrative staff of the university about it. There is also a possibility to develop a classification of neutralization techniques used by students. Moreover, this study may make some suggestions on how to reduce academic misconduct in “diverse classrooms” and make some recommendations for the faculty and administrative members how to foster academic integrity on campuses.
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