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Survey Finds Cheating Among Students At All GPA Levels 333

An anonymous reader writes "Over a third of undergraduate students admitted to some form of cheating at one of America's top research universities, according to a survey published November in the journal Science and Engineering Ethics (abstract). The researchers expected to find more cheating among the top-performing group — and at the minimum at least some students with excellent grades cheated. Not so. As it turned out, the overall cheating rate was similar to that found in other studies, but the types of cheating and stated reasons for cheating were all over the map. Researchers uncovered one trend among the cheaters: the perception that teaching assistants either ignored or didn't care about cheating."
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Survey Finds Cheating Among Students At All GPA Levels

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  • Academic Steriods (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) on Monday November 07, 2011 @06:49PM (#37979068) Homepage Journal
    Not to mention that many students use adderall and other amphetimines, even methamphetamine as study aids, especially during finals and almost always without prescription.
    • by Zaphod The 42nd ( 1205578 ) on Monday November 07, 2011 @07:05PM (#37979246)
      Yeah, these should be HUGE red flags that something has gone far, far awry with our education system. Students using performance enhancing drugs for quizzes and tests instead of football games? Really? It would be unheard of and appalling just a few decades ago. Now its practically accepted common practice.

      If ALL the students in a class feel they have to take performance enhancing drugs just to keep up, then we are putting students into an exceptionally damaging and destructive learning environment. This is going to have untold many negative consequences to our society and these students later in life.

      Classes barely teach anymore, they're just practice for test taking.
      • Re:Academic Steriods (Score:5, Interesting)

        by CannonballHead ( 842625 ) on Monday November 07, 2011 @07:37PM (#37979580)

        Those are unrelated?

        Sports: athletes use [illegal, or at the very least, not allowed in the league] drugs to improve their performance. Only problems occur if they get caught.

        Kids follow sports. And drug usage things. Apparently, it's ok - unless you get caught. Why NOT use them in academics then?

        Perhaps the real issue is that we don't value "work" and "learning" and such. I went through school; I took no drugs, I was extremely busy, and I got good grades. I learned a lot. I didn't just practice test taking.

        The people I knew that used caffeine a lot either (1) worked all the time to support themselves while going to school or (2) generally partied/goofed off until the night before the test, at which time they pulled an all-nighter. Group #2 was significantly larger than #1. I actually only knew one person I'd put into group #1.

        I don't think we can simply assume that students are doing the drug thing in order to "keep up" because they can't otherwise. I have met tons of students who pass off education as unnecessary, worthless, stupid, and a waste of time. It's not shocking that grades would be lower and drugs would be used as "study aids" ... as a substitute for the real "study aid," known as "time."

      • More likely than not the people who are taking these drugs are using them because the spend the rest of their time partying and socializing, not just to compete on an even playing ground. The people who budget their time properly and take their education seriously still end up with As. The people who want to party all week and take drugs to do better on the test end up with a C. Perhaps without the drugs they would have completely failed. But it's not like in sports where the drugs are creating super humans
        • Wrong. I just graduated from a university and I know firsthand at least a dozen very intelligent students who used Adderall without a prescription purely in order to keep up with a perceived disadvantage vs other students doing the same, or otherwise unrealistic class expectations. They were most certainly NOT the students slacking off and drinking all the time, partying. Those students failed. These students cared SO MUCH, were SO WORRIED about failing, that they would do physical harm to themselves to kee
      • Are you saying students should care more about football?

        As far as I can tell, the concept of cramming and pulling an all nighter with the aid of coffee has been around at least 300 years. I would wager 99% of students have used caffeine at some point to sharpen their senses while studying. Is it really that shocking and appalling that some students use more advanced chemistry for the same goals?
        • Is it shocking that highschool or middleschool kids would do physical harm to themselves to try to keep up academically? YES.

          I didn't mean to insinuate that performance enhancing drugs for football was okay. Merely that most kids are more interested in football, band, videogames, etc. than doing academics. My point was, if they're taking performance enhancing drugs for something most kids don't even care about, then things have gotten rather dangerous. At least with football, you could just say the kid h
  • Students cheating and getting higher grades.

    • Re:Imagine that (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Cryacin ( 657549 ) on Monday November 07, 2011 @06:51PM (#37979108)
      Yep, of course they don't care. University is not really about grades, but forming skills for later in life.

      If the skills you want to form mainly involve fraud and deception rather than forging the framework for your life ahead, then they aren't going to work hard for $10/hr to ty and catch you so that you can further develop those skills.
      • But what if they are planning on going into politics? :)
      • by Sir_Sri ( 199544 )

        it's more like $22/hr but you're limited to being paid about 10 hours a week.

        And it's not like we don't care, it's that we don't always find it, and if we do we make a judgement call on whether or not it was actually a violation or not. We just gave students a programming assignment on sockets, connecting to one of our own servers and doing some stuff. I'm sure half the class copied their generic socket connect code and simple UI verbatim from the Oracle/sun website, which they might think is cheating, b

    • Students cheating and getting higher grades.

      yet the headline says cheating occurs at all GPA levels. So unless cheating is so sporadic (i.e. negligible) that it does not alter your GPA then this seems to suggest that cheating has as much chance of raising your GPA as lowering it. that is, on average it does not work, but the average is composed of individuals it "helped" and those that it "hurt" in terms of GPA.

      • Or, rather, that it raises everyone's GPA the same amount, or would if it wasn't for the curves most classes grade on. In any decently taught class, exam questions should be made so that cheating has only a minimal effect anyways (it's rather harder to cheat on essay questions, for instance, than multiple choice concept ones.)
      • Pretty much correct. I knew someone who cheated on homeworks... basically copied all the answers. Then the test comes around and she realized she didn't actually know much of anything and ended up failing it. So she did well on the homeworks but failed the exam. Probably would have been better off not cheating at all.
      • Not necessarily. It could mean that it always raises your result, but some people shouldn't even have got in in the first place so need help to be at the bottom.

        That said, I've taught a couple of university courses (in the UK) and I found that the weakest students were the most likely to copy someone else's work. When students are stuck, they ask someone for help. Some of them asked me, others asked their friends. Students tended to form friendships with people at a similar academic level. If a strong

  • How much of the cheater is in the filler classes?

    How meany class is there cheating where just the final test is the grade?

    • by Missing.Matter ( 1845576 ) on Monday November 07, 2011 @07:05PM (#37979242)

      A little off topic, but there's no such thing as a filler class. Only people who don't realize the full value of a well rounded education seem to consider breadth courses as a waste of time. At a time I did too, but instead of going into those classes with a bad attitude I went in and learned as much as possible. Sure I wasn't interested in things like social psychology, medieval history or graphic media, but I can talk with a lot more people about topics they're interested in because of taking courses like that.

      And at most schools, if you have enough foresight you can craft your breadth courses to reinforce your major. One of my history courses I could take for my Physics breadth requirements just happened to be about the ethics of the Manhattan project... something every physicist should have to learn.

      Regardless, people who choose to only expose themselves to a single subject or viewpoint are almost universally boring or close minded, or some combination of the two.

      • some people cheat on the history courses or off breadth courses so they have the time to work there main courses? Why wastes time of that 10+ page history paper when you have a big work load on your main courses.

        • You usually only take one breadth course a semester. It's not that big a deal. In my experience people who complain they don't have enough time really mean they don't know how to properly manage their time and prioritize their life. I dual majored in physics and computer engineering at at top ten university and worked part time on the side and yet managed to find time to write history papers. People who resort to cheating either deserve the lower grade for being weaker or should spend less time partying or
        • some people cheat on the history courses or off breadth courses so they have the time to party? Why wastes time of that 10+ page history paper when you have a big party to go to.

          It doesn't really matter how you justify it. Some people do the work assigned to them, and others feel it is beneath them because they have something more important to do. A university won't let a student take only science classes and graduate, nor will they allow only history classes to get a degree. Virtually every academic
      • There are indeed filler classes. Consider that some people who go to college already have the skills in question but are forced to take the class for the sake of the credit.

        English 101, for example, is a class I would have totally cheated if I knew I could have gotten away with it. We were forced to write canned responses to Dick and Jane stories and the grades were wildly inconsistent, even though the quality of the writings were consistent. At one point a group of students complained, saying that the
        • It seems you're complaining more about the quality of a particular course. My university had an English 101 type requirement and my writing style definitely improved as a consequence of that course. Since it was a university requirement there were students from all disciplines in my (smallish) size class and I heard a lot of complaining like "this is BS I shouldn't have to be here." We had to do a lot of peer review and from what I could tell, the ones who complained the most were the ones who needed the co
          • This. I had an English writing course at a junior college. I had done a fair amount of writing in high school, wrote tolerably well, knew how to use proper grammar and punctuation, etc. Most of the students could just barely put together a proper sentence on paper; most of them could not write a full paragraph that actually made a distinct point. Most of the time, I heard that the students felt like the class was a waste of time. I guess they figured they would never need to communicate in a correctly

      • by gangien ( 151940 )

        So, you work in academics then?

      • by Hojima ( 1228978 )

        Oh wow, you can talk with a lot more people! I sure feel a lot better about my education stalling. I bet that's what colleges have in mind when they shove courses down our throats that will never be remembered because we only have enough motivation to cram a day before the test and forget it. There's no way it has anything to do with the revenue that they gain from tuition.

        Seriously, if I want to learn about history, I'm old enough to research on my own. Colleges are there to confirm that you have the prope

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by turing_m ( 1030530 )

        I agree that these classes aren't filler. They are political indoctrination masquerading as "breadth" or whatever they want to call it. And as you say, most engineers would just craft their major to make as many of these classes reinforce their major as best they could. For those classes they couldn't, they'd either lap up, grit their teeth or mindlessly absorb the Marxist viewpoint, depending on their predilection.

      • A little off topic, but there's no such thing as a filler class. Only people who don't realize the full value of a well rounded education seem to consider breadth courses as a waste of time.

        That's your own opinion. Some people find no value in some classes because they believe that they'll never use them.

        I wouldn't want to bother learning things that both don't interest me and that I don't believe I will use (and I'm willing to take that risk).

        Regardless, people who choose to only expose themselves to a single subject or viewpoint are almost universally boring or close minded, or some combination of the two.

        Again, your own opinion.

        • Not to mention that some people don't want to take the classes that they see as mere "filler" because it would take time away from the things that they do care about and will actually use. Not everyone cares so much about talking to others about things that they don't even care about/won't use.

        • A little off topic, but there's no such thing as a filler class. Only people who don't realize the full value of a well rounded education seem to consider breadth courses as a waste of time.

          That's your own opinion.

          I would say that is also the "opinion" of every state academic board in the US, along with almost every education board in every country in the world. I also think it ceases to be an opinion when you can use a multitude of data points to prove that a broad education makes for a better life. YMMV

    • by iONiUM ( 530420 )

      Judging by your previous also incoherent comments, including:

      "When I used to have cable it sucked they cut out the sound even on the local channels so you can't even hear the local live weather report that is more detailed then then in there is a alert in $county."

      I'm starting to think you're a bot, or, a partial bot. Cyborg.

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Monday November 07, 2011 @06:57PM (#37979156)

    Tech the test and just reading from the book lead to it being all about cheating or cramming for the test.

    • See, this is what happens when you start publishing statistics about the most active commenters. People like the parent try to get to the top by posting single sentences that look like they were constructed by markov chains.
  • No surprise (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Monday November 07, 2011 @06:57PM (#37979160) Homepage Journal

    The brighter the student, the more devious the means of cheating.

    Also, I've seen (and caught) students cheating to get into a prestige university school with a highly competetive enrollment. The greater the reward, the greater the desperate measures sought to achieve that award. One student in particular was found guilty of Academic Fraud and expelled from the university - criminal charges may or may not have been pressed as a follow up.

    One can well imagine the anger and frustration of those students who didn't make it, when they find someone did and did so through cheating.

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Monday November 07, 2011 @06:58PM (#37979184)

    So people are forced to show what they learned and not just show it on paper.

  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Monday November 07, 2011 @07:02PM (#37979210) Journal

    They did a study of cheating, eh? With a survey? How do we know they didn't just fake the data?

  • And, I don't mean getting busted by the graders. I mean, if you're not really learning the content, how do you get away with not understanding the fundamentals when you get to higher class levels. Seems like it would eventually catch up with you.

    • No, a staggering amount of students clearly don't have the necessary understanding of the underlying material in upper level classes. Somehow they manage to copy or group-project their way through, and most will even graduate. Then they get to the workforce, and they have absolutely nothing to offer... *sigh*

      This is why degrees are about as worthless as the paper they're printed on now. We've watered it down too much, it used to be having a degree was a certification that you had knowledge and skill, and
      • At least then employer get people who have REAL experience and skills. Not just paper skills.

      • No, a staggering amount of students clearly don't have the necessary understanding of the underlying material in upper level classes. Somehow they manage to copy or group-project their way through, and most will even graduate. Then they get to the workforce, and they have absolutely nothing to offer... *sigh*

        Most places call theses people Managers.

      • it used to be having a degree was a certification that you had knowledge and skill

        I don't think that was ever the case. Even if they didn't cheat, it is still possible that they are poor at solving problems in the real world.

    • by ackthpt ( 218170 )

      And, I don't mean getting busted by the graders. I mean, if you're not really learning the content, how do you get away with not understanding the fundamentals when you get to higher class levels. Seems like it would eventually catch up with you.

      The higher the level, the more you must memorize and find means of cheating, which in iself may prove to be more effort required than necessary to understand the material. I'm certain a lovely play could be made of this just lemme plagiarise some Shakespeare...

  • The slashdot summary is attributed to Soulskill, but parts of it are taken directly from TFA. Using quoted material without attribution...kind of ironic, given the topic.

    TFA, including the parts copied into the summary, is so poorly written as to be unintelligible, and if you want to look at the article, only the abstract is available without going through a paywall. So...not much to discuss, is there?

  • by bjorniac ( 836863 ) on Monday November 07, 2011 @07:06PM (#37979264)

    I TA'd classes during my PhD. I'm in no way surprised that there is a perception that TAs don't care about cheating - the fact is that very few of them really want to catch cheaters.

    I used to try hard to catch people cheating during exams, on homeworks etc, but this is actually very difficult to do. Typically you have hundreds of papers/worksheets to grade in a week and if you don't get two identical ones in a row, the odds of you remembering that a solution was done in the same way by two students is fairly low. It sticks out when two students get the same wrong answer, but even then it's difficult to prove.

    However, the main thing that turns TAs off catching cheats is what happens when you do. First, you have to prove that the students in question were cheating. This is a LOT of extra work on top of your normal workload which usually exceeds your contracted hours by about 50%. Then you have to report it to the ethics committee in your department. This takes a long time, the student has the right to challenge you on everything - and believe me you'll get everything thrown at you from claims of sexual harassment to racism because you're accusing some kid of cheating. This has the knock-on effect of showing up on your SRTE (student rating of teaching effectiveness) if the cheater has friends in the class, and so you get pulled in to see the dept. head at the end of the semester because 6-7 students have called you racist on your evaluations, which in turn doesn't help if you want recommendation letters for a teaching job afterwards. Even worse if the kid is on a sports scholarship, you'll get the coach attesting to his 'good character' - so there's no way he was cheating, you just have a thing against him for some bizarre reason.

    Finally, when you show that two students mysteriously answered the same wrong way to the same questions in a row on a test, and you caught them talking during the test, what punishment does the university give out? They make the kid re-sit the test. So the upshot of your efforts are that you've wasted a whole bunch of your time, got a ton of hassle that you didn't need, and the cheater simply has longer than his peers to prepare for a new test which the lecturer is often too lazy to make sufficiently different from the previous one, so the cheater is ready for the questions.

    I'd still try to catch cheaters as often as I could, because it was the right thing to do. But it was so much trouble for most people, and you became a 'troublemaker' if you did it, that most of us didn't want the hassle. Even when you explained to the classmates that the cheater was cheapening their degree and ruining their scores, they still thought that you were some kind of monster for punishing their friend.

    • I was a TA as well. It's very easy to suspect cheating, but it's hard to prove. I thought the danger of false positives was too high to act against people who I'm pretty sure were cheating.

    • I've never suspected students of cheating during exams, but I do notice it when grading homeworks and two students who turn in their homework assignment one after another have identical wrong answers, or answers identical to the solutions manual which any determined student can usually get.

      Most of the time I did not take action when I suspected it, due the lack of complete certainty, the hassle you describe, and the fact that many professors did not encourage taking it seriously since the test scores were w

    • What you describe is certainly true for TAs, but it can be even worse for the Prof, particularly if the evidence is not iron-clad and the cheating egregious. And if the media get wind of a prof being accused of racism and sexual harassment, you can be sure that the story won't be about frivolous and baseless allegations from a student caught cheating.

      When I was a TA we used to catch cheaters on a fairly regular basis, but typically it was not worth the effort to take official action, so the students were es

  • Some cheaters are good at what they do, and so they get an A. Some of them are good, just not great, and they get a B. Some of them are alright, but not really much better than average and they end up getting a C. Some of them just didn't try hard enough, and they get a D. Then there are the cheaters who get caught, and they get an F.

    It's not surprising that cheating crosses all GPA levels. Only if we could catch them all, would they all be failed.

  • I would bet at least another third are brimming with resentment because of the third that is cheating. This is unfortunately one more reason that so many bright students become bitter and cynical.
  • And they act like theirs is the only class you have. One of my friends is taking five classes in graduate school, and she had five papers due in the same week - followed by three midterms.
  • If memory serves... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Monday November 07, 2011 @07:23PM (#37979434) Homepage

    Memories can be tricky, but my recollection of high school was that the "smart kids" who got good grades were generally the most rampant cheaters. These were the kids who were in the honors society and went to ivy league schools, and they cheated every damned day so I wouldn't expect that the behavior changed when they went to college. It was almost an institution: They would copy each other's homework at lunch. They would help each other plagiarize the papers they wrote. They would get together and devise ways to sneak answers into tests. It was cooperative and competitive cheating, as much a part of the process as studying.

    If you asked them about it, they'd tell you that it was because they were taking tons of AP courses, and they didn't have time to do it all. Of course, part of the problem was the school's approach to honors/AP coursework: it wasn't necessarily more advanced, it was often enough just *more*. More memorizing, more busywork, and more time consuming. There were kids going home with 10 hours of homework for the night, and so they'd cope by splitting up the work and copying each others' answers.

    And I'll repeat: these were the "smart kids". They were the "good kids". In a sense, what they were doing *was* smart. They were stuck in a bureaucratic system, and so they gamed the system. They got what they wanted, even if it wasn't "fair".

  • I mean I guess they're counting only science courses but my impression of the coursesin the language requirement that was inflicted on me is that more than 30% were engaging in "Classic" Cheating. (IE copying off of others, looking at the book during tests. Having someone else do their homework.) Actually if you count in what I call class 2 cheating (IE taking a class where you already know the subject matter very well and are only taking it for an easy A) then I'd bet at least in the language courses I too
  • by gmhowell ( 26755 ) <> on Monday November 07, 2011 @07:41PM (#37979622) Homepage Journal

    I wasn't cheating, I was crowd sourcing my exam.

    I wasn't cheating, I was engaged in a team building exercise.

  • I hope they were either monitoring the survey takers, or had them isolated while filling it out. Otherwise, how will we know how many of the people taking the survey just cheated off their neighbor?
  • by sensei moreh ( 868829 ) on Monday November 07, 2011 @07:58PM (#37979760)
    I never worried about students copying homework from one another. The proportion of a student's grade that came from homework was typically low enough that wouldn't have mattered if every student in the class turned in an identical assignment. However, I'd often use multiple versions of exams; especially when teaching in classrooms where students were seated close together. Surprisingly, when offered a choice between multiple choice exams (with no partial credit) and work-the-problem exams where partial credit was a possibility, most classes opted for multiple choice, even after I warned them that I've probably made every common mistake they're likely to make, so that my wrong answers would often look reasonable. Overall, grades on multiple choice exams seemed to be lower by about half a letter grade.
  • teaching assistants (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I'm an instructor at a university, and about 10 minutes before I saw this story, I overheard some TA's deciding that trying to deal with the cheaters wasn't worth the extra time it would take in consultation with the professor.

    Yep, the biggest thing enabling cheating is that it's a major inconvenience to punish.

  • Cheating is prevalent at all levels of the economy. The students themselves are being cheating when you consider how much they are paying for their education.
  • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Monday November 07, 2011 @08:24PM (#37979998)

    This one time we took 27 hours studying every problem in the book- including making a test of all the example problems and doing them until we could see the answer and write the problem.

    For 2 of of us- it turned out the professor had gotten cute and made a test entirely out of example problems. They finished in 15 minutes and aced it. I finished mine in about 40 minutes and aced it.

    Oh wait.. I guess that wasn't cheating. And I was working a full time job taking 13 hours at the time. So anyone who isn't working full time just doesn't have an excuse.

    The closest I came to cheating ever was buying solution books with every category of problem with solutions and working them until I understood them and buying an extremely powerful calculator which was allowed.

    Cheating doesn't pay. You don't know the material - it makes the next class even harder. The only class you'd be justified to cheat in would be one that didn't matter at all to your degree. In which case- why are you taking it?

    The more you know- the less afraid you are and the easier later classes will be.

    Also was a student judge for one cheating case. Was a girl- she even copied the exact errors from the other student. She got an F for the class and that was it. I think that's fair-- the penalty should not be completely draconian. Kids make mistakes.

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Monday November 07, 2011 @09:27PM (#37980654)

    ... when I took the state PE license engineering fundamentals test. It was 8 hours, open book, bring your own calculator. This was back when calculators had battery sucking LED displays and you'd be lucky to get 8 hours out of them. So when they opened the doors to the test room, it was a mad scramble to grab a seat near a plug.

    I cheated. I brought a slide rule.

  • by littlewink ( 996298 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @02:54AM (#37982592)
    in my experience. As a group they were bright but completely amoral. In fact they are the first group whom I have ever seen who would sabotage each others' work (lab experiments, incorrect notes, etc.) whenever possible. Just the sort of people you want as doctors.

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson