Award-winning Study Sheds Light on Academic Dishonesty in Canada

A recent study by Sociology and Social Studies faculty members Rozzet Jurdi and Henry Chow, and PhD candidate Sam Hage, sheds light on a troublesome thorn in the side of post-secondary education, namely student academic dishonesty. Their study "Academic Dishonesty in the Canadian Classroom: Behaviours of a Sample of University Students," published in the Canadian Journal of Higher Education, was recently awarded that journal's Edward F. Sheffield Award for best article of the year.

In order to shed light on the problem of academic dishonesty in the Canadian context, Jurdi, Chow and Hage anonymously surveyed over three hundred undergraduate students from various faculties at an unnamed Canadian university. They aimed to test several working theories about how and why some students cheat. What they found was illuminating: “…when counting the total number of students who admitted academic dishonesty of any form,” they write, “…more than half (52.2%) of the students engaged in at least one of the three types of academic dishonesty surveyed [cheating, plagiarism, falsification] during their tenure at university” (16).  

In analysing their findings, the authors found that one of the biggest predictors of student cheating was related to the peer group, specifically, what was considered “normal” behaviour among a circle of peers. They write, “…observing peers cheat or getting asked for help cheat[ing] sends the message that cheating is the ‘norm’” (23). Encouragingly, the authors found that students were less likely to cheat when they had “high self-efficacy” (24), or confidence in their own abilities, and were more personally invested in the learning and growth opportunities offered by a university education (25).

These and other findings lead them to suggest several ways in which universities can foster an academic and social climate that is inhospitable to cheating, not least of which is helping students develop a sense of their potential to succeed. They write, “…based upon the literature review and our own findings, it appears that helping students acquire the confidence and skills to do well has the potential of lowering academic dishonesty by fostering their self-efficacy and levels of interest and by encouraging them to understand the intrinsic value of education” (28).

Rozzet Jurdi, H. Sam Hage and Henry P.H. Chow (2011) “Academic Dishonesty in the Canadian Classroom: Behaviours of a Sample of University Students,” Canadian Journal of Higher Education 41(3): 1-35.