About the Conference
The Biennial VMI Leadership Conference is a top tier conference held every other year, attracting the faculty and cadets of the nation’s top schools, representatives of the public and private sector, military, and non-profit audiences. The conference is designed to explore themes relating to ethical leadership.
This 2012 conference theme, "Cheating, Lying and Honor in America's High Schools, Colleges and Universities," highlighted what many have referred to as a national epidemic. Cheating is real problem with far-reaching implications that cannot be ignored. A major goal of this conference was to begin the discussion – to give students and faculty alike, a chance to get it right.
Cheating in America's ClassroomsThe Cheating Epidemic
Cheating in America’s classrooms, in high schools and on college campuses, has become an epidemic. Researchers estimate 60% of high school students cheated on a test in the past year and one-third plagiarized from the internet. From 70% to 83% of college undergraduates cheat and in business schools 56% admit academic dishonesty in the past year. People who cheat as students are more likely to cheat as adults than those who do not.
J. Stephens & H. Nicholson, “Cases of incongruity: exploring the divide between adolescents’ beliefs and behavior related to academic dishonesty,” Educational Studies, 34(4): 361-376.
G. Lovett-Hooper, M. Komarraju, R. Weston, & S. Dollinger, “Is Plagiarism a Forerunner of Other Deviance? Imagined Futures of Academically Dishonest Students,” Ethics & Behavior, 17(3):323-336).
A great deal of research indicates there is no “cheater profile.” Males may be more likely to cheat than females, but results vary. There is no difference between males and females. There is no difference between low and high achievers. There is no difference between students who think cheating is wrong cheat and those who don’t. Internally motivated students who are trying to master a skill or competency are less likely to cheat than students who are driven by external forces like grades, test results, or a high-paying job.
D. Rettinger, A. Jordan, F. Peschiera, “Evaluating the Motivation of Other Students to Cheat: A Vignette Experiment,” Research in Higher Education, 45(8): 873-890.
Stephens & Nicholson; Rettinger, Jordan, & Peschiera.
Why do students cheat?
Students cheat for a variety of reasons. Some cheat to make a good impression. Some blame their teachers. Others blame the situation. They cheat to get good grades. They cheat to get accepted into elite universities. They cheat because they see others getting away with it. They cheat to have the chance at a good job. They cheat because they have a fear of failure. They cheat because they are more worried about grades than learning new skills.
Wowra, S., “Moral Identities, Social Anxiety, And Academic Dishonesty Among American College Students, Ethics & Behavior, 17(3):303-321.
 Stephens & Nicholson.
What can be done to curb the epidemic?
A combination of teacher and student behaviors has been shown to reduce the incidence of cheating. Teachers need to tell students what constitutes cheating. Teachers need to discuss with students why cheating is morally wrong and emphasize the importance of developing a skill or competency rather than grades or results on tests. Teachers should use interim goals and constructive feedback.
Stephens & Nicholson.
Unless the students take ownership and become involved, the likelihood of curbing the problem is greatly reduced.
Leadership 2010: Answering the Nation's Call for Leaders of Character