I Missed the Plagiarism Test. A Supplement: Summary of Articles

First:  Cheating Lessons, Part 1

In this work bMay 28, 2013, first, the opinions and research of Duke professor Dan Ariely are discussed and examined to show their importance and genius. The piece starts by introducing him and his ideas. A series of math problems given to random subjects who could complete them for small sums of money is then described. Those who were allowed to grade them on their own and shred the answer sheet ended up, of course, showing higher results. Next, the common, most popular methods and examinations of cheating are looked into. This means race, gender, fraternity vs. non-fraternity members, online vs. traditional students, etc. However, the opinion of Ariely, his colleagues, and his research outlines a different method and ultimate goal: to break down student environments when tasks are at hand. They state that “the amount of cheating in which human beings are willing to engage depends on the structure of our daily environment.” This is to suggest that characteristics of a student’s surroundings are the most important aspect of fighting academic dishonesty. Next, Lang goes into the fascinatingly odd “Princess Alice” experiment completed by three British researchers years ago. This experiment involved videotaping three groups of children all aged five to nine, who were told to stand six feet from a velcro target and throw a ball facing away from the target with their nondominant hand. Those who hit the target were promised a prize. For one group, a female adult observer sat in the corner and acted friendly. The next had no one else present in the room, and the last group of children was told there was an invisible observer in the room named “Princess Alice.” The Princess Alice group was questioned before and after the experiment, on whether or not they believed she was really there. So, the researchers were able to have four total groups: one unsupervised, one supervised, one with children who were uncertain or confident that they were supervised, and one with children that did not believe in the princess. Naturally, the rate of cheating was higher for those unsupervised compared to those supervised. Only one of the eleven children in the uncertain or confident on princess Alice group cheated, showing an interesting relationship with the presence of her and ethically completing the task. However, five of the seven who did not believe in Princess Alice cheated entirely. Lang closes by stating that these cheating-inducing conditions created by Ariely and others can actually be found in similar ways on our campuses. The next two pieces explore what these are and how to fix them. 

Second: Cheating Lessons, Part 2

Lang goes further into his exploration of academic dishonesty and how to solve it by describing yet another test. Psychologist George M. Diekhoff and a group of researchers in the United States and Japan surveyed students in both countries, America first and Japan a year later. They collected data from around 700 students, providing a solid basis and group to make conclusions from. The information was a question-based survey asking for responses on how and if students cheated. This is a common practice among universities across the world and served as a normal way for this test to be completed. The initial belief was that the American students would have a higher percentage of cheating based on the fact that younger students are more likely to be academically dishonest. Surprisingly, the data showed that 26% of American students claimed to have cheated in some way or another on their assessments, while 55% of Japanese students did the same. While Lang acknowledges that societal and cultural differences may be at play with these numbers, he points out a major influence on them that is foreshadowed and highlighted in part one of this three-part article. The environment of students and their tasks is the most relative and important factor when considering their honesty. Therefore the Diekhoff test uncovered that the Japanese students had been receiving a small number of exams and assessments worth large amounts, spread over time. On the other hand, the American students went through more tests, closer together, worth less. This is an extremely important part of the data received and in knowing it the truest conclusion was drawn. Obviously, more students are inclined to cheat and cheat frequently when the stakes are higher and the pressure greater. This is why it is commonly embraced to consistently test and monitor students with work. The researching world of cheaters is quite familiar and versed in the historical presence of the Chinese civil-service exams. These exams are a long and arduous process structured to achieve successful career opportunities in government. Those tests were infrequently offered and worked as a process of levels. This resulted in not only a typical presence of cheating and cheating methods but also intense policing and management of such cases. Sometimes lethal measures were taken. This incredibly backwards and senseless structure of testing is exactly what research and student performance is screaming not to do. Lang hints at his final part’s message and the ultimate message of his article: the same actions to reduce cheating produced from research are the same actions described by cognitive theorists to increase learning.

Third: Cheating Lessons, Part 3

The final part of Lang’s closer look at cheating in today’s schools and how to fix it opens up with another brief account on a test completed in the United States in 1963. Sociology student William J. Bowers sent one hundred institutions surveys to be taken by students.  Lang states that anyone grumbling over the declining morals of today’s students and growing more worried of that front should look at Bowers’ results. Roughly 75% of the students surveyed stated that they had been academically dishonest. Researcher Donald L. McCabe looked into this issue with colleagues from 2002 to 2010, collecting data produced from self-reported instances of students cheating. The results showed that 60-70% cheated, but of course, as McCabe has pointed out, the information is gathered much differently than in 1963. Therefore the numbers are mostly the same but still very troubling. Here Lang reiterates his parts one and two, in saying that the environment and setup of a class is everything, and tests should be low-stakes, spread out occurrences. While again making it clear that this is his opinion and nothing else, he transitions to the point hinted at towards the end of part two: this class style does not only decrease cheating but increases learning. What could be more ideal? While it is easily embraced by most that cheating is something to reduce and combat, the influences and contributing aspects are important to analyze more closely. Again Lang references an experiment, conducted by Henry L. Roediger III and Jeffrey D. Karpicke for Science magazine. Four groups were assembled and had study sessions to learn 40 pairs of English-Swahili words. One group had a usual test after each study session and then a final exam at the end for long term retention. Another group had the same tests but correctly stated pairs were removed from future tests. Both groups performed the same, and to the researchers proved that repeated testing, not repeated studying is the key to learning. This takeaway is Lang’s final point and ultimate opinion when tackling cheaters, but it is also a much more beneficial approach to the frequent testing method. Learning is the most important part of education. Students learn from not cheating, but more so from not even being tempted in the first place.

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