We Don’t Have a Cheating Problem

Is there a lot of cheating on our campus?  What’s a lot of cheating, anyway? Do students not know, or not care?  Is the internet making things worse? If you had asked these questions in the 1980’s, you might have received an answer, but it would have been at best an educated guess.  In 1990, Dr. Don McCabe started a career of groundbreaking research on academic integrity, which lasted until his retirement in 2014. It resulted in the creation of the leading assessment of academic integrity and hundreds of publications which answered questions like those above, and many others.  

Upon his retirement, McCabe asked that ICAI maintain the empirical basis of our field and his efforts to support institutions in their efforts to improve by continuing his research.  To honor Dr. McCabe, ICAI is undertaking a major revision of the survey with these goals in mind.

The structure of the survey will remain similar to McCabe’s original, but items and scales will be revised to serve the future.  Versions will continue to be implemented for students and faculty, and both groups will still be asked about particular cheating behaviors.  The frequency of self-report of cheating will always be the heart of the dataset. The rest of the survey will be divided into three parts, reflecting the current questions on the survey: institutional climate, individual beliefs/attitudes, and demographics.  Variables will be chosen with an eye to those which have been consistently shown to be associated with academic dishonesty, and those which provide actionable information to institutions.

Because of the importance of this legacy, ICAI is working to create a lasting, excellent revision.  We have recruited two groups of experts to design the new survey. The first group is a steering committee consisting of leading scholars and assessment experts like Drs. Eric Anderman, Tricia Bertram Gallant, Cristi Ford, Jason Stephens, and Holly Tatum, along with myself. A second group of volunteers will be serving as internal reviewers, ensuring that the end result achieves key goals.  If you would like to join this latter group and haven’t contacted us already, please let me know.

The process of revision is underway now.  The steering committee will chose variables, create or find scales to measure them, and test them to ensure clarity and validity.  This version will then be revised based on comments from the review team. Once the entire instrument is finalized, ICAI will conduct a major benchmarking and validation study to determine the validity and reliability of the scales and to determine benchmark measurements for future comparison.  Institutions that participate in the benchmarking study will receive free assessment reports and be able to track changes in the survey variables over time. To get involved in the data collection and analysis portions of the project, sign up here.  In the long run, this project aims to create public research tools and data for scholars and an ICAI-administered assessment instrument for member institutions.

Dr. Don McCabe was a pillar of ICAI since the beginning, and his survey is a mainstay of academic integrity research.  We honor his legacy by creating tools to support scholarly research of academic integrity and engender meaningful improvements  integrity in higher education.

Further Reading

McCabe, Butterfield, & Treviño (2012). Cheating in College

About the Author
Dr. David Rettinger is Professor of Psychological Sciences and Director of Academic Integrity Programs at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA. He earned a Ph.D. (1998) and an M.A. (1994) in psychology from the University of Colorado, Boulder, after receiving a B.A. (1991) with high honors and distinction in psychology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His academic research interest is in academic integrity behavior, having published research on the psychology of cheating in Theory into Practice, Research in Higher Education, Ethics and Behavior, and Psychological Perspectives on Academic Cheating. He also serves as Procedural Advisor to UMW’s student-run honor system. David is the current President of the International Center for Academic Integrity, and currently leads their efforts in assessment and survey research, continuing the McCabe academic integrity survey.
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