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Senior education students' understandings of academic honesty and dishonesty



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Academic dishonesty has been widely reported to be a prevalent occurrence among university students and yet little research has been done to explore, in depth, the meanings the phenomenon holds for students. In response to this gap in research, the purpose of this study was to discover senior Education students’ understandings of academic honesty and dishonesty. A naturalistic research design was employed and the data were the verbatim discussions of five groups of senior Education degree program students from two western Canadian universities. Findings were focused on the substantive, structural, and future applicability in students’ understandings. Essential elements of academic dishonesty appearing in students’ understandings were existence of rules, intent to break those rules, and resulting unearned grade advantages. These elements were extrapolated to serve as a baseline definition of academic dishonesty and as principles of culpability. Numerous situational considerations were volunteered by students that described enticements, deterrents, and beliefs about likelihoods associated with academic honesty and dishonesty. These considerations served as structures for the contemplation of risk that appeared prevalent in students’ understandings. Future applicability in students’ understandings was centred on expectations for teaching and professionalism. As teachers, students expected to need to respond to and prevent academic dishonesty. When working in a professional environment, they expected little need to acknowledge sources and a more collaborative climate overall that, for them, meant concerns for academic dishonesty had less relevance. Students’ expectations suggested rules for teaching and they contrasted the environments experienced as students with those anticipated as teachers. The findings of this study were integrated to suggest students’ vision of a system for academic honesty that bears some similarity to a moral system. Also extrapolated were four metaphors for the roles of students in the university related to concerns for academic dishonesty: student as subject, student as moral agent, student as trainee, and student as competitor. Implications for higher education policy development and communication were based on students’ focus on grades and students’ sense of subculture for academic honesty and dishonesty. Students’ deference to the authority of the professor suggested implications for instructional practice. A lack of monitoring of students’ and professors’ behaviours related to academic honesty and dishonesty had implications for administrative practice in terms of fostering norms for academic integrity. A model for discernment of the student voice is proposed for student concerns appearing to be most freely and richly explored in a discussion among students. Recommendations for approaches to future research of this nature and for research questions and student populations bring the dissertation to a close.



risk, academic integrity, teacher candidates, student voice, academic honesty, academic dishonesty, higher education, culpability



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Educational Psychology and Special Education


Educational Psychology and Special Education


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