ADDRESSING UNETHICAL BEHAVIOR IN HIGHER EDUCATION: AN INTERVENTION TO PREVENT CHEATING

I. Schweiger Gallo1, M.A. Alonso Garcia1, R. Gonzalez Fernandez1, V.M. Herreros Villanueva1, J. Palmero Monllor1, M. Rodriguez Monter2, A.A. Sanchez Ruiz1

1Universidad Complutense de Madrid (SPAIN)
2Universidad Internacional de la Rioja (SPAIN)
Addressing integrity and ethics is not only relevant with regards to what we do or what we achieve in our live; rather, how we obtain success also matters. Therefore, developing ethical competences is not only relevant in higher education, but also for our life in society in general.

In the present intervention, we designed formative activities to promote ethical competences in students. First, participants were asked to complete, among other scales, the Ethics Scale in Educational Scenarios (EEEE; Alonso & Schweiger, 2021). After assessing their probability of engaging in one out of four types of unethical behavior (i.e., cheating, harming others, hiding information, or stealing), participants were invited to complete several activities in a virtual learning environment.

In an introductory section, participants were given information on integrity and ethics and performed activities related to integrity and adequate vs inadequate ethical behavior. The main section was structured around the standards of the ethical aspects of the results to achieve; the pursuit of appropriate rules and principles; the adherence to norms and values of the community; and personal convictions (see Lewicki, 2016).

Along with performing activities targeting specifically the unethical behavior of cheating such as reading a story and watching a video, participants were asked to reflect on their personal convictions. They were asked to think of a situation in which they exerted effort to pass an exam and obtained good results and to describe how they felt about it. Next, they were asked about what they expected others to do for them if they did not exert any effort to achieve good results. The third question addressed whether or not they felt proud when they achieved a good result after working hard vs. after cheating. The participants (N=10) reported feeling mostly proud and satisfied, but they did not expect others to help them. Almost all participants reported not feeling proud after cheating.

Participants also elaborated at least three arguments in favor of cheating in order to achieve their goals and at least three arguments against cheating to achieve their goals. They were also asked about the arguments they would use to convince others to not cheat. Further, participants were asked to imagine themselves running out of time to hand in a mandatory essay and turning in an essay found in the web after changing the name on it. Participants were asked several questions about the teacher´s and their own feelings, cognitions, and actions, as well as the justification of cheating behavior. Results (N=9) revealed that the participants reflected on their own (“being lazy”) or the teacher´s attitude (“take for a fool”), as well as their emotions (“ashamed”) and the teacher´s emotions (“disappointed”). Finally, participants also analyzed take-home messages, as well as situational scenarios and formed action plans.

The design of the present intervention, as well as the implications and challenges of future interventions on ethical behavior are discussed.