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Moral Development- Students Cheating

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A Cheating Student's

Moral Development

Name: Megan DeCaluwe

Assignment: A-4

Course: Educational Psychology 215

Section: 003

Due Date: October 16, 2006

Morality is one of the most important aspects of human life. Moral reasoning is the thinking process involved in judgments about questions of right and wrong (Woolfolk, 2004). To further explore the different aspects of adolescent's educational morality; a survey on cheating was created and given to three adolescent students. The questions included their previous and future likelihood of cheating, the circumstances that influence their probability of cheating or not, and whether they have performance or learning goals. With the responses of these students, I will verify the stage of Kohlberg's moral development that each adolescent is presently in, and how that plays into their decision making when cheating.

In 1996, Steinberg reported that sixty-six of adolescents had admitted to cheating on a test in the past year, and that cheating of all ages had increased over the past twenty years (Woolfolk, 2004). This statistic was also proven through my survey, where two of the three students admitted to the same. Shockingly, the first applicant revealed she had already cheated on five different occasions this semester. Clearly, cheating has become an unfortunate yet common habit in today's classrooms. In fact, in one study, about sixty percent of middle school students and seventy percent of high school students believe that cheating is a serious problem in their school (Evans & Craig, 1990). Surprisingly however, while all of my participants agreed that cheating was prevalent in their classrooms, only one of them saw it as a problem.

Anita Woolfolk, author of Educational Psychology, states that cheating has more to do with the particular situation than with the general honesty or dishonesty of the individual. Each of my participants concurred with this theory. Although they each had cheated or been cheated off of, they still considered themselves to be honest people. Also, many students will cheat if the pressure to perform well is great and the chances of being caught are slim (Woolfolk, 2004). The participants agreed that the pressure to get good grades and the minute chance of getting caught are empowering factors when deciding whether or not to cheat. When one particular applicant was asked what factors increased or decreased the class's potential to cheat, her response was brutally honest. She explained, "Separating desks and putting spaces in between students forces less people to try cheating. So does when the teachers walk around the classroom. But when the teacher is just sitting at their desk reading or on the computer, I think more people feel confident enough not to get caught." This quote further establishes the theory that cheating often depends on the particular situation.

A student's individuality also affects their probability of cheating (Woolfolk, 2004). Whether or not they have learning or performance goals, and which gender they are, are just a few factors that play into their opinion of cheating. Performance goals involve students who focus on mastering the task or solving the problem, and are usually greatly concerned with grades and how others view them. Learning goals involve a personal intention to improve abilities and learn, no matter how that student's performance may suffer (Woolfolk, 2004). According to Educational Psychology, students focusing on performance goals (making good grades, looking smart) are more likely to cheat than those who are learning goal oriented or confident that they can be academically successful. Although only two out of the three participants admitted to cheating, all three expressed that while learning information is important, it's the grades that matter most to them. One participant even went on to say, "The good grades are obviously important to me because that's what matters the most eventually. Like that's what colleges look at to decide whether or not they want you and stuff. Obviously learning the information is important, but that's not what people care about". This statement further validates the concept that student's personal goals influence their probability to cheat. Gender is another aspect that affects a person's chance of cheating. Most studies of adolescent students find that males are more likely to cheat than females (Woolfolk, 2004). In contrary, the results of my survey showed otherwise. Of the three participants, the two female students had cheated in the past, where the male had not. Regardless, there are clear individual differences in cheating.

To better understand and analyze this information, I will compare the adolescent's responses to the survey questions with the stages of Lawrence Kohlberg's theory of moral development. Lawrence Kohlberg is one of the most well known psychologists that have studied morality. After presenting people with moral dilemmas, forcing them to make difficult decisions, and



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