To download dissertations and theses, please click on the appropriate "Download" button for your campus to log in and be e-verified. When you reach the "Sign into your JWU email" page, enter your JWU username and password.

Non-JWU users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Cheating Incidences, Perceptions of Cheating, and the Moral Development Level of College Students

Leslie K Williams, Johnson & Wales University


Research indicates that approximately 70% of college students engage in some form of cheating (Austin, Simpson, & Reynen, 2005; Bowers, 1964; Leming; 1978; McCabe & Trevino, 1993, 1996; McCabe, Trevino, & Butterfield, 2001a). College students overwhelmingly agree that cheating is morally wrong; yet, their actions are not reflective of this belief (Bowers, 1964; McCabe & Trevino, 1996; Semerci, 2006). There is currently widespread research on reasons for cheating and personal characteristics that may predict cheating behavior; however, very little research exists emphasizing the role moral development plays in cheating. This study sought to fill the gap in the literature regarding how cheating incidences and perceptions of cheating correlated with the moral development level of college students, based on Kohlberg's (1958) theory of moral development. Utilizing a quantitative, correlational research design, N = 453 traditional-aged undergraduate students at a public, mid-sized, research university in New England completed the James Rest's Defining Issues Test (DIT) (1979) and McCabe's Academic Integrity Survey (2003) to measure the students' moral development levels, cheating incidences, and perceptions of cheating. More than 90% of respondents reported cheating on at least one of the cheating behaviors. The study revealed the mean moral development P score of respondents (M = 26.13) was more than 10 points below that of the national norms (M = 36.67). There was a significant relationship between moral development level and cheating incidences (r = −.125, r2 = .016, p = .008) with those having a higher moral development level cheating fewer times. The more seriously students perceived cheating behaviors the less often they engaged in the behaviors (r = −.326, r2 = .106, p = .000). Women perceived cheating behaviors (t(450) = 3.24, p = .001, M = 3.11) as more serious than men ( M = 2.93). By gaining a better understanding of the factors that impact cheating, university leaders can create an environment in which cheating is socially unacceptable. Administrators need to clearly articulate the expectations of students regarding cheating and confront cheating via an educational process. Students should be involved in the implementation and adjudication of any campus policies regarding academic integrity.

Subject Area

Higher Education Administration|Educational leadership|School administration

Recommended Citation

Williams, Leslie K, "Cheating Incidences, Perceptions of Cheating, and the Moral Development Level of College Students" (2012). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3503138.