Thursday, August 29, 2013

Professors present honor code and academic integrity research at national conference

Two Randolph psychology professors recently presented their research on honor codes, cheating, and academic integrity to a standing-room-only audience at a national conference in Hawaii.

Beth Schwartz and Holly Tatum organized the symposium “Why Do Students Cheat: Investigations of Academic Integrity in the Classroom” for the American Psychological Association annual conference this month. The research brought together several scholars who investigate the motivations for cheating and methods for preventing cheating.

“It’s always really exciting when people are that interested,” Tatum said. “I was glad they were there trying to figure out which parts of our research they can use to prevent cheating.”

Schwartz, the Catherine Ehrman Thoresen '23 and William E. Thoresen Professor of Psychology and assistant dean of the College, and Tatum began a research project on academic integrity about two years ago. With the help of Megan Hageman ’13, they investigated the way students’ understanding of academic integrity is affected by an honor code.

“A lot of people look at cheating and what causes cheating,” Schwartz said. “We wanted to look at ways of preventing cheating.”

“Our focus has been more on integrity,” Tatum added.

Their research, which will be published in the journal Ethics and Behavior this fall, found that in small liberal arts colleges, a traditional honor code—under which students feel a responsibility toward the honor code and run the judicial system responding to violations—is more effective at promoting academic honesty than a modified honor code, such as one with a faculty-run judicial process.

Randolph’s Honor Code, overseen by a student judiciary committee and with perks like unproctored, self-scheduled exams, follows the traditional model.

Last year, Hageman expanded the research to look at the way an institution’s size might affect students’ understanding of integrity and cheating. Elizabeth van Noppen ’14 is continuing that research this year.

Schwartz and Tatum organized the symposium at the APA conference to share their findings and collaborate with more professors. They invited Eric Anderman of The Ohio State University, who spoke at Randolph College earlier this year, and David Rettinger of the University of Mary Washington, to present research that complemented their own.

The professors are still receiving feedback from people who attended the symposium. Many have questions about promoting academic integrity.

Tatum said that Hageman’s contributions were crucial to the success of this research and the symposium. “She was involved at every stage in the research,” she said. “She managed the data collection, which was good experience for her and allowed us to do the research.”

In addition to sponsoring the symposium, Schwartz was voted as the vice president for recognitions and awards in the Society for the Teaching of Psychology, a division of the APA.