Lack of ethics or lack of knowledge? European upper secondary students’ doubts and misconceptions about integrity issues

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Plagiarism and other transgressions of the norms of academic integrity appear to be a persistent problem among upper secondary students. Numerous surveys have revealed high levels of infringement of what appear to be clearly stated rules. Less attention has been given to students’ understanding of academic integrity, and to the potential misconceptions and false beliefs that may make it difficult for them to comply with existing rules and handle complex real-life situations.

In this paper we report findings from a survey of European upper secondary students’ views on issues relating to academic integrity. We relate these findings to the students’ training about academic integrity, self-reported level of questionable behavior and country of study.

A total of 1654 students at 51 institutions located in 6 European countries participated in the study. The participants generally believed they had a good understanding of the rules applying to them and knew how to behave in compliance with norms of academic integrity. The results indicate, however, that often, in practice, this belief was mistaken. Many students had an inadequate understanding of core elements of academic integrity. They were uncertain about how to act, and they struggled in the handling of complex situations that require context-sensitive judgement. While some differences between countries were identified, they were modest and exhibited no clear pattern. Our results also suggest that reducing students’ level of uncertainty and, to a lesser degree, improving their level of knowledge could lead them to engage less in certain types of questionable behaviours. Surprisingly, the effect of academic training is modest and ambiguous. The study also confirms that perception of peer behaviour has the strongest association with student engagement in questionable behaviours. Thus, academic integrity at the upper secondary level cannot be explained simply in terms of individual ethics or knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20
JournalInternational Journal for Educational Integrity
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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