Stress and plagiarism
Higher education assessments like essays and reports are designed to measure students’ learning. However, when students engage in academic misconduct like plagiarism or cheating, this undermines the value of assessment as a measure of their learning. Anecdotally, when students are feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed they sometimes resort to plagiarism or cheating to get through their assessments.
Feeling bad, was related to more engagement in plagiarism and cheating by students.
Importantly, many more higher education students experience severe negative emotions compared with average adults. Moreover, the Covid19 pandemic has been a stressful time for many students with the challenges of isolation, online learning, and fear of the virus itself. Previous research (see also here) has shown that negative emotions are related to students seeing plagiarism as more acceptable and as more common among their peers. However, it was not known whether these beliefs translated into increased plagiarism and cheating among students.
In two new studies, we found that the influence of negative emotions on these beliefs does translate into increased plagiarism and cheating among students. Feeling bad, was related to more engagement in plagiarism and cheating by students. Students’ negative emotions were also related to more permissive attitudes toward plagiarism, perceiving plagiarism as more normal, and increased intentions to plagiarise. Together, the impact of students’ negative emotions on attitudes, perceived norms, and intentions predicted their engagement in academic misconduct.
[T]he pressures students experience may be part of the reason why misconduct has increased.
Assessment misconduct through negative emotions
An implication of our studies is that we may expect to see an increase in assessment misconduct by students through a stressful time such as the Covid19 pandemic. Indeed, evidence has already emerged of increased cheating since the start of the pandemic. Thus, the pressures students experience may be part of the reason why misconduct has increased.
Teachers can help
These new studies give higher education teachers and administrators a number of options that they may consider to decrease academic misconduct among students. First, academic institutions can help students directly and indirectly manage negative emotions through the provision of extra-curricular activities, counselling services, and facilitating social engagement. Second, teachers can reduce the negative emotions cause by assessments themselves that contribute to assessment being a stressful experience. For example, providing clear and supportive information about assessment, helpful feedback, and reasonable deadlines.