Academic dishonesty is a threat to every student and every institution of higher education. The very act runs contrary to the fundamental values of higher education (Bowers, 1964). Dishonesty compromises the integrity of the individual student as well as the reputation of the institution (Engler, Landau, & Epstein, 2008; Gallant, 2008).
Many researchers have indicated that cheating is a serious problem on campuses (Bowers, 1964; Engler et al., 2008; Gallant, 2008; Leming, 1978; McCabe, Trevino, & Butterfield, 2001). Studies completed by Bowers (1964) and McCabe and Trevino (1996) revealed nearly identical results regarding student-cheating behavior despite the 30 year time span; both studies identified that approximately 70% of students have cheated. Recent findings, however, indicate that college students are cheating more often, in different ways (mostly because of advances in technology), while the perceived seriousness of cheating has decreased (McCabe & Trevino, 1996; Stephens, Young, & Calabrese, 2007).
Promoting academic integrity and developing students morally are integral functions of higher education institutions (Whitley & Keith-Spiegel, 2001). Every stakeholder of the institution, students, faculty, administration, and staff, must recognize and incorporate the value of ethical behavior; without a campus-wide effort, dishonesty will prevail (Whitley & Keith-Spiegel, 2001). Currently, widespread research on academic dishonesty includes reasons for cheating and personal characteristics that may predict cheating behavior; however, very little research exists emphasizing the role moral development plays in cheating.
Academic dishonesty has long been a problem on college campuses (McCabe & Trevino, 1996). 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). The need to systematically foster academic integrity is critical (Whitley & Keith-Spiegel, 2001).
While the problem of cheating has persisted in higher education, the perceived seriousness of cheating continues to change (McCabe & Trevino, 1996; Stephens, Young, & Calabrese, 2007). Notably, students with higher moral development levels view cheating more seriously than those with lower moral development levels (Leming, 1978; Semerci, 2006). While the process of going to college promotes students' moral development (King & Mayhew, 2002) and higher moral development levels correlate to lower incidences of cheating (Leming, 1978), determining the relationship between the two is necessary. Prior research has demonstrated a positive relationship between higher moral development levels and lower cheating incidences; however, most data is more than 30 years old (Leming, 1978).
Since 1978, only three studies have been published relating moral development and cheating (Austin, Simpson, & Reynen, 2005;...