Contract Cheating and Student Stress: Insights from a Canadian Community College

Journal of Academic Ethics 21 (4):685-717 (2023)
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Abstract

This article presents results from a self-report survey of misconduct behaviours and the stress students (n = 916) experienced at one Canadian community college. Results showed that students engaged in a variety of contract cheating behaviours, and experienced a myriad of stressors both in and outside the college context, including traumatic life events. Those who engaged in commercial contract cheating and inappropriate sharing behaviours experienced significantly higher levels of stress. This result differed by type of stress suggesting that not all stress may lead to violation behaviour. Results also suggest that some students are exposed to more stress than others, which could put them at higher risk for engaging in contract cheating. Understanding contract cheating using the stress process framework draws our attention to how a student’s location in the social institutions of work, family, and school, how their positions of advantage or disadvantage, and their involvement in social relationships may produce stress which we have found to be associated with contract cheating. Seeing stress in this way allows post-secondary institutions to address the structural conditions which lead to stress through the development of policy, procedure, and supports for students as they navigate academic integrity throughout their programs.

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