Good friend or good student?
Students who fail to report peers might do so as a result of elaborate and nuanced moral reasoning, not out of fear or moral indifference.
It is well-known that students are reluctant to report peers who cheat. It is less well-known why. In the existing literature there is a clear presumption that students have a moral obligation to report peers who plagiarize or transgress the rules of academic integrity in other ways, and if students who fail to report do so, they do it either because they fear retaliation or suffer from misplaced group loyalty (camaraderie).
In the paper Good friend or good student? the authors argue that the situation is more complex. Based on a large qualitative investigation they point out that although some students fail to report out of fear or misplaced loyalty, some students choose not to report a peer because they believe it is better if they assume responsibility for the situation themselves. If they catch a peer cheating, they might confront the peer and make the consequences of cheating clear to him or her, and if a friend breaks the rules because he or she is struggling they might help the friend to catch up rather than reporting. These students choose to take matters into their own hands either because they do not trust the institution to treat perpetrator fairly, -or because they see it as the only way to navigate the two conflicting moral values loyalty and honesty (or a combination of these reasons). Students who fail to report peers thus might do so as a result of elaborate and nuanced moral reasoning, and not out of fear or moral indifference. This clearly has consequences for the way we approach the problem of peer reporting – and academic integrity among students more generally.
Mads Paludan Goddiksen, Una Quinn, Nóra Kovács, Thomas Bøker Lund, Peter Sandøe, Orsolya Varga & Mikkel Willum Johansen (2021) Good friend or good student? An interview study of perceived conflicts between personal and academic integrity among students in three European countries, Accountability in Research, 28:4, 247-264, DOI: 10.1080/08989621.2020.1826319
Associate Professor Mikkel Willum Johansen, Department of Science Education