Attitude To Mathematics And Academic Cheating Behaviour Of Senior Secondary Ii Students In Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District

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Secondary school is a system of education that is responsible for the training of students to transit into tertiary institutions and job placements. Secondary school is the training environment for children and youths to learn profitable manners, conducts, and societal acceptable behaviours. It supposes to be a learning environment for good modelling of characters and socially acceptable behaviours. Unfortunately, secondary schools recently are becoming learning grounds for imitation of truancy, aggression, and stealing; develop cheating habits as well as misconduct tendencies among others.

In secondary schools’ environment, students have involved in dubious acts against proper school acceptable norms. Students are stubborn, refuse to learn through the normal process and develop attitudes of cheating during tests and examinations. They perform examination malpractices in diverse ways and most of them are sometimes being encouraged by erring teachers and their parents to pass through cheating. Academic cheating occurences among secondary schools’ students may make the school environment unreliable, as it negatively affects their academic effectiveness and efficiency in the labour market.

Students in secondary schools are seen to be involved in copying from others during tests and examinations. They help their colleagues to cheat during test, writing test or examination for another student, using phones to snap test answers and subject textbooks and use it to copy the test or examination, copying the answers of the test with small piece of papers, nickname as ‘brain support’ to cheat among others.

These behaviours do not allow students to concentrate with their independent reading, rather they depend on cheating to pass examination and get a high score or grade. Petty and Wegnener (1998) identified academic cheating behaviour to include plagiarism, fabrication, deception, bribery, sabotage, impersonation among many others. To Perry, the reproduction of someone’s original academic work without due acknowledgement (plagiarism), falsification of data in any academic exercise (fabrication), providing false information in academic work (deception), giving tests answers for money (bribery), claiming another students’ identity for help (impersonation) among others are explained to be cheating behaviours. Academic cheating behaviour is described as an attributes of dishonesty exhibited in learning environment during test taking, assignment or examination by students with the sole aim of getting high score as well as higher grades in school.

Academic cheating behaviour has become a fundamental practice in learning situations in secondary schools system. Today, most students have finished secondary school education and cannot write or express themselves in terms of interpersonal interactions with other people in the society. Most of them find it very difficult to pass aptitude test to gain admission into the institutions of higher learning such as Universities and Polytechnics. They usually bring people close to the examination halls as helpers, in order to either impersonate or provide answers of the test for them to write. These situations may likely encourage student cheat and lack self-confidence in any process of assessment. They might be anxious to pass examinations and lacks the competency toward hardworks in respect of their attitude to learn subject of their interest. The circumstances make certain parents to be involved in forms of collaboration to academic cheating to an extent that they sometimes negotiate their children’s way of admission into the institution of higher learning with monetary influences. Most teachers often times encourage cheating behaviours among students in secondary schools by not punishing the culprits when caught.

Academic cheating behaviour appears to be a general practice, nowadays in secondary school system. It has spread tentacles from primary schools, secondary schools and tertiary levels of education. It effects in the larger society is worrisome. Hence, many individuals in the world of works find it difficult to perform creditably, even during professional practice, due to the fact that they may have cheated to obtain certificates. These cheaters have good results and grade point averages (GPAs), yet cannot succeed or proceed higher in academics.

Academic cheating may be as a result of students’ lack of self-confidence and negative attitude towards the classified subject. However, the fear of failure is also suspected to be one of the causes of cheating behaviour mostly in a subject like mathematics. Students in secondary schools somewhat perceive mathematics to be one of the most difficult subjects, yet it is placed to be compulsory in the curriculum. Being a compulsory subject, it becomes an indispensable subject in all areas of academic endeavours. Students resolve to form an attitude of discomfort to the learning of mathematic due to the perceived difficulty they claimed about the subject. Male and female students in secondary schools seem to have their challenges differently concerning their attitude to mathematics. These variations challenges in terms of attitudes seem to exert either positive or negative influences on their approaches to learn mathematics. Perhaps they plan for short ways of surmounting the barricade through cheating for them to move forward educationally.

Some extraneous variables such as students’ interests, perceptions, and beliefs may be affecting level of performance generated from the atitude of the students towards the subject. Hence, attitudes are tendencies that cannot be observed directly but inferred due to consistency in approach towards the attitude objects or concept. It is postulated that students with positive attitude towards the study of mathematics may increase their chances of successes, while those with negative attitude may as well reduces their level of performance in the subject.

These understanding may drive their feelings to develop positive or negative attitude towards mathematics as a school subject. These may also affect their emotional, cognitive and behavioural components of attitudes either positively or negatively toward the self. Secondary school students who are usually involved in cheating behaviours may presumably seems to lack emotional drive and cognitive preparedness towards solving mathematical problems. Academic cheating in this regard seems to expose students’ laxities to knowledge repertoire, and their inability to appreciate mathematics as a course of study are very pertinent in general life situation. Thus, for them to cheat in mathematics tests and examinations in order to make good grade score should be regarded as serious learning problems that need psychotherapeutic treatment. Hence, this study seeks to investigate the effect of students’ attitudes to mathematics on academic cheating behaviours in secondary schools in Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District.

Review of Related Literatures

Theoretical Framework

Bandura (1977) Social Learning theory

Social learning or learning by imitation theory was propounded by Albert Bandura in 1977 from the idea of Miller and Dollard (1941) acquired learning concept. The theory highlighted the process of acquisition of knowledge and attitudes from important others such as parents, teachers, peers and media figures. The theory suggests that people learn either good or bad from observing the behaviour of others. According to Bandura (2001), children’s acquisitions of much complex behaviours are due to their exposure to competent models that display appropriate behaviour in solving problems and coping with their world. However, in as much as positive behaviours can be acquired through positive role models, conversely, negative behaviours can also be acquired through the modelling of negative behaviours (Bandura, 2001).

The relevance of this theory to the study is that secondary school students mostly learn the behaviour of cheating from observing other cheaters. Another relevance of this study to this theory is that people compare themselves to others in order to observe their attitudes, and the social information elicited from people they admire tends to shape their attitudes due to the desire they hold. That is to say, when they observe teachers reaction to the cheating of others, and it seems that there is no punishment meted on them, it shape their attitude towards cheating. Thus, making them to believe that academic cheating is a way of life in academic environment since there is no negative reaction by teachers in schools.

Watson’s and Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning

This theory has considered learning as a habit formation and is based on the principle of association and substitution. Upadhya and Singh (2008) emphasized that fear, love and hatred towards the subjects are created through conditioning. Teachers can manipulate the attitude of students towards the subject knowingly or unknowingly.

This study is relevant to the study in the perspective that a mathematical teacher, with his defective methods of teaching or improper behaviour, may be disliked by students or by a particular student, thereby causing negative attitudes to mathematics. The teacher, without caring to know the basic reason, always rebukes and punishes the child while returning him the checked home assignment. Gradually, the child may begins to fear home assignment of any sort and perhaps hate the subject completely which may contribute to failures. This negative responses may contribute to academic cheating behaviour simply because mathematic is a compulsory subject. The students now look for ways of passing the subject by all means in order to precede their academic pursuit. Conversely, the sympathetic treatment given by the teacher and his interesting and effective methodology can bring a desirable impact on the students through the process of conditioning. Hence, they develop a positive attitude towards the subject and love their teacher as well as the subject taught by him.

Conceptual Framework

Attitudes are formed. They are basically formed as a result of practice or experience. Attitudes to mathematics that influence academic cheating behaviour may emerge due to direct personal experiences or as a result of observation from peers in school (Effiong, 2012). Attitude is regarded as the concept derived from a Latin word ‘apto’ (aptitude or fitness) and acto (postures of the body), in essence it means to do or act. Attitude can be positive (implicit or explicit) or negative (implicit or explicit). Attitude to mathematics could be inferred to refer to internal state of preparation for action towards attitude object(s). Attitude has many perspectives in terms of defnintion. These perspectives contribute towards experiencing controversy that tend to inhibiting the general consensus about the definitions of the attitude. Psychologists formally define attitude as a learned tendency to evaluate some objects, person or issue in a particular way (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2006).

Gross (2010) conceptualize attitude to be a predisposition to respond to some class of stimuli with certain classes of response. An attitude is a mental and neural state of readiness, organized through experience, exerting a directive or dynamic influence upon the individuals’ response to all objects and situations with which it is related (Allport, 1935). In this light, attitude to mathematics could be seen as a mental readiness or disposition to respond favourably or unfavourably to issues of mathematics or practice of the subject. Attitudes may typically be positive or negative, but they can also be ambivalent as when you have mixed feelings about an issue or person (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2006).

Attitudes continue to fascinate research workers and remain a key, if controversial, part of social psychology (Gross, 2010). Joshua (2005) claimed that attitude to be a set of response or tendency to think or act in a particular way under a given set of circumstances. This implies that attitude is a mixture of beliefs and emotions that predispose a person to respond to other people, object or institutions in a positive or negative way. These beliefs, if uncetain may make students to be involved in cheating behaviours in order for them to pass.

Many secondary school students who offered mathematics seem to be involved in academic cheating behaviour Academic cheating behaviour may influence the behaviour of students as well as their academic integrity after school (Wilson, 2009). Students who have negative attitude to mathematics may be involved in cheating as a way of helping themselves in order to have high grade. Cheating in college is closely related to cheating in the workplace and that once cheating is perceived as an acceptable alternative, it is more likely to be used in a variety of situations (Nonis & Swift, 2001). Many studies (Bennett, 2005; David & Ludvigson, 1995; Harding, Carpenter, Finelli, & Passow, 2004; McCabe, 2005; McCabe & Trevino, 1996) found that the estimated proportion of college students  who cheat ranges from 40 to 80 percents. Students who are involved in extra-curricular activities may be less committed to their studies or may have more demands on their time, which interfere with their study, creating greater incentives to cheat (Carroll, 2002). Carroll (2002) established that the highest incidence of cheating occurs during sophomore year at college. Higher academic procrastination was found to increase the frequency of academic misconduct (West, Ravenscoft & Shrader, 2004). West, Ravenscoft and Shrader (2004) argued that academic misconduct might be a coping strategy to overcome the negative consequences of academic procrastination such as lower performance among students.

Positive Attitude and Academic Cheating Behaviour

Students’ attitudes to mathematics are positive when they perform in mathematics class. Contextual factor can be as broad as the social milieu at school so as to narrow what instructions do teachers given before an examination (Anderman & Midgley, 2004). Contextual factors that individual teachers can affect often make the least difference on cheating behaviour. Students who perceive their classroom to have high mastery goals are less likely to engage in cheating behaviour than those who perceive their classroom to emphasize performance goals (Anderman & Midgley, 2004).

Students’ attitudes to mathematics in secondary schools may contribute to their tendency to cheat during test and examination assessment. Thus, these students may need genuine encouragement towards learning mathematics in order to discourage cheating potentials among them. Anderman and Midgley (2004) maintained that students who are encouraged to learn mathematics for the sake of learning and who exhibit an intrinsic value of mathematics are less likely to cheat than those who are encouraged primarily by grades and other extrinsic rewards.

Positive peer relations and peer group may influence students’ predispositions towards cheating behaviour as determined by their attitude to learning. Psychologists note that all people tend to follow the norms of their peer group, which would include norms about academic dishonesty (Jacob & Levitt, 2003). Peer pressure works both ways, and reported 41 percent increase in the probability of a student cheating if he or she has seen someone else cheat (Jacob & Levitt, 2003). This entails that negative model has negative effect on students’ attitude towards learning of mathematics, as students observe the negative behaviour of others. This is because these students believe academic cheating behaviour to be a normal way of life due to their observations from colleagues.

Most children come to school ready and willing to learn. The schools have the responsibility to foster and strengthen this predisposition and ensure that students leave school with the motivation and capacity to continue learning throughout life. Positive attitude research suggested that strategies within the classom can also help foster academic integrity whether or not school wide policies exist (Whiteman & Gordon, 2011). Researchers established that teachers can ward off plagiarism by structuring assignments to be more challenging and creative, by tailoring lessons’ topics that are less likely to be cheated (Phillips & Horton, 2000; Whiteman & Gordon, 2001). Teachers immediacy behaviours that impove classroom climate may also reduce cheating (Pulvers & Diekhoff, 1999; Steams, 2001).

Students are less likely to cheat when they feel like they are part of a school community (McCabe & Trevino, 1996), when they are involved (Park, 2004), when they are completing high effort tasks (Davies & Ludvigson, 1995), and when there are clearly communicated expectaions of moral and academic integrity (Phillips & Horton, 2000; Whiteman & Gordon, 2001). It is postulated that without the development of these attitudes and skills toward learning mathematics, individuals may not be well prepared to acquire the new knowledge and skills necessary for successful adaptation to changing circumstances.

Therefore, students with positive views of their academic abilities are likely to engage in more achievement-related behaviours and beneficial activities, which may include completing homework, studying for tests, as well as participating in class activities (Valentine, DuBois & Cooper, 2004). That is to say, mathematics students with positive attitude towards the subjects may likely create time to complete assignments, study for tests and perhaps are willing to participate in class activities to avoid academic cheating.

Negative Attitude to Mathematics and Academic Cheating Behaviour

Academic misconduct is more easily traced to the academic and social environment of the student with negative attitude towards learning mathematics. Students negative attitude to mathematics may be due to their lack of time to concentrate in practicing mathematical formulars and calculations. Harding, Carpenter, Finelli and Passow (2004) reported that the most common temptations to cheat academically included lack of time to revise, lack of preparation, lack of motivation, grade pressure, and material that is too hard. Cultural factors could contribute to cheating behaviour because behaviours that are considered perfectly acceptable or that are even encouraged in one culture might not be considered in another culture (Holmes, 2004), but there are no integration procedures in place that teach students about these expectations when they begin to study (Sutherland-Smith, 2005).

Low levels of goal orientation, academic integration, academic performance and school identification are associated with high levels of cheating behaviour (Bennett, 2005; Finn & Frone, 2004, Rittinger, Jordan & Perschiera, 2004). Most students lacks ability to sets goals, they seem not to be participated in academic process, yet they want to pass examinations and enjoy appreciable grade point average. This understanding drive their emotions and trigger their anxiety that pushes them to be involved in cheating behaviour.

Students with negative views or beliefs about their academic abilities would probably employ cheating strategies for themselves in order to achieve high grades (Valentine, DuBois & Cooper, 2004). This implies that students with unsatisfied interest and views about their mathematics abilities may likely employ cheating as an escape means of achieving high grades in school.


Gender Attitude and Academic Cheating Behaviour

Noble (2009) reported that students in single sex schools were found to have more posiive attitudes than students in the co-educational schools. Students’ attitude to mathematics may be influenced by their gender concerning cheating behaviour. Several scholars have reported that there are gender differences in attitude towards mathematics between male and female students (Casey, 2001; Olson & Zanna, 1993; Wood, 2000). The authors mentioned that female students tend to show more negative attitudes than males. In a comparison study, female students seems to lack self-confidence, had debilitating causal attrition pattern, perceived mathematics as a male domain and were anxious about mathematics as a subject (Casey, 2001). This entails that since their atitude pose more negative response they may practice cheating during examination and test more in order to avoid failure that would hinder their academic progress.

Parents and most influential societal partners have been identified as factors that instill negative beliefs and anxiety on female students to believe that mathematics is a subject for the boys or male counterparts (Papanastatsiou, 2000; Fisher & Richards, 2008). Parental factors and societal influence further make female students to believe that the subject (mathematics) is suitable for their male counterparts while arts subjects are suitable for female gender.

Empirical review

(Bennett, 2005; David & Ludvigson, 1995; Harding, Carpenter, Finelli, & Passow, 2004; McCabe, 2005; McCabe & Trevino, 1996) agreed in their studies, conducted the proportion of academic cheating behaviour among undergraduate students to be high and described their attitudes towards mathematics during their college years to be significant. These studies adopted descriptive surveys design, with the use of questionnaires as instruments for data collection. The study used simple percentages and graphs to answer the research questions. The studies revealed that the estimated proportions of undergraduate students who cheat ranges from 40 to 80 percents. The results further indicated that those students with positive atitude towards learning mathematics were less to cheat than those students who were perceiving mathematics negatively as well have negative interest towards learning mathematics.

Northon and Rennie (2008) conducted a study on sex difference in attitudes of students between single-sex and coeducational schools. The study used  representative sample of 450 students randomly selected from the population of 4,500. The internal consistency reliability of  0.72, with Kuder Richardson coefficient alpha was used and the hypothesis tested at .05 level of significance. The study used 2 x 2 Factorial Analysis of Variance as a statistical tools to perform the analysis. Students in grade 8 to 12 in four secondary schols (one private single-sex female students’ school, one private single-sex boys’ school, one coeducational state high school, and one coeducational private school) in Queensland, Australia, were found that boys in the single-sex schools had the most positive attitudes to mathematics than their girls’ counterparts.

The attitudes of boys in coeducational schools were similar to the female sudents in the single-sex school, and the female students in the coeducational schools were found to be less positive attitude on other scales. All these results suggested that strategies that target teachers’ instructional practices may have a negative effect on students’ attitudes towards mathematics. It was recommended that these effects that showcase negative attitude to mathematics may have severe consequences on academic cheating behaviour of these students.

Researches (Casey, 2001; Papanastasiou, 2000) reported gender differences in attitude towards mathematics in their study of some affective variables as mediators of gender differences. These studies were simultaneously  conducted using ex-post facto survey reseach designs. They used questionnaires as instrument for data collection, after the piloted test with internal consistency reliability index of .69; hypothesis was tested at .05 level of significance. The study used independent t-test statistics. The result of the study indicated statistically significant effects of affective variables on the learning of mathematics. Thereby, creating a vacuum in students’ interest for most of them to become cheaters in order to achieve good grade and as well have good scores.

Summary of Literature Review

Information from the theoretical, conceptual and empirical framework related to the sudy explained that students’ attitudes to mathematics were observed to cover both positive and negative. The theoretical framework that is relevant to this study explained their relevance to the study. Theories such as Albert Bandura (1977) social learning theory and Classical conditioning of Watson and Pavlov were discussed. Bandura’s conceptual explanations of imitative learning, precarious and learning by observations has implication for the study to understand the relatedness of students atitudes and how they were involved with academic cheating behaviours in schools.

The reviewed literatures from eminent scholars have reached a consensus that atitudes to mathematics could be positive or negative and gender played a major roles in influencing the atitudes of students towards the study of mathematics in schools.  Hence, those students who occupied their cognitive processes with negative attitudes are suspected to be involved in academic cheating behaviours in schools. While those with positive cognitive processes were assumed to be less cheaters.

The reviewed literatures in this study have revealed the authentic informations from scholars and their researches, yet, there is no study that examined whether the positive and negative attitudes to mathematics has any inflence on the cheating behaviour of students. Again, no study(ies) have reported about the gender attitudes influence on the academic cheating behaviour of students in schools. Hence, this study will seek to breach the gap to investigate and the positive and negative as well as gender atitudes to mathematics could influence the academic cheating behaviour of students in secondary schools in the study area.

Statement of the problem

Cheating in academic environment has been widely recognized to exist among students irresepctive of the class level. The effect of academic cheating behaviour has been masqurading to expose students and schools attended negatively to the world of work. This is because these students lack the ability to perform to the expectations of the society. These sets of students sometimes demonstrate attitudes that tends to expose their inferiority in terms of performance as if they are affected with learning disability. They lack self-confidence and positive beliefs as well as interests toward the subject they are studying, especially mathematics.

Students in secondary schools are observed to classify mathematics as a very difficult subjects irrespecive of its importance in the school curriculum. Most parents and other individuals in the society claim that mathematics is a subject for boys rather than for girls.  This declaration is sometimes based on some research evidence of boys’ better cognitive abilities for science subjects with calculations than girls. The research similarly declare that girls are good in art subjects. However, this observations seem to affect the thought processes of girls, to believe and perhaps subdue their thinking to negative attitudes towards learning mathematics in schools. Base on this awareness, this study is therefore, sought to examine the influence of attitude to mathematics on academic cheating behaviour of students in secondary schools.

Purpose of the study

This study specifically sought to:

  • Examine the influence of positive attitude to mathematics on academic cheating behaviour of students in secondary schools.
  • Examine the influence of negative attitude to mathematics on academic cheating behaviour of students in secondary schools.
  • Examine the gender influence of attitude to mathematics on academic cheating behaviours of students in secondary schools.
  • Examine the collective impact of attitude variables on academic cheating behaviours of students in secondary schools.

Research Questions

  • What is the influence of positive attitude to mathematics on academic cheating behaviour of students in secondary schools?
  • What is the influence of negative attitude to mathematics on academic cheating behaviours of students in secondary schools?
  • What is the gender difference of attitude to mathematics on academic cheating behaviour of students in secondary schools?
  • Which of the attitude to mathematics variables is the best predictor of the academic cheating behaviour of students in secondary schools?


The null hypotheses are postulated in order for this study to be focused:

  • There is no significant influence of positive attitude to mathematics on academic cheating behaviour of students in secondary schools.
  • There is no significant influence of negative attitude to mathematics on academic cheating behaviour of students in secondary schools.
  • Gender has no significant influence on academic cheating behaviour of students in secondary schools.
  • There is no significant collective impact of attitude to mathematics variables on academic cheating behaviour of students in secondary schools.

Significance of the study

This study is significant to the fact that it affects academic potentials of students and many individuals would benefit such as the school system, students, as well as the general public in the following perspective.

To Teachers, the result of this study will in no small measure make teachers to be aware of the fact that their teaching methods contribute to students’ attitude towards learning subject(s) taught by them. It would be a reference materials for teachers to know how valuable is the method used in teaching mathematics as a compulsory subject in secondary schools.

To School, the result of this study will inform the school on how to checkmate cheating behaviour among students in school. The information from the result of this study would as well enable the school administration to take test and examination businesses serious in terms of confidentiality, security of the assessment instruments and conform to the ethics of assessment..

To students, the result of this study would convincingly redirect students thought and beliefs that cheating during tests or examinations is bad. Therefore, it is undesirable pattern of behaviour with negative consequences that would affect the efficient future performance even in the workplace later in life.

To Parents, the result of this study will tend to expose parents about the implication for them to be indirectly involved in academic cheating behaviour. The outcome of this study would intimate parents that academic cheating is not the correct manner to shape their children’s attitudes towards learning of any kind especially mathematics that is considered compulsory in all subject selection. It would further help parents to build confidence on their children educationally if they begin to perform in school without cheating.

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