Academic Performance and Ethical Issues In Nursing Education

Nurses Educator 2

 Nursing Education and Academic Performance and Ethical Issues

Academic Performance and Ethical Issues In Nursing Education

What are Ethical Issues Related to Academic Performance, Academic Dishonesty In Nursing Education and Ethical Issues,  Student Faculty Relationships Effect the Effect The Academic Performance and Ethical Issues.

What are Ethical Issues Related to Academic Performance

    Many ethical principles that influence student faculty relationships and interactions are the same ones that guide interactions between nurses and patients. The relationship should be characterized by mutual respect and open communication. 

    Faculty have a responsibility to conduct themselves in a manner that is exemplary, fair, nonjudgmental, and just, and should serve as role models for students in demonstrating honest academic conduct. It is apparent, although, that there is the potential for student–faculty conflict to develop in these interactions. 

    Faculty should consider the ethical implications that exist in relationships developed with students. This section addresses ethical issues that can develop in student faculty relationships, including academic dishonesty and the nature of interactions occurring between students and faculty. Suggestions for avoiding the development of unethical situations are provided.

Academic Dishonesty In Nursing Education and Ethical Issues

    A student copies from another student during a test or uses “crib” notes; another student agrees to help an academically weaker student by providing answers to a test. Lacking the time it takes to write a term paper, a student turns in a paper written by another student, while yet another student plagiarizes portions of a term paper, taking the chance that the professor will not detect the omission of appropriate reference citations. 

    During a clinical experience, a student forgets to administer a medication on time. Fearing the consequences of admitting the error, the student instead documents it as “given.” These are all examples of academic dishonesty, or “cheating,” representing one of the most difficult situations faculty have to deal with in their interactions with students.

    Unfortunately, such incidents are not uncommon and as technology has developed and students have become more proficient, the methods of cheating have become more complicated and complex (DiBartolo & Walsh, 2010; Sifford, 2006). 

    As computer technology has become common-place, students have used more sophisticated high tech methods of cheating, such as the use of smart phones, cameras, text messages, and inappropriate computer use. 

    Additional cheating methods may include use of tattoos, labels on drinking containers, and papers purchased online. Numerous reports detail alarming statistics that demonstrate an increasing occurrence and acceptance of cheating in schools at every level. 

    Krueger (2014) completed a study of nursing students' engagement in academic dishonesty and identified that more than half of the study participants reported cheating in the classroom and clinical setting. Nursing faculty may be particularly concerned about academic dishonesty because a link between unethical classroom behavior and unethical clinical behavior exists. 

    McCabe (2009) pointed out that schools and faculty have a major role to play in addressing issues of academic dishonesty. Fontana (2009) noted that the cost to nursing faculty who discover and take action when academic dishonesty occurs is significant. 

    She reported that faculty feel they have significant changes in student relationships, that there is a significant risk associated with confronting students, and that even collegial relationships are altered. 

   However, most faculty are committed to maintaining integrity within nursing education, although they do not always have the knowledge of practices that can assist in deterring cheating (Stonecypher & Willson, 2014).

    Many factors can influence a student's decision to cheat. Many authorities note that an alarming number of students do not consider their behavior to be unethical or cheating, but rather see it as acceptable and common. 

    Literature has addressed the concept of academic entitlement, whereby the student feels entitled to the degree because they have paid their tuition, rather than feeling entitled to the opportunity to learn (Karpen, 2014). 

    Dishonesty in the classroom setting is a concern for nursing faculty because of the potential for the student to also demonstrate dishonest behavior within the clinical setting.

    Numerous strategies and practices have been identified to deter cheating in nursing education (Stonecypher & Willson, 2014). An initial strategy to address academic honesty should be a careful review of the faculty's own behaviors. For example, do faculty cite sources on materials presented to students in class? 

    Are student contributions to research and publications appropriately acknowledged? Are faculty expectations realistic in terms of time requirements for students? Is there discussion about the importance of values and values development in students, or do these discussions occur only when a crisis situation has occurred? 

    These authors point to the importance of a learning environment that integrates ethics into the entire curriculum and the use of learning strategies that work to develop values and behaviors in students that have lasting consequences. Nursing faculty must role model a high level of integrity as well as create high-integrity classrooms to promote ethical practices in students (Eby et al., 2013).

    Maintaining civility in student–faculty interactions is another important action that faculty can take to serve as positive role models for students (DiBartolo & Walsh, 2010) and to create learning environments that engender respect for all individuals. Bullying occurs at all levels of nursing, including nursing education and nursing practice (Matt, 2012). 

    Faculty are in the power position with respect to the student because faculty hold the power over a student's grade and program progression. Faculty may not think that their actions would be considered bullying, but when the imbalance of power in the teacher student relationship is considered, actions the faculty perceive as innocent or even helpful may in fact fit the definition of student bullying. 

    It is imperative that faculty do not allow an environment of incivility or bullying to occur within the nursing program. Faculty can take a number of actions to deter cheating in their courses. One of the most common forms of academic dishonesty is cheating on classroom tests. 

    This may be done by copying from another student's test, with or without the cooperation of the other student, concealing and bringing into the classroom potential answers to the test, or obtaining test questions from students who were previously enrolled in the course. 

    Developing alternate test forms that can be used in subsequent semesters can help decrease the likelihood of questions being shared between classes of students. Alternative test forms can also be used among students in the same class, thus decreasing the chance that students can cheat by looking at the test of the student sitting next to them.     

    Requiring students to leave books and other personal items at the front of the classroom or under their desks and rearranging the seating can also make it more difficult for students to cheat. Directing students to look only at their own tests can serve to remind students that their behavior is being observed and that they are responsible for not conveying the appearance of cheating.

    Another common method of cheating is plagiarism of written work, through either the use of papers written by other students or the inappropriate citation of references. Students may be unclear about what constitutes plagiarism; Therefore, faculty should consider clarifying this at the beginning of the course, including how and when citing is to be done and what consequences will take place if plagiarism occurs. 

    The proactive approach has been shown to be more successful, especially when tied to the development of an environment of academic honesty, often linked to an honor code or honor system. This may reduce the number of “I did not know that was wrong” excuses from students. 

    Requesting that copies of the references cited in written work be turned in with the assignment can facilitate faculty review of the materials and reduce the likelihood that students will deliberately plagiarize. Keeping on file copies of past student papers can also decrease the likelihood that students will be able to represent a previous student's work as their own.

    Sometimes students are pressured into helping another student cheat on coursework, either through a misguided sense of feeling sorry for and wanting to “help” the student or sometimes through fear. It can be helpful to periodically review the institution's policy on academic dishonesty with students in the class, especially if the faculty member suspects there may be a problem. 

    Many students do not realize that institutional policies commonly state explicitly that a student participating in and enabling another student to cheat is also guilty of academic dishonesty and may be disciplined as well. Also, most institutions have policies that provide guidance for students who feel that they are being verbally and otherwise harassed by another student.

    A wide variety of practices are described in the literature to deter cheating (Stonecypher & Willson, 2014). Solomon and DeNatale (2000) described the use of a program-wide convocation to discuss the issue of academic dishonesty, maintaining that drawing the analogy between academic dishonesty and professional ethics is an important first step in socializing students into the nursing profession. 

    Academic honor codes can be used as a proactive stance to discourage dishonesty and to foster the development of a professional value system within an institution. An academic honor code should define what activities constitute academic misconduct, what disciplinary action could result if the student engages in such activity, and the student grievance and appeal procedure. 

    Colleges with honor codes have been reported to have fewer incidences of academic dishonesty (Krueger, 2014). McCabe and Trevino (1996) reported that evidence exists to suggest that the presence of a campus academic honor code creates an environment where cheating is not a socially acceptable behavior and decreases the number of incidences of student dishonesty. They also point out that student involvement in the outcomes (eg, student hearings, student courts) may also deter cheating.

    It is also helpful if written statements on course syllabi are used to remind students of the institution's policy on academic dishonesty and the academic code of honor, if one exists. The consequences of cheating and violating the honor code should also be clearly delineated in course syllabi. 

    If cheating has occurred, does the student get an F for the assignment or an F for the course? Or are other options a possibility? This information can be included in the evaluation section of the syllabus and lets students know that any incidents of cheating will be taken seriously by the faculty member. 

    It is important that these outcomes be guided by school policy and procedures; all course policies must be congruent with those of the broader school guidelines. 

    If a faculty member has evidence that a student has engaged in some form of academic dishonesty, it becomes necessary for him or her to confront the student about the incident. Jeffreys and Stier (1995) recommended that the following steps be followed discussing when an incident of academic dishonesty.

    Privacy should first be ensured for the student when initiating discussion of the incident. It is appropriate to include an impartial third party, such as the department chairperson or another faculty member, in the discussion. Faculty must clearly communicate to the student the identified dishonest behavior and the potential consequences resulting from this behavior. 

    It is important that faculty convey this information in an objective manner, avoiding blame or anger. The student should be informed of institutional policies and the importance of adhering to professional standards of conduct. The conference should be documented by the faculty member. As mentioned previously in the section regarding disciplinary action and due process, the student's right to due process should be ensured before any action is taken.

Student Faculty Relationships Effect the Effect The Academic Performance and Ethical Issues

    As discussed earlier in this chapter, the nature of the relationships that students develop with faculty in the classroom and clinical setting can have a profound influence on the quality of the students' educational experiences. The relationship of the student to faculty in nursing may be closer than in other disciplines because of the increased amount of individual contact that occurs between students and faculty.     

    Novice faculty often are uncertain about how to appropriately develop relationships with students. This can have a major effect on the success of faculty in the classroom and their personal satisfaction with their role as an educator. 

    Faculty may indeed be very knowledgeable about the content they teach, but if they cannot relate in a positive manner to students, the students may not listen to the substance of the information being conveyed. Novice faculty should be encouraged to seek guidance on how to develop an effective interpersonal style with students (Halstead, 1996).

    Behaviors that help develop effective relationships with students are those that have been described throughout this chapter. Open, ongoing dialogue with students throughout the educational process is essential. 

    Students have the right to expect from faculty respect for their ideas and opinions (although not necessarily agreement); constructive, helpful feedback on their academic performance; a willingness to answer questions and address concerns the student may have; and a respect for student confidentiality. 

    Displaying an appropriate sense of humor and warmth with students is also important and allows students to see the human side of faculty.

    Behaviors that are inappropriate and unethical in the teaching situation include using sarcasm or belittling the student, threatening the student with failure, criticizing the student in front of others, acting superior, discussing confidential student issues with other faculty, and displaying inappropriate sexual behavior. 

    Standards and guidelines addressing sexual harassment are part of each institution's policies and procedures. Nursing faculty must be informed about such policies and must follow them explicitly. Faculty may also serve to assist students to access appropriate resources should students have issues with sexual harassment by other members of the university community and need such assistance.

    Showing favoritism in the treatment or grading of students, refusing to answer students' questions, behaving rudely, and being authoritarian are other examples of unethical teaching behaviors. Student–faculty interactions that are based on the inappropriate use of power and control cannot result in caring, collegial relationships. 

    In some institutions, policies govern the contact that is appropriate between students and faculty. Those who want to learn more about student contact and interaction must always guide decisions about appropriate student contact and interaction.

    Faculty can foster the development of positive student–faculty relationships through the design of learning experiences that promote collaborative, collegial learning exchanges between faculty and students. 

    Faculty need to examine their beliefs about the teaching–learning process and student faculty relationships to gain an understanding of their own attitudes. The first step in the process of fostering a learning environment that is empowering for both faculty and students is conceptualizing the student faculty relationship as a collaborative partnership instead of an authoritarian one (Halstead, 1996).

    This chapter provides an overview of the legal and ethical issues that are related to the academic performance of students. The development of positive student–faculty interactions and the faculty role in evaluation of student performance is discussed. The legal and ethical concepts that guide student and faculty interactions and relationships are explained. 

    Academic failure in the classroom and clinical setting is discussed, as are methods of assisting students through this difficult experience while ensuring their rights to due process. The importance of clear, mutual communication of expectations between students and faculty is emphasized.

    Nursing students in today's classroom exhibit different characteristics from those of faculty when they were nursing students. Today's diverse students bring a richness of life experiences to the learning experience. Each student is an individual possessing a variety of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and needs that will help form the nursing professional that the nursing student wishes to become. 

    It is important for nursing educators to meet the needs of these students by establishing professional relationships that are positive and empowering in nature, ultimately providing students with a learning environment that supports their personal and professional goals.

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