Dataset of the Effect of Difficulty Messaging on Academic Cheating in Middle School Chinese Children

Published: 11 April 2022| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/f3chzwykxm.1
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Description

We recruited 201 eighth-graders from a full-time middle school in eastern China, and measured the impact of test difficulty messaging on cheating behavior through the use of a naturalistic math test situation, and collected behavioral data.

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The collection of data was divided into three phases: the testing phase, the experimenter scoring phase, and the self-scoring phase. During the testing phase, the experimenter arrived at the classroom at the beginning of class and was introduced as a teacher. The children were told that the school board was conducting a school performance review and that as a part of the review, each eighth-grade class would be taking a math test. They were further informed that different classes would be given tests of varying levels of difficulty, with one test that was easy for their grade level, one test that was difficult for their grade level, and one test that was appropriate for their grade level. As the experimenter distributed the tests, he informed the children of the difficulty level that had been assigned to their class. He also explained that there are colored stars at the top of each test sheet that indicate its difficulty, with one star indicating an easy test, two stars indicating a test that is appropriate for their grade level, and three stars indicating a hard test. These colored stars served to reinforce the difficulty messaging. Unbeknownst to the children, regardless of the star rating on their test, all the classes took tests that were of the same level of difficulty. Children were told that their class needed to complete the test within 20 minutes. They were also told that their test scores would be sent to their parents and would become important part of their final math grade. During the experimenter scoring phase, after the 20-minute test was over, the experimenter retrieved the test sheets and left the classroom. Unbeknownst to children, the experimenter took a photocopy of children’s test sheets. Without making any marks on the test sheets, the experimenter also scored the test sheet to obtain children’s actual test scores. During the self-scoring phase, the experimenter explained that he had been unable to find time to grade the tests, and said the following: I was just told by the school board that I need to submit the scores today, so I am going to give the test sheets back to you, and you will have to mark your own test. Here are the grading instructions: put a check mark by each answer that is correct, and a cross mark by each answer that is incorrect. Then write your final score in the box that appears at the top of your test sheet. What you write here will be submitted as the score for your test. Please mark your test sheet according to the instructions. Do not make any attempts to tamper with your test sheet or score. The experimenter gave the children five minutes to mark their own answer sheet using a red ballpoint pen. When the five minutes were up, the experimenter collected the self-scored test sheets. Children’s actual test scores were compared to their self-scored test scores, which were coded as cheating if there was a difference between the actual score and the self-scored score.

Institutions

Hangzhou Normal University

Categories

Academic Achievement, Moral Development, Behavioral Experiment

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