Academic Dishonesty in Dpt Programs: When Resilience Fails


Academic dishonesty (AD) in health professional programs has been reported, but little is known about AD specific to students in Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) programs. For students in pharmacy school, fear of failure and stress were two of the leading causes of cheating, both of which may be related to a lack of resilience. The purpose of this study was to gather baseline data about attitudes toward AD in a DPT program.


The researchers convened three focus groups consisting of 6-8 participants each. One group included full-time faculty in the home institutionsÕ DPT program; one consisted of DPT students in that program; and the third included program alumni who were within 5 years of graduation and employed as physical therapists. After providing informed consent, each group was presented with pre-determined questions and met for approximately one hour. Discussions were held in person or by videoconferencing at the participantsÕ preference. The questions were formulated from a review of the literature and included 1) Do you think AD is a problem in PT programs; 2) What types of AD do you think there are; 3) Are some types worse than others; 4) What factors contribute to AD; 5) Has there been a change in the type or amount AD over the years; and 6) How should faculty and administrators address problems of AD. Audio recordings of the focus groups sessions were transcribed and reviewed by each researcher to identify common themes.


Participants felt that AD is rare in DPT programs and if it occurs, it is often unintentional. All three focus groups noted that the incidence of AD was related to student stress, and what was described as the Òhidden curriculumÓ, i.e., the value placed on grades rather than acquiring knowledge and skills. The greatest risks for AD were with online exams and assignments with unclear instructions. Intentional AD was considered the most severe, particularly that involving the programÕs comprehensive exam or the national licensing exam. Participants felt that the amount of AD has not changed over the years, but technology has influenced the type of AD.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme:

A common theme from focus groups with faculty, alumni, and DPT students was that AD is related to student stress and emphasis on grades. StudentsÕ ability to be resilient may be inversely related to the incidence of AD. Focusing on earning high grades, which may be part of the Òhidden curriculumÓ, and equating that with success appears to contribute to AD. The results of this study will inform the design of a survey to gather data from DPT programs across the country and the ultimate development of strategies to minimize AD in DPT programs.

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  • Control #: 26773
  • Type: Poster Presentation - Research Type
  • Event/Year: ELC2020
  • Authors: Patricia Pohl
  • Keywords:

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