The purpose of this mixed method study is to see if Pavlovian conditioning to prioritize gradebook results over long-term knowledge retention can be seen in SCPS high school students due to stress factors. This chapter describes the quantitative used to answer the following questions:
1. In a public school setting, what do students consider forms or cheating?
2. Are settings that fall into a more informal category than a traditional testing environment seen as less threatening offense?
This chapter also describes the qualitative procedure used to answer the following questions:
3. If a student perceived as “higher achieving” in the class starts to cheat will the rest of the classroom peers follow his/her example?
4. If the stakes are raised during an assessment what are the measures that students will go to preserve their grades/ performance evaluation?
Both quantitative and qualitative research methods were employed to study the student’s values concerning cheating in SCPS high schools. Although there are many mixed-method designs to pick from, I picked the Embedded Design (citation) due to its use of qualitative and quantitative data, relying more on one and using the other as a supplement.
The Embedded Design is characterized by having both kinds of data during the same time frame, letting one kind of data dominate the other and use the other as a supplement (citation).
Quantitative Data Collection
The first stage of this study involves understanding what falls under student’s definition of cheating and if different kinds of cheating registers as different risk levels. After completing an informed consent form, Potential participants will receive a link from their teachers to complete the ethics questionnaire as well as completing some demographic questions to better sort and group data.
The completion of the questionnaire will take approximately 10 minutes
To protect participant’s confidentiality, questionnaire participant’s names will be switched out for numerical values. Consent forms and questionnaires will have limited access to the lead researcher, me, and my advisor. All information will be stored on a secure computer. All identifying information will be discarded after no longer needed for experimental purposes.
Quanlitative Data Collection
Participants who completed the questionnaire won’t be confined to the participants in the qualitative experiment. While the all participants in the qualitative experiment will have taken the survey, they do not have to be a participant in the qualitative experiment to participate in the survey. The intention of this was to gain a broader sample size.
Pavlovian conditioning. In order to understand what the participants are experiencing, it is important to define Pavlovian conditioning and how it applies in this experiment. The concept of Pavlovian conditioning originated during the 1890’s relating involuntary reactions to a neutral stimulus in canines (Rescorla, 1988). The concept has since been applied to humans in John B. Watson’s “Little Albert” experiment. Associating a negative outcome with the specific animals that “Albert” was presented with and any other kind of small furry animal was the outcome of the experiment. This is what is predicted to happen in my experiment. Being surrounded with variables (limited time constraint, increased difficulty of question, limited supervision, importance of results) that are associated with the negative outcome (decrease of success recorded in academic record). The conditioned response that is being tested is if the participants will compromise their morality to gain a better score on the assessment given. This response can come in the form of taking the answers from another student, asking for help from another student, using external sources for answers.
Selecting Participants. The participants of the qualitative experiment were a product of the setting of my experiment. My advisor provided # periods of her Honors Chemistry class as potential participants. These students proceeded to give informed consent form for both the qualitative and quantitative experiment. Completion of the questionnaire gave demographic information that allowed better grouping and analysis of the qualitative experiment.
Selection of the “black sheep” required more in-depth preparation. The black sheep had to be an individual that was considered a leader in the class, which was evaluated in the survey specific to participants in the qualitative experiment. The black sheep then had to be briefed and sent home with another informed consent form.
Case Study. To go deeper into what has caused this phenomenon to occur in SCPS students, follow up interviews were conducted with the most outlier cases that favored towards cheating. The intent of these case studies was to pinpoint the orgin of the pavlovian conditioning. All questions were open-ended, and participants were encouraged to elaborate on their answers and share their own personal experiences with morality. All case study participants were given the same set of questions in English.
Data Analysis. The purpose of the observation study was to present the students with a scenario that pushed them in the direction of distress to provoke a response either proving or disproving my hypothesis. Each observational study took approximately 13 minutes from start to conclusion at Paul J Hagerty High School. Concepts explored in the observational study include student morality, validity in the structure of testing conditions, influence of higher achieving students on lower achieving students and specific stress factors. The focus of the study was to see if a conditioned pavlovian response appeared in SCPS students when presented with certain factors. The focus of the case studies was to identify different kind of origins for the conditioning. All trials of the observational studies were recorded on SD cards and uploaded to the lead researchers secure computer. All case study interviews were recorded using an external microphone and a voice recorder.
Qualitative data were transcribed on the online web app oTranscribe. The online app allowed for transcription from recorded audio to a Microsoft Word document. All transcriptions were stored on the lead researcher’s computer. The content analysis included conceptual analysis. This kind of analysis involves quantifying the occurrence of a certain phenomenon and how different factors affect it. This sorting of data consisted of looking through data and video feeds and counting how many times an occurrence of cheating occurred, what type it was and finding the corresponding survey answers that give identifiers.