Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning

First Advisor

Dr. Margaret Zidon


According to research conducted from 2002-1012 by the International Center for Academic Integrity, 43% of graduate and 68% of undergraduate students admitted to cheating on written assignments or tests. However, minimal research exists on physical therapy (PT) students’ perceptions of academic dishonesty. Moral reasoning has been investigated throughout medical programs with PT students having displayed lower levels than other professional students. However, no studies investigating the relationship between academic integrity and moral reasoning in PT students exist. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate moral reasoning and academic integrity among PT students.

Data from seven Midwest PT programs (three private and four public) was collected for this study. Student physical therapists (N = 474) completed McCabe’s Academic Integrity Survey and the Defining Issues Test (DIT-2). Online surveys were available for off-campus students unable to attend in person. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and differences between groups (two-way ANOVA, independent t-tests). Correlations, regressions, and factor analysis were used to identify potential predictors of scores.

A significant relationship between moral reasoning and academic integrity was found. As moral reasoning levels elevated, cheating frequencies reduced while perceived seriousness of cheating increased. No significant differences were noted among PT students regarding moral reasoning. However, second- and third-year students perceived and reported witnessing greater cheating in their professional programs than first-year students.

PT students attending private institutions reported fewer cheating frequencies, higher perceived seriousness of cheating, and higher moral reasoning scores than PT students attending public institutions. PT students attending public institutions reported witnessing increased cheating in their pre-professional coursework. Predictors of academic integrity included perception of cheating within professional programs, perceived seriousness of cheating, moral reasoning scores, and cheating frequency; predictors of moral reasoning included frequency of cheating, gender, political views, and religion.

This study highlighted the relationship between moral reasoning and academic integrity in PT students. These findings may inspire educators to implement additional ethical development and academic integrity training within their PT curriculae. Academic dishonesty has been linked to workplace dishonesty in multiple professions. Therefore, advanced training during PT education may impact workplace integrity in the future.