Professor Lang Publishes New Book on Academic Dishonesty

Bethany Sampson's picture
Bethany Sampson

In August, 2012, college campuses across the country were rocked by Harvard’s announcement that they were investigating around 125 of their students for cheating on a final exam. Harvard’s Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris called the case “unprecedented in its scope and magnitude,” but as Assumption College Associate Professor of English JamesLang found in his new book Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty, cheating isn’t really that uncommon.

After having already written one book for Harvard University Press, Lang was approached by his editor with the topic for the book. All it took was one very convincing dinner at the Sole Proprietor to get Lang on board.

On July 29, Lang’s book was released, and on August 4 a follow-up article, titled “How college classes encourage cheating” was published on the Boston Globe’s website, both of which focus on the motivation behind cheating, as well as ways to help combat academic dishonesty.

According to Lang’s Boston Globe article, studies have found that 75 percent of college students have cheated at least once during their career; however, this number has remained consistent since the study was first conducted in 1963.

But 75 percent is a disheartening number for faculty, future employers, and the parents who are footing hefty tuition bills—not to mention for the five students out of every 20-person seminar who have pursued all their work honestly,” said Lang in the article.

Lang focuses on cognitive theory, particularly ways in which teachers can intrinsically motivate students, as opposed to solely letting extrinsic elements, such as grades, do the motivating. Essentially, the goal is to make students want to learn.

“Lang seeks to empower teachers to create more effective learning environments that foster intrinsic motivation, promote mastery, and instill the sense of self-efficacy that students need for deep learning,” says’s Cheating Lessons book description.

“Sometimes I think we get caught up in the notion of ‘covering’ certain topics without thinking enough about why students should care about those topics. The more we can frame our courses around fascinating problems and questions, the more I think we can help students develop an intrinsic motivation to learn,” said Lang.

Despite Lang’s belief that teachers should help students see the everyday relevance in their course work, he still acknowledges that students who cheat are at fault and deserve punishment.

“We will not solve this problem by blaming ourselves and letting students off the hook,” writes Lang.

Lang describes writing this book as an “excellent learning experience,” and reviewers appear to agree.

“Whether tracking historical incidents of cheating to illustrate different factors, or discussing how university communities can talk to their students about academic dishonesty, Lang is an upbeat guide, effectively arguing that even small steps can help reduce the potential for cheating,” Publishers Weekly says.

Lang’s book Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty can be purchased on, and as an added bonus, it’s eligible for free Prime shipping.

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