This study considers the potential for influencing business students to become ethical managers by directing their undergraduate learning environment. In particular, the relationship between business students’ academic cheating, as a predictor of workplace ethical behavior, and their approaches to learning is explored. The three approaches to learning identified from the students’ approaches to learning (SAL) literature are: deep approach, represented by an intrinsic interest in and a desire to understand the subject; surface approach, characterized by rote learning and memorization without understanding; and strategic approach, associated with competitive students whose motivation is the achievement of good grades by adopting either a surface or deep approach. Consistent with the hypothesized theoretical model, structural equation modeling revealed that the surface approach is associated with higher levels of cheating while the deep approach is related to lower levels. The strategic approach was also associated with less cheating and had a statistically stronger influence than the deep approach. Further, a significant positive relationship reported between deep and strategic approaches suggests that cheating is reduced when deep and strategic approaches are paired. These findings suggest that future managers and business executives can be influenced to behave more ethically in the workplace by directing their learning approaches. It is hoped the evidence presented may encourage those involved in the design of business programs to implement educational strategies which optimize students’ approaches to learning towards deep and strategic characteristics, thereby equipping tomorrow’s managers and business executives with skills to recognize and respond appropriately to workplace ethical dilemmas.
- Approaches to learning
- Cheating behavior