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Cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater

UNL educational psychologist Ken Kiewra has been known to delve into more than a few interesting topics that get the eye of the popular press. Recently, his research on the pervasiveness and the perceptions of cheating among high school students was added to that list.

This story encountered very little resistance on its way onto the national stage. For one, it was the beneficiary of good timing — many schools are wrapping up their school years, and so it’s end-of-semester test time for millions of high schoolers. Second, the research uncovered some fairly alarming findings about what students actually perceive as cheating. For example, 53 percent thought it was OK to give other students questions to an upcoming test, while just 23 percent said doing individual homework with a partner was dishonest.

We released the story nationally, because time was of the essence and time-consuming individual pitches ran the risk of us missing the key end-of-the-school-year news peg. Within a day of its release, the research became a talking point around the country: United Press International circulated a story to its hundreds of affiliates, which include newspapers, television stations and online-only news outlets nationwide. Various versions of the story also appeared at U.S. News & World Report, LiveScience.com, and dozens of blogs, including Science and Religion Today and at Minnesota Public Radio.

Then, Kiewra’s research was reported on by ABC News Radio’s national broadcast. Reporter Sherry Preston cited the study in ABC News’ May 12 report, which ran in syndication throughou the day. It was fun to hear our efforts play back to us on local affiliate KFOR-AM.

As is often the case, a local wave of coverage followed the national hits. Kiewra made the local rounds, interviewing on Nebraska radio stations KLIN (Lincoln) and KFAB (Omaha). The Associated Press also distributed a story for Nebraska affiliates, and it ran across the region for several days in mid- to late May.

Last, Kiewra also talked with Meredith Matthews, the editor of Current Health 2, a magazine for junior high and high school students published by Weekly Reader, about the findings. If we turn up a link to that piece, we’ll be sure to share it.

We’ve got a couple of other projects in the works with Kiewra, who is an expert on homework practices and studying. You’ll likely be seeing more of him in the national news in the weeks and months to come. Stay tuned.

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