Can Future Managers and Business Executives be Influenced to Behave more Ethically in the Workplace? The Impact of Approaches to Learning on Business Students’ Cheating Behavior

Joan A. Ballantine*, Xin Guo, Patricia Larres

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)
200 Downloads (Pure)


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 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 significantly 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 that 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-258
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number1
Early online date03 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018



  • Approaches to learning
  • Cheating behavior
  • Deep
  • Future
  • Strategic
  • Surface

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