ROE R. Cross Distinguished Professor
Stephen F. Davis
1984 - Stephen F. Davis
The cliche “cheaters never prosper” could be false. Perhaps “the people cheaters serve never prosper” is more accurate and is definitely a bigger problem for our society.
Dr. Stephen F. Davis, professor emeritus and Roe R. Cross Distinguished Professor at Emporia State, came to that sort of conclusion from his research on cheating in school, which got him quoted in the October 1995 Reader’s Digest and the November 22, 1999 U.S. News & World Report.
“I’m scared to death,” said Davis in the U.S. News & World Report story where he talked about expanding his study of cheaters from secondary education and undergraduates in college to graduate and medical schools. “I hope I never get a brain disease.”
Research cited in the same U.S. News story showed that 90% of college students said cheaters never pay the price and 84% of college students believed they needed to cheat to get ahead in the world.
In a survey by Davis that was cited in the Reader’s Digest article, of 300 college students around the country, 66% said they had cheated on tests.
“The numbers alone are disturbing,” he said, “but even more alarming is the attitude. There is no remorse. For students, cheating is a way of life.”
This research led to the publishing of a book in 2009, Cheating in School: What We Know and What We can Do by Davis, along with Patrick F. Drinan and Tricia Bertram Gallant.
Davis, a nationally recognized psychology educator, has received virtually every honor possible for his teaching. In 1988, the American Psychology Association Foundation presented him with its Distinguished Teaching in Psychology Award. The next year, Davis received the Teaching Excellence Award from the American Psychology Association, Division II. Both awards recognize Davis’ achievements as a teacher, researcher, and innovator in education. In 1986, Davis received the first Outstanding Advisor Award from the national Psi Chi Psychology Honorary Society. His list of honors and publications continues growing.
“Even though I still find it a bit strange that we can receive awards for simply doing our job,” said Davis, “I know that teachers enjoy being recognized for executing their craft in an outstanding manner, and I am no exception.”
Davis has added to the lives of numerous students who speak of him with reverence. His belief that students learn best about psychology when immersed in research has produced more than 100 student co-authors on published articles. By his example, he teaches his students about scholarship, dedication, and professionalism. The quality of that teaching is evidenced by the many regional and national research awards garnered by his students.
“The only way to find out if you like psychology is to work in it,” said Davis. “It is like trying to learn to swim by sitting in a chair at home and watching it on television. You can’t do it. You have to jump in and get wet. We can’t spend time worrying about the possibility of failing. If we do, we’ll miss a lot of opportunities to succeed.”
Davis had several professors make a difference his life and believed it was his turn to give back. But what does making a difference really mean?
“Making a difference does not mean that the teacher does these activities for students,” he said in an excellent interview by William Buskist of Auburn University that was published under the title, The Compleat Teacher-Scholar. “It means that the teacher shows students how to accomplish these objectives effectively. In short, teachers make a difference for their students by helping open doors for them; the students have to decide whether they will go through these doors.”
Unlike many of his fellow scholars, Davis may have a different perspective on the travels of students. After what he calls a lackluster high school career, he nearly flunked out of Southern Methodist University (SMU).
“My senior year high school yearbook suggested I would make my mark on the world in the world of drag racing and auto mechanics,” Davis once said. “The summer following my sophomore year at SMU was a turning point.
“(SMU Professor) Virginia Chancey convinced me that my first two years of dismal grades would not preclude me from going to graduate school and becoming a psychologist.”
Two other faculty, Al North and Jack Strange are also credited with his remarkable turnaround.
“These three incredible SMU faculty showed me with crystal clarity that they truly cared for their students and that teaching was both fun and rewarding. In short, they taught me that psychologists can be scientists, teachers, and real people.”
Dr. Davis does all those things. And he does them with excellence.