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Academic Dishonesty and Testing: How Student Beliefs and Test Settings Impact Decisions to Cheat

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Research shows that academic dishonesty in post-secondary education runs particularly high among students in the specific disciplines of engineering, business, and nursing. The authors were interested in how student attitudes towards specific environments for testing might contribute to the prevalence or likelihood of cheating on tests and exams. It was hypothesized that while there would be no difference in their beliefs or attitudes regarding the acceptability of cheating behaviors in unproctored versus proctored settings, students would be more likely to engage in cheating behavior in an unproctored setting. Technology continues to transform the world around us at a rapid pace, allowing faculty to incorporate more technology into the classroom and to educate more students remotely via hybrid and online classes. While these opportunities have their benefits, they also present new challenges. The opportunity for cheating on tests increases, especially when exams are delivered in unproctored environments. An instrument was created to investigate the attitudes and behaviors of first-and second-year undergraduate engineering students while taking tests in both proctored and unproctored environments. In all, 734 students were surveyed from four different institutions of higher education. Students provided both qualitative and quantitative responses to questions related to their beliefs and attitudes toward cheating in today's socially shareable society. Results indicated that both students' attitudes and behaviors vary as a result of tests being delivered in a proctored versus unproctored environment.
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Journal of the National College Testing
Association 2020/Volume 4/Issue 1
Jarret M. Dyer is Coordinator, Specialized Testing and Co-Chair, Academic Integrity at College of DuPage. Email: dyerja@cod.edu
Heidi Pettyjohn is the Executive Director of Accessibility at University of Cincinnati. Email: heidi.pettyjohn@uc.edu
Steve Saladin is Professor of Psychology and the Director of Testing & Assessment at University of Idaho. E-mail: ssaladin@uidaho.edu
Academic Dishonesty and Testing:
How Student Beliefs and Test
Settings Impact Decisions to Cheat
JARRET M. DYER, M.B.A.
College of DuPage
HEIDI C. PETTYJOHN, M.A.
University of Cincinnati
STEVE SALADIN, PH.D.
University of Idaho
Author Note
The authors, Jarret M. Dyer, MBA, Heidi C. Pettyjohn, MA, and Steve Saladin, PhD,
would like to thank the following group of people that, without their commitment to the testing
industry, this project would not have been successful:
Dr. Judith A. Murphy, College of DuPage
Dr. Jim Bente, College of DuPage
Dr. Sara Rieder Bennett, University of Akron
Dr. James Wollack, University of Wisconsin Madison
Dr. David K. Clark, X
Ms. Diane Smith, Portland State University
2 Academic Dishonesty and Testing
Research shows that academic dishonesty in post-secondary education runs
particularly high among students in the specific disciplines of engineering,
business, and nursing. The authors were interested in how student attitudes
towards specific environments for testing might contribute to the prevalence or
likelihood of cheating on tests and exams. It was hypothesized that while there
would be no difference in their beliefs or attitudes regarding the acceptability of
cheating behaviors in unproctored versus proctored settings, students would be
more likely to engage in cheating behavior in an unproctored setting. Technology
continues to transform the world around us at a rapid pace, allowing faculty to
incorporate more technology into the classroom and to educate more students
remotely via hybrid and online classes. While these opportunities have their
benefits, they also present new challenges. The opportunity for cheating on tests
increases, especially when exams are delivered in unproctored environments. An
instrument was created to investigate the attitudes and behaviors of first- and
second-year undergraduate engineering students while taking tests in both
proctored and unproctored environments. In all, 734 students were surveyed from
four different institutions of higher education. Students provided both qualitative
and quantitative responses to questions related to their beliefs and attitudes
toward cheating in today’s socially shareable society. Results indicated that both
studentsattitudes and behaviors vary as a result of tests being delivered in a
proctored versus unproctored environment.
Keywords: academic integrity, academic dishonesty, cheating, proctored,
unproctored, attitudes, behaviors, testing, classroom, placement, on-line
INTRODUCTION
The term academic integrity was coined by
the late Donald L. McCabe, one of the
principal researchers in educational ethics
in the 20th Century (Star-Ledger, 2016).
Academic integrity (also called academic
honesty) is referred to as either the moral
code or ethical policies of an academic
institution. Typically, institutions refer to
their academic code of student conduct
when referencing the definitions of
academic integrity. The Higher Learning
Commission (HLC) identifies academic
integrity as a core criterion in creating the
fabric of an institution of learning. The HLC
Criteria for Accreditation list as a
requirement the need for an institution to
both “ensure the integrity of research and
scholarly practice” (Higher Learning
Commission [HLC], 2019, Criterion 2.E.1)
and “[have] and [enforce] policies on
academic honesty and integrity” (HLC,
2019, Criterion 2.E.3). Gallant and Drinan
(2006) posit, “integrity is so essential to the
adaptability and coherence of higher
education that its dilution or absence would
have almost unimaginable consequences to
the future of higher education” (p. 856). A
web search of the question "why does
academic integrity matter?" returns pages of
links from colleges and universities,
outlining a shared expectation that
academic integrity is at the core of a fair and
Journal of the National College Testing Association 3
honest environment where academic
freedom and success can flourish:
"Academic assignments exist to help
students learn; grades exist to show how
fully this goal is attained. Therefore all work
and all grades should result from the
student's own understanding and effort."
(University of Oklahoma, 2019, “What is
Academic Integrity?”)
Academic integrity is the moral
code that builds trust between scholars.”
(Luther College, 2017, “What is Academic
Integrity?”)
Fundamental to the academic work
you do at MIT is an expectation that you will
make choices that reflect integrity and
responsible behavior.(Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, n.d., “What is
Academic Integrity?”)
Academic integrity is a
commitment, even in the face of adversity,
to five fundamental values: honest, trust,
fairness, respect and responsibility. From
these values flow principles of behavior that
enable academic communities to translate
ideals into action.” (University of Toronto
Mississauga, n.d., “What is the meaning of
Academic Integrity?”)
INTEGRITY, DISHONESTY, AND
CHEATING
As defined above, academic integrity is a
core tenet of the fabric of higher education.
The antithesis of this, academic dishonesty,
has been described as any activity in which a
student violates the moral and ethical policy
of an academic institution. Academic
dishonesty can sometimes be referred to as
academic misconduct or academic fraud.
While academic dishonesty is often
substituted with the more specific
descriptor of cheating, for the context of this
paper, academic dishonesty is a larger
umbrella under which cheating is one
aspect. Cheating has been defined in many
ways; when it comes specifically to
education and testing, it may have been best
described by Dr. Gregory J. Cizek in 2012 at
the annual meeting of the American
Educational Research Association (AERA)
in Vancouver, Canada. Dr. Cizek defined
cheating as “any action taken before, during,
or after the administration of a test or
assignment, that is intended to gain an
unfair advantage or produce inaccurate
results” (Cizek, 2012, p. 16).
While most academics view cheating
as fairly black and white in scope, many face
a dilemma when attempting to fully
articulate what does and does not constitute
academic dishonesty. For example, some
faculty will inform students in their syllabi
that discussing any content on an exam is
academic dishonesty, while others will
solely state that cheating on a test is
dishonest. This ambiguity and inconsistency
within higher education illustrate the need
for continued education, discussion, and
research into the subject.
Prevalence by Self-Report
Over the past century, a body of research
into academic dishonesty has been compiled
that has focused on the actions of students
in higher education. Early in the 1960’s,
William J. Bowers conducted some of the
first large-scale surveys that looked to
measure cheating in college. Bowers’ initial
research showed that 75% of college
students surveyed had cheated at least once
in college (Bowers, 1964). This number
increased marginally thirty years later when
McCabe, along with additional researchers,
recreated Bowers’ survey and found that
4 Academic Dishonesty and Testing
82% reported they had cheated in college
(McCabe et al., 2001). These findings have
been continuously supported in current
studies, with ranges of self-reported
cheating between 50-70% (Hamlin et al.,
2013; Küҫüktepe, 2014) and nearly 40% of
students reporting using the internet to
facilitate cheating (Stogner et al., 2013).
This is an increasingly serious issue globally
(Löfström & Kupila, 2013; Miller et al.,
2015) and one that has become increasingly
culturally complex (Teixeira & Rocha,
2010). In the past 30 years, the number of
students that self-report consistent or
frequent cheating increased rather sharply,
especially in regard to cheating on tests. In
the early 1960’s, 17% of students surveyed
stated that they had cheated at least 3 times,
while in the 1990’s that number had
increased to 38% (McCabe et al., 2001).
However, since the late 1990’s, the
number of self-reported cheating has
decreased (McCabe, et al., 2012), and it is
unclear whether the decrease is due to fewer
incidents, rising awareness of the
importance of academic integrity, or student
disagreement as to what constitutes
cheating. Additionally, discussion can be
found that focuses on the ever-increasing
ease of cheating, especially while using
technology to cheat, or e-cheat (Hamlin et
al., 2013; Khan, 2017; Simkin & McLeod,
2010). Other scholars have argued that the
United States and a multitude of other
countries have seen an increase in the
frequency of cheating and have opined that
it is a sociological problem (Wollack &
Cizek, 2017). What has been absent from the
research is the impact of the environment
on studentswillingness to engage in
academic dishonesty. Better technology has
created several modalities in which faculty
can engage students in academic pursuit
remotely. With the advent of online
learning, that ability for students to engage
unseen with faculty has grown, as has the
ability for students to cheat and rarely get
caught.
Student and Faculty Perceptions
There is an apparent wall between student
perceptions and faculty perceptions on the
pervasiveness of academically dishonest
behaviors. Faculty report that they believe
cheating occurs much less frequently than
students believe, but when it occurs, faculty
view it as a more serious offense (Lipson &
McGavern, 1993). Some research posits that
the biggest concern is the extent to which
students are aware of what constitutes
dishonest behaviors, with up to one third
reporting they were unaware they
participated in academic dishonesty
(Beasley, 2014; Lepp, 2017). Given constant
access to internet-connected devices, some
traditional cheating behaviors have become
easier, giving rise to new styles of cheating
that have not previously existed (Khan,
2017). The perception of frequency of
cheating is consistently less than reality.
When asked, both cheaters and non-
cheaters reported perceptions of examinees’
frequency of cheating as lower than actual
cheating behaviors that are reported.
Cheaters report higher perceived frequency
than non-cheaters (Harding et al., 2001;
Sherrill et al., 1971; Srikanth & Asmatulu,
2014).
Impact to Institutions
The impact of academic dishonesty goes
beyond the individual impact of crossing a
moral or ethical boundary. It also reduces
the perceived academic integrity of the
institution, devaluing degrees earned from
that institution (Chace, 2012; Mensah et al.,
2016), and threatens the validity of those
credentials (Wollack & Cizek, 2017).
Students who cheat rather than learn to
pass courses are less prepared for the
Journal of the National College Testing Association 5
workforce and are more likely to engage
constituents in behaviors that are similarly
unethical (Smyth et al., 2009; Teixeira &
Rocha, 2010). Institutions of higher
education consider themselves to be more
than degree granters and state an
institutional commitment to producing
ethical and prepared citizens (Chan, 2016).
To that end, it is imperative that universities
and colleges not only hold accountable those
students who are caught cheating, but also
take steps to systemically limit the
prevalence of cheating.
Given the essential nature of academic
integrity to the academic mission of an
institution, preventing academic dishonesty
on the most common form of assessment
(testing) is of high value to many colleges
and universities. In classrooms and in the
test center environment, this threat to
academic integrity should lead to very strict
security rules. Students should be observed
at all times while testing (Petrak & Bartolac,
2014), and proctors must be able to
intervene immediately if there is any
unusual testing behavior (Weinstein, 2013).
The Association of Test Publishers (ATP)
and the National College Testing
Association (NCTA) have published
Proctoring Best Practices, an industry guide
that clearly articulates the steps needed to
deliver a test securely (ATP & NCTA, 2015).
Additionally, the Handbook of Test Security
(Wollack & Fremer, 2013), the TILSA
Testing Security Guidebook (Olsen &
Fremer, 2013), the NCTA Professional
Standards & Guidelines (NCTA, 2014), and
the Standards for Educational and
Psychological Testing (AERA, APA, &
NCME, 2014) all address securely delivering
tests and assessments. Implementation of
best practices is paramount in these
endeavors, especially in online classes and
online exam administration. Students in
online courses have the highest tendency to
cheat, with more than 70% admitting to
cheating (Srikanth & Asmatulu, 2014). This
creates a nebulous space in which programs
can be uncertain of how to operate.
Specifically, it is difficult to provide the
students with the same educational
experience online while balancing
convenience with security concerns, which
can lead to increased costs in online and
hybrid courses.
Demographics and Cheating
When researchers attempt to identify
individual factors that predict the likelihood
of a student cheating, previous research has
produced mixed results. Several studies
indicate that female students cheat less than
male students (Kobayashi & Fukushima,
2012; McCabe & Trevino, 1997). However,
other literature reviews show gender to be
an inconsistent determinant of academic
dishonesty (Klein et al., 2007), with more
recent studies finding both genders
engaging in academic dishonesty, but using
different approaches (Anitsal et al., 2009;
Monahan et al., 2018). Commuting students
have been found to cheat less than
residential students, and upper-class
students cheat less than 1st and 2nd year
students (Josien & Broderick, 2013).
Students with lower grade points averages
tend to cheat more often than their
counterparts with higher grade point
averages (Diekhoff et al., 1996; Roig &
DeTommaso, 1995). Some have shown that
international students are more likely to be
reported for cheating than domestic
students (Beasley, 2016); however, Teixeira
and Rocha (2010) found significant
variability in self-reported cheating among
international students depending on the
country in which they were studying, and
Miller et al. (2015) suggest that factors
related to lower institutional economic
6 Academic Dishonesty and Testing
stability increase the level of cheating. In
addition, previous research suggests that
the student’s opinions on cheating change
when technology is introduced or if
presented with take home or out of class
exams (Carpenter et al., 2006; Josien &
Broderick, 2013; Jurdi et al., 2012). This is a
significant finding in the research and the
impetus for the work conducted here.
Environmental Influences
A consistent finding in the literature is the
impact that internal and contextual
influences have on the prevalence of
academic dishonesty. Ruedy, Moore, Gino
and Schweitzer (2013) found that, contrary
to the fundamental assumption that
cheating triggers feelings such as guilt,
shame, and anxiety, unethical behavior can
actually trigger positive affect, or what they
call the “cheater’s high.” They write, “Our
findings challenge these assumptions and
demonstrate that some unethical behaviors
not only fail to trigger negative affect but
can in fact trigger positive affect” (Ruedy et
al., 2013, p. 542).
However, even this finding on internal
influences concludes, “the cheater’s high is
likely to be moderated by contextual
factors” (Ruedy et al., p. 545). As much of
the research in the field shows, the impact
of peers’ beliefs and behavior (or perceived
beliefs and behavior) is one of the
contextual variables that has received
significant attention in the literature (Jurdi
et al., 2012; McCabe & Trevino, 1997).
Demanet and Van Houtte (2012) found that
adolescents with strong peer bonds are
more likely to engage in school misconduct
(including cheating on tests) that is
reinforced by those peer bonds. Peers are
often part of the neutralization techniques
(rationalization, denial, deflecting blame)
cited by McCabe (1992) that reduce negative
affect.
A final and consistent theme in the
literature was the importance of the faculty
member (primarily) and the institution
(secondarily) in setting an environment of
academic integrity. In fact, students have
indicated that the onus is on the institution
and the faculty member, not the students, to
limit cheating (Aasheim et al., 2012;
Asmatulu et al., 2012; Carpenter et al.,
2006). Additionally, schools that instituted
honor codes saw fewer incidents of
academic dishonesty (McCabe et al., 2002).
In particular, when faculty both spoke with
students about integrity and the honor code
and enforced violations consistently,
positive attitudes toward cheating among
students decreased, as did the prevalence of
cheating (Carpenter et al., 2006).
This study was designed to move
beyond preventive security measures and
look at how understanding attitudes about
cheating in differing test environments
could be used to direct campus decision-
making in a proactive approach to
increasing test security. The literature
would suggest that in order to influence
students to be more honest and ethical in
academic testing (which all articles
suggested was of primary importance),
colleges need to understand how students
feel about the acts that administration and
faculty consider to be academically
dishonest and what their perceived beliefs
are about the negative impacts of taking
part in these acts. In turn, this
understanding can be used as the
foundational discussion points for faculty,
staff, and administration in formulating
plans to combat cheating on tests and to
engage students in discussions of academic
integrity.
It is important to note that most
literature available on academic dishonesty
in post-secondary institutions focuses on
academic dishonesty as a whole and does
Journal of the National College Testing Association 7
not specifically focus on testing. There were
gaps found in the literature on academic
dishonesty and test administration. Much of
the literature and data suggests a very high
incidence of plagiarism (Jurdi et al., 2012)
but often does not distinguish between that
and cheating on tests. This study uniquely
addresses how students feel about
performing acts that are considered
academically dishonest on exams, whether
or not they personally agree with those acts,
and allows them to provide open–ended
feedback. The authors hypothesized that
students in the current study would be more
likely to report engaging in cheating
behavior in an unproctored versus
proctored setting, but that there would be
no difference in their beliefs/attitudes
regarding the acceptability of cheating
behaviors in unproctored versus proctored
settings.
METHOD
While there is a solid body of research
conducted on cheating in higher education,
there has been limited research focused
specifically on test taker misconduct in and
around testing centers. In this project, the
researchers attempted to better understand
student/test taker attitudes and social
trends in order to improve current testing
practices and testing delivery at testing
centers. Specifically, the researchers were
interested in the impact of a proctored
testing environment relative to an
unproctored environment on cheating
attitudes and behaviors.
The data gathered was not further
correlated to any institutional data on
academic dishonesty, GPA, or other
individual factors of students who
completed the survey. This was done to
allow anonymity on behalf of the
participants to support openness in
responses. In addition, there was no faculty
involvement outside of initial support to
solicit students. This study specifically
focused on first- and second-year
engineering students enrolled in both two-
year and four-year public institutions of
higher education. This population was
selected based on research that shows that
self-reports of cheating differ by major, and
engineering students tend to self-report
higher than almost all majors, with the
exception of business (Carpenter et al.,
2006; Henslee et al., 2017; McCabe, 1997).
Both the survey and the solicitation
specifically avoided using the word
“cheating,” opting for “academic
dishonesty.” Jurdi et al (2012) concluded
that using a more neutral term influences
the decision about whether or not to commit
the act and leads to higher (and presumably
more accurate) self-reporting around having
committed those acts in the past. The survey
described the behaviors of interest as those
typically considered to be in violation of
student codes of conduct found across many
higher education institutions.
The literature suggests several ways to
conduct research and obtain data on
academic dishonesty. Teixeira and Rocha
(2010) describe the main four ways as
adopted from Kerkvliet and Sigmund (1999)
as follows: 1) direct yet discrete observation
of the data; 2) the “overlapping error”
method; 3) the random answer questions
method; and 4) inquiry via the direct
questions method. Based on its ability to
provide the largest volume of data for
analysis, the inquiry via direct method was
selected for this study.
Instrument Design
This study’s design offers a comprehensive
and contemporary look into cheating in
both proctored and unproctored testing
8 Academic Dishonesty and Testing
environments. The survey was developed by
the authors to provide qualitative,
descriptive data on participants’ opinions
and self-reported behaviors. It focused on
student attitudes toward placement and
classroom testing, specifically on the
delivery modality of tests given in proctored
environments or unproctored/take home
environments. To build on the existing
research and address a gap in the literature
regarding the relationship between
academically dishonest behavior and
cheating on tests, the researcher-designed
survey was built to replicate previous
research conducted by Carpenter, Finelli,
Harding, and Montgomery in 2006.
Similarly, first- and second-year
engineering students were surveyed as
outlined in the research and for the
statistical probability that a higher
occurrence of cheating is likely in that
particular demographic of students
(McCabe, 1997).
This survey was designed to measure
student opinions on types of academically
dishonest behaviors in test taking, how
often they have participated in those same
behaviors in test taking, whether or not they
believed to have been pressured by others to
cheat on tests, and whether or not that
pressure resulted in them actually cheating
on a test.
For the first set of questions about
specific opinions and behaviors, the
behaviors listed were drawn from Lou
Woodruff’s Common Cheating Techniques
and Strategies (Woodruff, 2013). Those
include:
1. use of unauthorized aids
2. communication codes
3. pre-knowledge
4. proxy testing
5. copying
Participants were offered Likert scale
survey questions regarding beliefs/attitudes
about the acceptability of the described
cheating behaviors, and then how frequently
the students engaged or had engaged in
those same behaviors in both proctored and
unproctored environments while taking
placement and classroom tests. The scales
were based on Vagias’ Likert-type Scale
Response Anchors from the Clemson
International Institute for Tourism and
Research Development and included the
following anchors (Vagias, 2006):
Level of Acceptability:
1. Totally unacceptable
2. Slightly unacceptable
3. Neutral
4. Slightly acceptable
5. Totally acceptable
Level of Frequency:
1. Never
2. Almost never
3. Occasionally/Sometimes
4. Almost every time
5. Every time
The survey consisted of thirteen
questions, distributed among four sections:
a) Section 1
Questions 1 – 4 addressed students’
opinions regarding identified types of
academically dishonest behavior in test
taking, both proctored and unproctored.
Responses were indicated on the Likert
scale by level of acceptability.
Question 5 provided respondents the
opportunity to provide written
comments (open-ended response).
b) Section 2
Questions 6-7 addressed how often
students participated in identified
academically dishonest test-taking
Journal of the National College Testing Association 9
behaviors, both in proctored and
unproctored testing environments.
Responses were indicated on a Likert
scale by level of frequency.
Question 8 provided respondents
the opportunity to provide written
comments (open-ended response).
c) Section 3 (optional)
Question 9 addressed students’ beliefs
regarding whether they felt pressured by
others to cheat on tests; responses were
indicated on a Likert scale by level of
frequency.
Question 10 addressed whether
students acted on pressure from others
and actually cheated on a test.
Responses were indicated on a Likert
scale by level of frequency.
d) Section 4
Questions 11-12 were demographic
questions requesting gender and race.
Question 13 provided respondents
the opportunity to provide written
comments (open-ended response).
There was an opportunity for open
response at the end of each section for any
further explanation. Finally, respondents
were given an optional question, “How often
have you been encouraged by any of the
following to engage in academically
dishonest behavior that went against the
code of conduct when taking an exam
(whether you did or did not act on it)?” For
this section, respondents could answer with
the following scale:
1. Never
2. Rarely
3. Occasionally
4. A moderate amount
5. A great deal.
The survey, while based on a set of
questions attributed to Lou Woodruff’s
Common Cheating Techniques and
Strategies (Woodruff, 2013) and reviewed
by the authors and through the IRB
approval process, was not pilot tested. This
is a limitation of this study and an area for
future improvement.
Participants
First- and second-year students that had
selected engineering as their primary course
of study were selected to participate in the
study. Students from both two-year and
four-year public institutions were able to
participate and respond. While it was
suggested that the primary contacts at each
institution utilize research and development
offices to select the students surveyed, the
final decision of which students to survey
was ultimately left in the hands of the
primary contacts at the institutions that
elected to participate. Only first- and
second-year students were invited to
participate in the survey to keep consistency
with the students surveyed given the
incorporation of both two- and four-year
institutions. No additional metrics were
used to differentiate the student responses.
The study was reviewed and approved
by the Institutional Review Board at
Institution A in January 2015. Once
approval was received, solicitation of
institutions began in the spring of 2015. The
primary form of solicitation was through
members of a national academic
professional association. Initially, over
twenty requests were received to participate
in the study from colleges and universities
nationwide, but in the end, four colleges and
universities were able to commit to
participate. Of the participating institutions,
all accepted the IRB approval from
Institution A. None required additional IRB
10 Academic Dishonesty and Testing
approvals, which greatly accelerated
implementation of the project.
Survey
The survey instrument was developed by the
authors and distributed via Qualtrics. A
research associate in the Office of Research
and Planning at the principal researchers’
school oversaw the daily activity on the
study and secured the raw data during each
survey window. All surveys were run for two
consecutive weeks.
Data Collection
After the surveys were closed, a report was
delivered to the primary author on the study
as a PDF document devoid of any personally
identifying information to protect the
anonymity of the respondents. Additionally,
at the beginning of each survey, respondents
were made aware that the researchers would
do their best to protect the anonymity of
their responses, and a contact on each
campus was listed in the event that a
student had a comment or concern.
Institution A is a public, 2-year
community college with an approximate
student population of 31,000. Institution B
is a public, 4-year university with an
approximate student population of 46,000.
Institution C is a public, 4-year institution
with 28,000 students. Institution D is a
public, 4-year institution with
approximately 12,000 students. The survey
was distributed to first- and second-year
engineering students at Institution A during
the spring of 2015, at Institution B during
the fall of 2015, and at Institution C and D
during the spring of 2016. In total, 734
students from four institutions participated
in the survey as detailed below.
Table 1
Number of Respondents by Institution
Institution A Institution B Institution C Institution D
2-year 4-year 4-year 4-year
Respondents 70 271 209 184
Data were collected from 734
individuals; however, response rates varied
from section to section. 50 subjects missing
data in the beliefs and behaviors sections
were eliminated. Of the 684 subjects who
completed the questions about beliefs,
nearly 12% left more than half of the
behavioral questions unanswered, and a full
29% of the subjects failed to respond to one
or more of the questions about behavior.
After eliminating those with missing data,
484 complete responses were returned and
used for analysis.
RESULTS
The data indicate that cheating is both
commonplace and to some degree viewed as
acceptable. 62% of our sample (298
subjects) indicated that they had engaged in
some sort of cheating at least occasionally
(which also means that only 38% of
students said they have never cheated
during their college career). 76% (369
subjects) indicated at least some acceptance
of cheating, and only 24% reported that
cheating was never acceptable. For all
questions, both the median and mode were
1 (Totally unacceptable or Never), with the
exception of the 4 items asking about
Journal of the National College Testing Association 11
“Talking about a test you havent yet taken
with a student who has taken the test”
(median = 2, mode = 1). Based on a review
of the comments, it appeared that most
respondents who indicated that this was
acceptable or that they had engaged in it
were interpreting the item as asking about
the appropriateness of talking to someone
about general nature of the exam, rather
than sharing actual questions from the
exam. But even when excluding these items,
43% still reported engaging in cheating
behavior, and 54% expressed some
acceptance of cheating.
Table 2 presents the behavior deemed
most inappropriate/least likely to engage in,
and the most and second most
appropriate/likely to engage in for
proctored versus unproctored situations.
The percentages in Table 2 refer to the
percent of total respondents that reported
perception of attitudes as in agreement with
the questioned behavior, within a proctored
or unproctored environment.
Table 2
Least and Most Acceptable Cheating Behaviors
Situation Most Inappropriate/
Lowest Frequency
Most Appropriate/
Highest Frequency
2nd Most
Appropriate/ 2nd
Highest Frequency
Proctored
Attitude Proxy test taker (97%)
Talking with someone
who already took the
test (17%)
Cheat sheet (5%)/ prior
viewing of test content
(5%)
Proctored
Behavior
Communicating with
other test takers/Proxy
test taker (99%)
Talking with someone
who already took the
test (5%)
Cheat sheet/looking up
answers (0.4%)
Unproctored
Attitude Proxy test taker (94%)
Talking with someone
who already took the
test (21%)
All others 7-8%
Unproctored
Behavior Proxy test taker (98%)
Talking with someone
who already took the
test (6%)
Looking up answers
when told not to (4%)
Results were analyzed comparing the
proctored versus unproctored environments
by both beliefs and behaviors, and beliefs
compared with behaviors. Table 2 highlights
these finding and shows the least and most
acceptable cheating behaviors in relation to
studentsattitudes and behaviors. It was
hypothesized that students would be more
likely to engage in cheating behavior in an
unproctored setting, but that there would be
no difference in their beliefs/attitudes
regarding the acceptability of cheating
behaviors in unproctored versus proctored
settings. Responses were collapsed across
the various conditions to generate a mean
response for beliefs/attitudes about
cheating in unproctored versus proctored
settings for each subject, as well as for their
reported behavior (engagement in each
cheating modality). Results for attitudes are
shown in Table 3, and behaviors are in
Table 4. Lower scores on attitude items
indicate perceiving the behavior as less
acceptable, and lower scores on behavioral
12 Academic Dishonesty and Testing
items indicate less frequently engaging in
that behavior.
Table 3
Responses to Questions about Beliefs
Placement Proctored Mean Median Mode Range StdDev
Use an unapproved cheat sheet(with
answers, equations, definitions, etc.)
1.29 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.84
Text or otherwise communicating with other
test takers about the test while you are taking it 1.16 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.65
Unauthorized viewing of test content prior to
taking your test 1.38 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.84
Look up answers to a test question during the
test 1.20 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.72
Have someone else take the test for you 1.12 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.61
Copy from another test taker 1.20 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.67
Talk about a test you havent yet taken with a
student who has taken the test 2.28 2.00 1.00 4.00 1.29
Classroom Proctored Mean Median Mode Range StdDev
Use an unapproved cheat sheet(with
answers, equations, definitions, etc.) 1.20 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.71
Text or otherwise communicating with other
test takers about the test while you are taking it 1.15 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.60
Unauthorized viewing of test content prior to
taking your test 1.29 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.76
Look up answers to a test question during the
test
1.16 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.63
Have someone else take the test for you 1.10 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.54
Copy from another test taker 1.19 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.61
Talk about a test you havent yet taken with a
student who has taken the test 2.19 2.00 1.00 4.00 1.26
Placement Unproctored Mean Median Mode Range StdDev
Look up answers to a test question when you
have been instructed not to do so 1.59 1.00 1.00 4.00 1.01
Collaborate with another test taker while taking
the test when you have been instructed to work
alone
1.58 1.00 1.00 4.00 1.01
Journal of the National College Testing Association 13
Collaborate with someone else (not a classmate
or someone else who will or has taken the test)
on the exam while you are taking it
1.62 1.00 1.00 4.00 1.05
Unauthorized viewing of exam content prior to
taking the test 1.52 1.00 1.00 4.00 1.01
Have someone else take the test for you 1.20 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.70
Talk about a test you havent yet taken with a
student who has taken the test 2.32 2.00 1.00 4.00 1.34
Classroom Unproctored Mean Median Mode Range StdDev
Look up answers to a test question when you
have been instructed not to do so 1.54 1.00 1.00 4.00 1.01
Collaborate with another test taker while taking
the test when you have been instructed to work
alone
1.55 1.00 1.00 4.00 1.01
Collaborate with someone else (not a classmate
or someone else who will or has taken the test)
on the exam while you are taking it
1.58 1.00 1.00 4.00 1.03
Unauthorized viewing of exam content prior to
taking the test 1.43 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.92
Have someone else take the test for you 1.18 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.68
Talk about a test you havent yet taken with a
student who has taken the test 2.26 2.00 1.00 4.00 1.33
Table 4
Responses to Questions about Behavior
Proctored Mean Median Mode Range StdDev
Used an unapproved cheat sheet(with
answers, equations, definitions, etc.) 1.09 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.39
Texted or otherwise communicated with other
test takers about the test while you are taking it 1.05 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.29
Viewed test content prior to taking your test
when unauthorized 1.09 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.37
Looked up answers to a test question during
the test 1.11 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.40
Had someone else take the test for you 1.04 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.30
Copied from another test taker 1.18 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.49
Talked about a test you havent yet taken with a
student who has taken the test 1.80 1.00 1.00 4.00 1.00
14 Academic Dishonesty and Testing
Unproctored Mean Median Mode Range StdDev
Texted or otherwise communicated with other
test takers about the test while you are taking it 1.45 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.85
Viewed test content prior to taking your test
when unauthorized 1.31 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.71
Looked up answers to a test question during
the test 1.28 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.67
Had someone else take the test for you 1.12 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.46
Copied from another test taker 1.06 1.00 1.00 4.00 0.33
Talked about a test you havent yet taken with a
student who has taken the test 1.71 1.00 1.00 4.00 1.01
A paired-samples t-test was also
conducted to compare the overall
perception of acceptability of various
methods of cheating in unproctored and
proctored conditions. There was a
significant difference in the acceptability
scores for the unproctored (M = 1.615, SD =
0.799) and proctored (M = 1.352, SD =
0.572) conditions; t(483) = 9.683, p < .001,
d = 0.38). Subjects reported that they find
cheating as more acceptable on an
unproctored test than they do when that test
is proctored. While statistically significant,
this difference still represents a small effect
size. Again, a separate paired-sample t-test
on just those subjects who reported some
degree of acceptability for at least one of the
cheating methods (average across all
methods was greater than 1.0) also found a
significant difference between the
unproctored (M = 1.81, SD = 0.83) and
proctored (M = 1.46, SD = 0.61) conditions
(t(368) = 9.99, p < .001; d = 0.47), with the
difference approaching a medium effect
size. These findings do not support the
hypothesis that students’ attitudes would
not differ by proctored versus unproctored
environment.
A paired-samples t-test was
conducted to compare the reported level of
engagement in various methods of cheating
in unproctored and proctored conditions.
There was a significant difference in the
scores for the unproctored (M = 1.32, SD =
0.52) and proctored (M = 1.19, SD = 0.33)
conditions (t(483) = 6.96, p < 0.001,
d=0.3). As predicted, students were
statistically more likely to report having
engaged in a variety of cheating behaviors
when in an unproctored environment, with
a small effect size. When those subjects who
reported no cheating behavior (average
across all behavior items was 1.0) were
removed, the difference between the
unproctored (M = 1.52, SD = 0.5) and the
proctored (M = 1.32, SD = 0.37) was even
greater (t(297) = 7.19, p < .001, d = 0.43).
Subjects reported that they are more likely
to cheat on a test when it is not
administered in a proctored environment,
which supports the authors’ first hypothesis,
that students are more likely to engage in
cheating behavior in an unproctored setting.
Journal of the National College Testing Association 15
Table 5
Correlations between self-reported attitudes/beliefs and self-reported behavior for all subjects
and for those who reported engaging in some cheating behavior
Proctored Attitudes and BehaviorPlacement All respondents Admitted cheating
Using a Cheat sheet 0.2325 0.2680
Txt/Communicating with others 0.3258 0.4464
Viewing test content before exam 0.3088 0.3558
Looking up answers 0.2522 0.3189
Having someone else take the test for you 0.3462 0.4797
Copy off another test taker 0.3284 0.4208
Talking to someone who has already taken the test 0.4641 0.3944
All attitudes for Proctored Placement exams 0.4704 0.5523
Proctored Attitudes and Behavior—Classroom All respondents Admitted cheating
Using a Cheat sheet 0.2843 0.3717
Txt/Communicating with others 0.4141 0.5515
Viewing test content before exam 0.3614 0.4345
Looking up answers 0.3132 0.4100
Having someone else take the test for you 0.4036 0.5546
Copy off another test taker 0.4048 0.5202
Talking to someone who has already taken the test 0.4899 0.4651
All attitudes for Proctored Classroom exams 0.5172 0.6188
Unproctored Attitudes and BehaviorPlacement All respondents Admitted cheating
Looking up answers 0.4598 0.4509
Collaborating with another test taker 0.2664 0.2232
Collaborating with someone other than another test
taker 0.2605 0.2949
Viewing test content before exam 0.2122 0.1769
Having someone else take the test for you 0.2317 0.2228
Talking to someone who has already taken the test 0.3340 0.2630
All attitudes for Unproctored Placement exams 0.2383 0.1908
Unproctored Attitudes and Behavior—Classroom All respondents Admitted cheating
Looking up answers 0.4366 0.4360
Collaborating with another test taker 0.2956 0.2682
16 Academic Dishonesty and Testing
Collaborating with someone other than another test
taker 0.2419 0.2630
Viewing test content before exam 0.2124 0.1711
Having someone else take the test for you 0.2690 0.3407
Talking to someone who has already taken the test 0.3808 0.3074
All attitudes for Unproctored Classroom exams 0.2255 0.2301
Note. Correlations all p < .001
In the findings of student beliefs, of
particular interest is the relationship
between subjects’ beliefs about cheating and
their likelihood of engaging in that behavior.
Pearson product moment correlations were
calculated between subjects’ beliefs and
their reported behavior in proctored and
unproctored conditions for both placement
and classroom exams. In all cases, this
resulted in modest positive correlations
ranging from r = 0.21 (N = 484, p < .001;
for beliefs and behavior regarding the
viewing the content of a classroom exam
prior to the exam in the unproctored
condition) to r = 0.49 (N = 484, p < .001;
for beliefs and behavior regarding talking to
someone who had already taken the exam in
the proctored condition). When collapsing
across beliefs for our four conditions and
comparing them to behaviors in the
proctored or unproctored conditions,
correlations for unproctored situations were
r = 0.23 for classroom exams and r = 0.24
for placement exams, while correlations for
proctored situations were r = 0.52 for
classroom exams and r = 0.47 for placement
exams (N = 484, p < .001 for all).
Clearly, beliefs are more highly
correlated with actual behavior in proctored
situations than unproctored ones. When
considering only those who reported some
degree of cheating behavior, these increased
in proctored classroom (r = 0.62) and
placement (r = 0.55) exams, as well as
slightly in unproctored classroom (r = 0.23)
exams; however, for unproctored placement
exams, it actually dropped (r = 0.19),
although the correlation was still significant
(N = 484, p < .001). Consistent with
previous research (Mensah et al., 2016), this
data suggests that an individual’s beliefs
concerning the acceptability of cheating is
related to their behavior regarding cheating,
especially for proctored administrations of
the exam.
Examination of the comments
provided by 177 of the 484 subjects (37% of
the data set) indicated that a subset of the
sample (approximately 18% of those
providing written comments) expressed the
belief that if an exam was not proctored, it
was assumed that students would use all
resources at their disposal. While there were
several justifications for “cheating” in an
unproctored environment, the most often
cited (by approximately 11% of those
providing comments) was that it was the
instructor’s responsibility to provide a
proctored environment if they did not want
students to access other resources (e.g., “If
the [professor] truly wants a student to not
use the Internet, the test should be taken in
a classroom.”). The lack of proctoring was
essentially considered permission to
collaborate and use whatever resources
students had available (e.g., “I think that if
you leave students alone while taking a test,
it should be assumed that they will
collaborate because everyone wants a good
grade). This was followed by comments
suggesting that in the real world they would
be expected to collaborate and use all the
Journal of the National College Testing Association 17
resources at their disposal (approximately
10%) and that the current system’s
emphasis on grades over learning justified
cheating (approximately 8%). An example of
the former type of comment is, “many
technical jobs are more about one’s ability
to find information than they are about
remembering it.” An example of the latter is,
“In our society today, grades are more
important than knowledge. You may know
the material better than other students but
can still receive a lower grade.” Only about
14% of the comments indicated that
cheating was wrong regardless of the
circumstances.
In addition to the data collected on
the main survey, an optional section allowed
students to share if they had been
encouraged to engage in academically
dishonest behaviors. They also indicated if
the encouragement had led them to engage
in dishonest behaviors. A total of 601
responses to the optional segment of the
survey were collected, indicating that many
of the respondents that did not complete the
full survey, did complete the optional
response section. Table 6 reflects
participants’ perceptions of encouragement
by individuals across social groups. As
above, lower scores on encouragement
items indicate perceptions of the behavior
as less frequently occurring. Generally,
respondents rated that the following
individuals never or rarely encourage them
to cheat on tests: parents, teachers
(elementary through college and including
teaching assistants), and coaches.
Respondents were more likely to rate that
they received some level of pressure to cheat
on tests from friends and classmates.
Table 6
Student Encouragement by Social Group
Social Group Mean Median Mode Range StdDev
Parents 1.12 1.00 1.00 5.00 0.46
High school teacher 1.14 1.00 1.00 5.00 0.45
Middle school teacher 1.10 1.00 1.00 5.00 0.40
Elementary teacher 1.06 1.00 1.00 5.00 0.29
College professor 1.13 1.00 1.00 5.00 0.45
College teaching assistant (TA) 1.16 1.00 1.00 5.00 0.47
Significant other 1.25 1.00 1.00 5.00 0.64
Friends 2.01 2.00 1.00 5.00 0.99
Classmates 2.04 2.00 1.00 5.00 1.01
Siblings 1.33 1.00 1.00 5.00 0.75
High school coach 1.07 1.00 1.00 5.00 0.34
College coach 1.04 1.00 1.00 5.00 0.26
Other (please specify) 1.10 1.00 1.00 5.00 0.51
18 Academic Dishonesty and Testing
In regard to how students behaved as
a result of being encouraged to cheat, 78%
of respondents who answered the optional
items indicated that they had been
encouraged to cheat. Of those, 41.83%
indicated that the encouragement had ever
resulted in dishonest behavior on an exam,
while 58.17% indicated that the
encouragement had not resulted in
dishonest behavior. Only 4.43% stated they
had never been encouraged by anyone to be
dishonest on an exam. Respondents’
perception of influence of encouragement
on their behavior is reflected in Table 7.
Table 7
Behavior Resulting from Encouragement
Yes, rarely 19.39%
Yes, occasionally 1.22%
Yes, a moderate amount 0.46%
Yes, a great deal 20.76%
No, never 58.17%
I have never been encouraged by anyone to be academically dishonest on an
exam. 4.43%a
aIncluded in the ‘No, never’ responses.
DISCUSSION
This research provides both quantitative
and qualitative data about how students feel
in regard to cheating on exams across
multiple test environments and the self-
reporting of their behaviors. It can provide a
framework around which testing
professionals, faculty, staff, and
administration can begin to better
understand the ongoing conversation in
higher education of how to combat
academic dishonesty and cheating in test
taking environments. Research that
compares descriptive data with other
methods of measuring cheating in test
taking environments could better analyze
the correlation of attitudes and behaviors
across multiple test environments.
To further complicate matters, the
field of research around academic
dishonesty makes it difficult to understand
behavior specific to test taking, as it tends to
measure various types of academic
dishonesty at the same time. Many studies
do not differentiate between different
behaviors in their discussions. Some studies
do differentiate but use tools that measure
multiple modes of dishonesty in the same
instrument, which can cause participants to
let their behaviors or attitudes on other
forms of dishonesty affect how they answer
questions about cheating on exams. As
faculty, staff, test developers, and other
professionals in the field take steps to
combat cheating on exams, it is imperative
that the literature differentiate academic
dishonesty on tests from behaviors like
plagiarism.
Setting and Behavior
The authors first hypothesized that students
would be more likely to engage in cheating
behavior in an unproctored setting. It is
clear from the findings, as indicated
previously, that the first hypothesis was
supported. As expected, students reported
Journal of the National College Testing Association 19
that they were more likely to engage in
cheating behavior on an unproctored test
than when that test is proctored.
Setting and Beliefs
The authors further hypothesized that there
would be no difference in their
beliefs/attitudes regarding the acceptability
of cheating behaviors in unproctored vs.
proctored settings. This hypothesis was not
supported; in fact, the data suggests that
students are more likely to state that
cheating behaviors in proctored settings are
more unacceptable than cheating behaviors
in unproctored. This is highly significant
and worth additional discussion and further
research. It is particularly relevant for
higher education institutions to understand
these findings in the context of continued
growth and expansion into online course
offerings. Specifically, it is imperative that,
when building curricula for online
coursework, proctoring must be
incorporated and available for all tests and
assessments. Faculty and staff should not
make the egregious mistake of believing an
honor code, signed statement of integrity,
verbal acceptance of syllabi expectations, or
other tacitly communicated acceptance is
alone enough to sway academic dishonesty
in online courses.
Institutional Responsibility for
Student Behavior
Results of this study found that students are
insistent that the responsibility for
mitigating the opportunity for cheating be
placed on the institution and the instructor.
It is imperative that faculty, staff, and
administrators understand that the
perceived responsibility of an institution is
that unless cheating is being prevented and
discussed, the institution is essentially
tacitly encouraging it. Current literature is
clear that students respond to the efforts
faculty and institutions put forth to
communicate the importance of academic
honesty. Consistent communication (Engler
et al., 2008; Khan, 2017), relevant
instruction (Day et al., 2011), security
measures during exams (Küҫüktepe, 2014;
Lepp, 2017; Weinstein, 2013), honor codes
(Dix et al., 2014; Tatum et al., 2018),
tutorials and training (Bretag et al., 2014;
Henslee et al., 2017), research design
(Simpson, 2019), and the implementation of
plagiarism detection tools (Jones, 2011)
have all been reported as consistently
effective. The data here adds to this by
clearly articulating the importance of exam
proctoring, proctored environments, and
the institution’s emphasis on the use of
these means to project its commitment to
academic honesty.
In the open response section, about
25% of the students responding indicated
that it should be expected that students will
use whatever is available to them in a take-
home or online test. That said, only about
17% actually admitted that such behavior
was acceptable. Additionally, a number of
comments indicated the perception that
take-home or online tests were perceived as
less important than proctored exams. It was
clear from the responses that student
attitudes focused on the actions of the
institutions and faculty and not just their
words or statements. The action of requiring
an online or classroom assessment to be
proctored indicated the institution’s
commitment to ensuring the quality of those
test results. Conversely, any inaction on the
part of the faculty to provide a secure exam
administration was seen as an indication
that the faculty did not care about test
security or cheating.
20 Academic Dishonesty and Testing
Implications for Online Learning
Further, as institutions set their sights on
growth and expansion in online course
offerings, it is imperative that they
understand the importance of online
proctoring in relation to academic integrity.
In no situation is an institution more
vulnerable to scandal and controversy
related to academic dishonesty than in
online education. It is imperative that
institutions understand that proctoring is
seen by the students as not only a reflection
of the seriousness of the assessment, but
also as the institution taking a stand to
uphold its overall integrity. As indicated in
the data, when a test, whether for classroom
or for placement, is administered outside of
a proctored environment, the attitudes of
students change. This study supports the
conclusion that when a test is not proctored,
students perceive cheating as more
acceptable and are more likely to cheat or
commit test fraud, all while placing the
responsibility on the institution to more
securely administer the test. Conversely,
when an institution indicates its
commitment to test security by requiring
tests to be conducted in a secure, proctored
environment, either in a testing center, in a
classroom, or through an online proctor, the
attitudes of the students reflect that
decision, and reported cheating behavior
decreases.
The survey did not inquire about
student perceptions of how honor codes,
faculty assertions, syllabus statements, or
conversations regarding academic integrity
would impact a student’s behavior. This has
been covered extensively in recent
literature. However, of particular interest
for further research would be to look at the
perspectives of students taking online tests
after signing an academic honesty statement
as compared to students taking online tests
when remote proctoring is required by the
faculty member.
Peer Behavior
Respondents were given the opportunity to
report how often they had been pressured to
engage in the behaviors asked about in
survey. A sampling of these responses was
provided in Tables 6 and 7. Because these
responses were optional, they were not
listed as a primary outcome of this research;
however, they are an area of potential
further research about societal pressure for
academic dishonesty on tests.
The data above surrounding peer
group social behavior is consistent with
previous research. Stogner et al. (2013)
found a very clear relationship between the
perception students have of peer actions
and their own cheating. That is to say, if a
student believes classmates are cheating on
a test, this will support their belief that
cheating on that test is acceptable. The
findings reported here support this
assertion. Stogner and colleagues posit that
cheating may be curbed at the institutional
level by modifying student peer
perceptions. Further, Pulfrey et al. (2018)
suggest that the role of social context, in this
case a competitive, performance-based
academic environment, links competitive
contexts to cheating. Interestingly, they
found in-group loyalty to support
rationalizing behaviors that would be
considered unethical in other situations.
This data would suggest adherence to this
ambivalence, especially with the closest in-
group members, friends and classmates.
When aggregated, 41.83% of students
responded that they had engaged in
academically dishonest behavior when
encouraged by a peer, with 58.17% stating
they had not engaged in any behavior as a
result of encouragement. This included a
Journal of the National College Testing Association 21
sub-group of 4.43% that stated they had
never been encouraged by a peer to cheat.
Testing and Learning
This research shows the need to establish a
culture and expectation in the classroom
around the purpose of testing and
assessment. Specifically, students’
comments were examined to determine if
any themes emerged. While no qualitative
analysis was conducted, the one theme
which seemed to emerge was the perception
of higher education today as transactional in
nature and the need to get a good grade as
more important than the acquisition of
knowledge. This is consistent with previous
research (Burrus et al., 2016; Chan, 2016;
Gross, 2011; Hamlin et al., 2013; Khan &
Subramanian, 2012; Shipley, 2009). A
selection of the qualitative statements made
by students that indicate the disconnect
between academic success and learning is
listed below in Table 8.
Table 8
Select Student Open Responses
“If you want to lower the rate of academic dishonesty, you must begin to enhance the value of
education to students as opposed to the value of the grade.”
“I don’t mind cheat sheets for equations.”
“In our society today, grades are more important than knowledge. We all must compete with this
so in order to keep up, most resort to cheating.”
“I will use any resource I can to succeed if I can get away with it. I would be an idiot not to.”
“When one has the opportunity to advance their standing, one takes it. It is cliché to say
“Everyone else is doing it,” but this cliché is, in fact, truth. When your direct competitors
and peers take advantage, you really have to do the same to keep up.”
“I’ve noticed students who use their smartphones to take pictures of tests after they’re returned.”
“What the teacher doesn’t know, won’t hurt him or her. It’s not that we want to cheat, but it gives
us another open window.”
“The rules for “cheating” weren’t specified specific enough. For example, there’s no such rule
[that states] writing a formula on your hand is illegal.”
“If you are under supervision of proctor or professor, then it is unacceptable to “cheat”. If you are
at home, it’s fair game.”
“Anyone would do anything they can get away with if they are desperate enough and if it means
succeeding. If you are an instructor and you give an exam then expect at least some level
of dishonesty.”
FUTURE RESEARCH
As mentioned several times above, there is a
need to conduct additional research
specifically around cheating on tests in
higher education, academic integrity and
cheating on tests, and student attitudes
toward success on tests and learning. In
particular, based on the data collected in
this survey, additional research is needed to
look at other segments of student
populations and analyze any particular
similarities to and/or differences from the
population surveyed in this project. In
addition, more research is needed to analyze
the predictive nature of these findings. It
would be of interest to investigate whether
22 Academic Dishonesty and Testing
the attitude was in fact a direct antecedent
of the behavior itself.
Previous research has found that
unproctored testing for non-cognitive
employment tests may be justified (Beaty et
al., 2011); however, based on the results of
this survey, additional research is needed in
the area of online proctoring for all testing,
but most specifically for high stakes and
educational testing.
The design of the survey allowed for a
completely anonymous response by the
respondents. No personally identifiable
information was collected by the authors. To
additionally ensure anonymity, the authors
received the data from a research specialist
in the office of Institutional Research at
Institution A after all time, location, and
other tags had been removed. While the
authors felt that this was necessary to allow
more freedom and honesty on the students
part, it did limit the understanding of the
demographics of the sample. For future
research, this will be reconsidered.
The opportunity to provide a written
response offers the possibility of capturing
and understanding motivations and
cognitions that are unexpected or novel.
While the written responses in this study
did provide some insights into the thinking
and attitudes of students, the prompts were
highly general in nature, resulting in a range
of topics that was too broad to be easily
categorized. Future research should focus
on more targeted open-ended questions in
order to allow for qualitative analysis.
Furthermore, the data from all four
institutions was collected as one data set,
and no additional matrices were used to
evaluate the specific responses from
Institution A vs. Institution B, for example.
This would be interesting additional
research to evaluate as well.
CONCLUSION
The results of this study indicate that
students are more likely to engage in
cheating behavior in an unproctored
environment, as hypothesized. Contrary to
the researchers’ hypothesis, the findings
suggest that student attitudes regarding the
acceptability of cheating also varied between
proctored and unproctored environments.
Therefore, it is imperative to establish a
culture and expectation in higher education
around the purpose of testing and
assessment that incorporates the impact of
academic dishonesty. It needs to address the
perception of higher education today as
transactional in nature and of the need to
get good grades as more important than the
acquisition of knowledge. As technology
continues to transform the world around us
at an unparalleled scale, the push to
incorporate more technology in the
classroom can reduce the commitment of
higher education to best practices in
assessment and testing. This research
stands as a firm reminder of the perils of not
adhering to these best practices.
Journal of the National College Testing Association 23
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28 Academic Dishonesty and Testing
APPENDIX A
Sample Survey Snapshot
Journal of the National College Testing Association 29
Sample Survey Snapshot
30 Academic Dishonesty and Testing
APPENDIX B
Student Recruitment Letter
We are inviting first and second year engineering students to participate in a study on attitudes
and behaviors around academic dishonesty (or “cheating”) on tests.
The purpose of this research study is to measure how students feel about practices of academic
dishonesty, how they have been influenced by outside forces to engage in academic dishonesty,
and finally how they actually behave in situations where they must practice academic integrity
while test taking.
You can access the survey here:
Academic Honesty Survey - Spring 2015
The survey will take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.
Your participation is voluntary and your answers will be confidential. The survey is being
delivered through Qualtrics, a secured survey delivery program to ensure your responses can not
be linked to you directly to ensure you can respond freely.
All participants may choose to be entered into a drawing to win several available $50 Amazon
gift cards upon completion of the survey.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Sincerely,
Jarret Dyer and Heidi Pettyjohn
... With the proliferation of online resources and online coursework, maintaining high standards for academic honesty has become increasingly complex (Spaulding, 2009). The information and communication technologies that have enabled online education are boons in many respects, but they have also given students new and powerful means to engage in dishonest behavior (Dyer et al., 2020;Stogner et al., 2013;Watson & Sottile, 2010). ...
... Surveys of students in online courses have not always indicated that online environments lead to more cheating than face-to-face ones, although there is some evidence that students are more likely to consult unauthorized materials during online exams (Grijalva et al., 2006;Stephens et al., 2007;Stuber-McEwen et al., 2009;Watson & Sottile, 2010). A recent survey by Dyer, Pettyjohn, and Saladin (2020) highlights that concern and also raises the importance of proctors during exams. They examined student reports of cheating behavior in proctored and unproctored settings, as well as students' beliefs about the acceptability of various dishonest behaviors. ...
... Unfortunately, our results indicate that cheating is the norm rather than the exception. One possible reason for our findings is that the type of cheating investigated here (using unauthorized sources to look up answers) is seen by students as relatively acceptable (Dyer et al., 2020). Students might not regard looking up answers as a "serious" or even "real" form of cheating, unlike other forms such as copying a peer's work or having a peer take a test in their stead. ...
Article
Full-text available
... Exam environment is a vital factor to motivate cheating behavior. Un-proctored online exam environments increase the incidents of cheating as they provide students with the opportunities to do so (Dyer, 2020). Using a quasi-experiment method Brothen & Peterson (2012) found that students who took online exams achieved higher marks than the students who took traditional exams. ...
... Cheating behavior has been examined widely in sociology and physiology of educationrelated literature (Arnab & Cobo, 2020;Dobson, 2008;Dyer et al., 2020;Fask et al., 2014;Harper, Bretag & Rundle, 2021;Levitt & Lin, 2015;Parks et al., 2018;Patki, Yu & Kulkarni, 2020;Joghee, et al., 2021). To understand the phenomenon of student cheating in online exams, this paper extends the fraud tringle model by integrating social-related factors as shown in Figure 1 (Bucciol, Cicognani & Montinari, 2020a;Choo & Tan, 2008a). ...
... The fraudster will be more motivated to commit a crime whenever the fraudster is able to justify the wrongdoing (Free, 2015). In academia, students who believe that they are not receiving adequate education show more propensity to cheat (Becker et al., 2006;Bucciol et al., 2020a;Choo & Tan, 2008a;Dyer et al., 2020;Harper et al., 2021;Levitt & Lin, 2015;McCabe et al., 2006;Said et al., 2017;Alzoubi & Aziz, 202)). Sayidah, Hartati & Muhajir (2012) found that the presence of rationalization significantly increases student cheating in exams. ...
Article
Full-text available
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, university students across the authors' universities have demonstrated similar performance results in conjunction with adopting the online learning systems. Occasionally, students snitch on their classmates' cheating behavior. It has been brought to our attention that students are acting in groups and in a very organized way to commit cheating using social media applications and other media. This research intends to understand the motivations underlying the behavioral intention to cheat while university exams are held online. In pursuing its aims, this study uses an integrated theoretical framework that includes the social capital theory and the fraud triangle theory. Through the use of a previously tested questionnaire, this study gathers data concerning the students cheating behavior from 213 respondents across a group of Jordanian universities. The findings of this study show that pressures, opportunities, rationalization, social norms, and social trust are all factors that affect the behavioral intention to cheat, which ultimately lead accounting students' to commit cheating while taking exams online. This research provides several practical contributions to the educators who are seeking to minimize the chances for dishonest students to cheat in online exams.
... The knowledge that other students are cheating can create for honest students an invidious moral choice between self-interest and personal integrity, and there may be a hurtful sense of both being taken advantage of by their fellow students and let down by their academic institute (Dyer, 2020). ...
... It was quite clear that without strong integrity and moral standards the result of such an exam is biased. These findings are congruent with current research (Dyer, 2020;Goff et al., 2020) and will be addressed following. ...
Article
Due to Covid-19, the higher education system in Israel faced rapid changes. Among these was the immediate shift to online exams. In this paper, we endeavor to scrutinize the different approaches to online-testing that diverge, converge, and complement each other on varying dimensions. The main questions we would like to address are how online exams were implemented on a large scale in Israel, the pros and cons of each form of implementation, and what factors characterized these exams. Data was gathered from various sources, including both interviews with faculty and students, online exam observations, emails and procedures, and informal queries and discussions on various online platforms such as faculty WhatsApp groups. Our findings demonstrate that each of the academic institutions we examined focused on one dimension of the solution, neglecting to address the other dimensions. The main contributions of this study are a simple guide to educators including 10 easily-applied recommendations on how to better administer on-line exams, an assessment of the implementation of the chosen procedures, and our highlighting of specific key issues that have yet to be addressed. Further research is needed, specifically to gather longitudinal data, so that our conclusions may be validated and generalized.
... The knowledge that other students are cheating can create for honest students an invidious moral choice between self-interest and personal integrity, and there may be a hurtful sense of both being taken advantage of by their fellow students and let down by their academic institute (Dyer, 2020). ...
... It was quite clear that without strong integrity and moral standards the result of such an exam is biased. These findings are congruent with current research (Dyer, 2020;Goff et al., 2020) and will be addressed following. ...
Article
Full-text available
Due to Covid-19, the higher education system in Israel faced rapid changes. Among these was the immediate shift to online exams. In this paper, we endeavor to scrutinize the different approaches to online-testing that diverge, converge, and complement each other on varying dimensions. The main questions we would like to address are how online exams were implemented on a large scale in Israel, the pros and cons of each form of implementation, and what factors characterized these exams. Data was gathered from various sources, including both interviews with faculty and students, online exam observations, e-mails and procedures, and informal queries and discussions on various online platforms such as faculty WhatsApp groups. Our findings suggest dimensions for scaling online exams and demonstrate that each of the academic institutions we examined focused on one dimension of the solution, neglecting to address the other dimensions. The main contributions of this study are a simple guide to educators including 10 easily-applied recommendations on how to better administer on-line exams, an assessment of the implementation of the chosen procedures, and our highlighting of specific key issues that have yet to be addressed. Further research is needed, specifically to gather longitudinal data, so that our conclusions may be validated and generalized.
... Some aspects of digital proctoring make it an attractive solution for maintaining academic integrity. First, research shows that students are more likely to cheat in an un-proctored environment (Dyer et al., 2020;Karim et al., 2014), which suggests that digital proctoring may deter cheating upfront. For many instructors, this is one of the most attractive aspects of digital proctoring, as they would likely rather prevent cheating than detect it. ...
Article
Full-text available
Background It is important for institutions of higher education to maintain academic integrity, both for students and the institutions themselves. Proctoring is one way of accomplishing this, and with the increasing popularity of online courses—along with the sudden shift to online education sparked by the COVID‐19 pandemic—digital proctoring has seen an increase in use. However, there are privacy and bias concerns related to digital proctoring, so it is important to critically examine its role in higher education—when it should and should not be used, and how it is perceived among those who interact with it. Objectives In this paper, we: examine the features of and concerns about digital proctoring; analyse the results of a survey regarding student and teaching assistant (TA) attitudes towards digital proctoring; and present alternatives to digital proctoring and a framework for evaluating the need for a digital proctoring tool. Methods We surveyed students and TAs in an online graduate computer science program, asking them to provide their agreement or disagreement with 20 statements related to digital proctoring. For each response option on each statement, we calculated overall percentages as well as percentages broken out by demographics. We compared these percentages to develop a picture of student and TA perceptions. Results and Conclusions Students and TAs alike are generally tolerant of digital proctoring software and perceive some benefits to using it, including adding integrity to course grades and value to degree programs. However, they have some concerns in the areas of privacy, equity, and technical difficulties. Takeaways Digital proctoring software should be used only when necessary, with thought devoted to its impact on students and TAs and any concerns they may have. There exist alternative methods for maintaining academic integrity in a course. The framework we have presented can help with determining the need for digital proctoring.
... Although previous studies report more cheating in unproctored exams than proctored ones, there was no difference between online and face-to-face courses when exams were proctored (Owens, 2015). Students have also indicated that cheating is more common in unproctored online exams (and less in proctored online exams) and that they would be more likely to engage in academic dishonesty in such contexts (Dyer et al., 2020). That is, students in online learning environments tend to view proctoring as a sign that the university considers cheating a serious issue, and this signal may cause students to alter their test-taking behaviours (Dendir & Maxwell, 2020). ...
Article
Full-text available
During the coronavirus disease‐2019 (Covid‐19) pandemic, many universities have adopted online exam proctoring technologies to monitor and control an increasing number of student cheating incidents. Although it looks like a natural and effective solution for a fair assessment of student online learning performance, the authors argue that proctoring technologies are rooted in problematic assumptions about educational fairness and authoritarian pedagogical approaches. The authors have conducted a qualitative case study in a large‐sized, top‐tier university in South Korea to investigate the negative impacts of adopting proctoring technologies on student subjectivities, pedagogical relationships and educational outcomes, which have not been fully discussed in previous studies. By utilising Foucault's theorisation of disciplinary governmentality, the authors effectively demonstrate that the binary subjectification of students as cheaters and the cheated has degraded the value of student engagement in university education whilst creating more competitive and distrusting relationships amongst students and between students and teachers. Nevertheless, without challenging the unethical consequences of online proctoring technologies or fundamentally unfair social and educational systems, students willingly accept and adopt them as docile bodies, which has led to educational deterioration rather than innovation. Practitioner notes What is already known about this topic There is an increasing number of online exam proctoring technologies available with advanced technical features. During the coronavirus disease‐2019 (Covid‐19) pandemic, many universities have adopted online exam proctoring technologies with exam‐related policies and regulations to stop student cheating behaviours. Previous studies have discussed both advantages and disadvantages of adopting online exam proctoring technologies, including specific ethical concerns. What this paper adds Online exam proctoring technologies are deeply rooted in problematic educational approaches such as teacher‐centred knowledge transmission. The adoption of online exam proctoring technologies has produced negative impacts on student subjectivities, pedagogical relationships and educational outcomes. Focusing on student cheating as an individual and interpersonal problem neglects the more fundamental issue of social and educational inequality. Implications for practice and/or policy The negative consequences and damages created by the adoption of online exams and online exam proctoring technologies need to be carefully reflected. The notion of academic fairness needs to be approached with a broader perspective, considering the different social and academic circumstances each student is in. It is essential to critically engage students with the broader conversation about educational fairness to develop them as critical thinkers and future leaders in their chosen fields. What is already known about this topic There is an increasing number of online exam proctoring technologies available with advanced technical features. During the coronavirus disease‐2019 (Covid‐19) pandemic, many universities have adopted online exam proctoring technologies with exam‐related policies and regulations to stop student cheating behaviours. Previous studies have discussed both advantages and disadvantages of adopting online exam proctoring technologies, including specific ethical concerns. What this paper adds Online exam proctoring technologies are deeply rooted in problematic educational approaches such as teacher‐centred knowledge transmission. The adoption of online exam proctoring technologies has produced negative impacts on student subjectivities, pedagogical relationships and educational outcomes. Focusing on student cheating as an individual and interpersonal problem neglects the more fundamental issue of social and educational inequality. Implications for practice and/or policy The negative consequences and damages created by the adoption of online exams and online exam proctoring technologies need to be carefully reflected. The notion of academic fairness needs to be approached with a broader perspective, considering the different social and academic circumstances each student is in. It is essential to critically engage students with the broader conversation about educational fairness to develop them as critical thinkers and future leaders in their chosen fields.
... The letter R represents 'Respondent' and the number that follows represents the number of the participant who responded. Previous research revealed that proctoring is crucial in reducing cheating (Dyer, Pettyjohn, & Saladin, 2020;Harmon et al., 2010). Several studies already suggested that using technology is essential for reducing the opportunity of cheating in online exams, for instance, a device, called 'Secure Software Remote Proctor', including a fingerprint scanner and a 360-degree camera, can be utilized to prevent online cheating (Bedford, Gregg, & Clinton, 2009, 2011. ...
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... Third, knowledge that others are cheating can create for honest students an invidious moral choice between self-interest (e.g., where class rankings matter) and personal integrity, as well as causing a hurtful sense of both being taken advantage of by fellow students and let down by the university. Fourth, universities arguably bind themselves to providing students with (in some sense) a moral education alongside an intellectual education, minimally by nourishing a favorable academic culture in which academic integrity and honesty are salient (Dyer et al., 2020). ...
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... The literature surveys discussed herein also emphasise the importance of "making things interesting" to the learners. In addition to individual responsibility, the academic environment may influence student's behaviour (Dyer et al., 2020). Similarly, in research practice, impact ranking, competition related pressures to maintain publication record, may impact upon integrity (Binder et al., 2016). ...
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