Issues in Educational Research, 8(2), 1998, 95-116.

The perceptions of students from religious schools about academic dishonesty

John R. Godfrey
Russell F. Waugh
Edith Cowan University


The major change phenomena in the history of assessment reform in Australian secondary schools over the past half century is a pattern of steady and continual shift from school assessments being conducted by external examination to the use of internal school assessments. For example in New South Wales the fully external Intermediate Certificate examination was used for assessment in the junior years of secondary school from 1911 until 1944. At that time after two decades of debate a partly internal Intermediate was introduced. In 1949 the structure of the examination was changed again to a completely internal mode. Finally it was replaced in the early 1960s with an external examination taken after an additional year of schooling. This examination followed the same pattern of change as its predecessor. In other states of Australia similar patterns of assessment change mirrored the New South Wales examination changes. Unfortunately there is evidence to support the view that as school assessments moved from the external to the internal mode so the incidence of dishonest assessment practices by students increased (Godfrey, 1989, 1990). Dishonest practices used with internal assessments include copying from books and assignments set in previous years, collusion amongst students in preparing assignments, getting assistance from relatives, using illegal notes and copying in tests in relaxed classroom settings.

In the past decade academic cheating has gained significant press coverage both overseas and within Australia (Day, 1995; Healy, 1998; Jones, 1992; Leech, 1993; Leake, 1995; Maslen, 1990, 1993a, 1993b, 1993c; Orr, 1993; Putka, 1992a, 1992b; Storey, 1995; "Two face exam charges", 1995; Ugelow, 1993, Patrick, in press). The community wishes to believe that cheating does not occur in assessments to safeguard the concept that the assessments conducted by school systems are a reliable and valid indication of student ability. The press reports are a cause of community concern. They report a trend towards a rise in academic cheating in Australian educational institutions. The question might be asked whether religious educational institutions face the same issues as other institutions with regard to academic dishonesty.

The study investigates the perceptions of academic dishonesty by students who attend institutions which form a religious school system. The sample used in the study are Australian secondary students. This study has two aims. The first is to establish the extent to which a sample of students from a religious school system engage in academic cheating and perceive the cheating to be of concern in their schools. The second is to examine the perceptions of religious school students to four aspects of cheating; perceptions of what constitutes cheating, perceptions of why cheating occurs, perceptions of how cheating can be prevented and the attitude of students to cheating. The results are important for teachers and administrators of religious schools and the wider educational community. The findings of this research have implications that can assist to make educational assessment fairer and more reliable whether the assessment is conducted in the external or internal mode.

Literature review

The literature on academic dishonesty indicates that cheating is practised by students at all levels of schooling using many of the techniques that have been used in previous decades. Studies report that the incidence of cheating varies throughout the years of schooling from approximately 40% in upper primary year to nearly 80% in the latter years of secondary school falling to approximately 40% again in tertiary institutions (Brandes, 1986; Bushway & Nash, 1977; Croucher, 1997; Deutsch, 1988; Evans & Craig, 1990a, 1990b; Evans, Craig & Mietzel, 1993; Greene & Saxe, 1992; Godfrey & Waugh, 1993; Haines, Diekhoff, La Beff & Clark, 1986; Jendrek, 1992; Meade, 1992; Moffatt, 1990). But most of the cheating studies have been conducted in the first instance with American students. The studies tend to accept the common definition of cheating as defined by the Concise Oxford Dictionary "to gain an unfair advantage by deception or breaking rules, especially in games and examinations" (Thompson, 1995). The studies expand on this definition by indicating that the types of cheating that students engage in cover the full range of academic dishonesty including the following; "using crib notes on an exam, copying answers from another student's paper, letting others copy a homework paper, plagiarizing, and ghostwriting" (Bushway & Nash, 1977, p. 623).

Stern and Havlicek (1986) surveyed 314 undergraduates in a study with 194 faculty regarding their experiences with academic dishonesty. Eighty per cent of the undergraduates admitted to engaging in some form of academic cheating during their academic careers. Later Davis, Grover, Becker and McGregor (1992) in a study wherein they administered a 21 item questionnaire to more than 6 000 students in 16 State and 13 Private higher education institutions and 6 two-year tertiary institutions found that while most claimed it was wrong to cheat 76% reported having cheated in high school or college. It was reported that gender and institutional affiliation influenced their cheating behaviour. One of the determinants of cheating was a diminishing sense of academic integrity.

Articles by Maslen (1990, 1993a, 1993b, 1993c) in the Campus Review, and the Times Higher Education Supplement and other newspaper reports have raised the consciousness of Australian academics to the issue of academic integrity in the tertiary sector. Maslen argues that while Vice Chancellors have wrestled with the problem they have found solutions to academic dishonesty difficult to ascertain and even harder to implement. He believes that plagiarism is an increasing problem in Australian schools and tertiary institutions. He admonishes that University administrations and academics should use greater efforts to overcome academic malpractice.

The increase in the incidence of cheating and community concern has led a number of testing organisations to develop a probabilistic approach to the study techniques that can be used to detect cheating (Buss & Novich 1980; Hanson, Harris & Brennan, 1987; Harpp & Hogan, 1993). But the outcome of two recent United States legal cases indicate that the administration of such techniques need to be carefully monitored. Haney (1993) warns "though probabilistic methods may be entirely appropriate in studying patterns among populations for research purposes, they can be quite inappropriate in guiding determinations of cheating in particular cases" (p. 6). Unfortunately few studies have investigated the techniques that can be implemented in classrooms and examination centres to prevent cheating. Haney (1993) claims that; "in contrast to the media attention, the topic of cheating on tests has received relatively little attention in the educational measurement literature and in professional standards concerning testing" (p. 2).

Studies have researched not only the incidence of academic dishonesty but numerous aspects of the issue. For example Ward and Beck (1984) in a study involving 169 college students examined the relationship between excuse making and actual cheating. They found that women were more likely to make excuses before cheating. Houston (1986) in a study of two college psychology classes studied students copying answers during multiple choice tests under two different situations. He found that more students copied answers under the free seating situation than under the assigned seating arrangements but not necessarily related to a rearward position in the examination venue. Another issue investigated by Lobel and Levanon (1988) is the effects of personality and situational variables on the cheating practices of 228 children aged 10 to 12 years. They concluded that "children with high self-esteem and low need for approval cheated significantly less than the children with high self-esteem and high need for approval, who behaved similarly to the children with low self-esteem" (p. 122). Scheers and Dayton (1987) using a randomised response technique investigated the issue of using anonymous questionnaires. They concluded that underreporting is a serious problem with research using anonymous questionnaires. A few studies have reported on the incidence of cheating in various countries in cross cultural studies (Kuehn, Stanwyck & Holland, 1990; Evans, Craig & Mietzel, 1993; Waugh, Godfrey, Evans & Craig, 1995).

Studies analysing the cheating behaviour and attitudes of students from religious private and independent schools have not been numerous or extensive. Some studies have examined the private school factor as one issue embedded among other factors such as level of schooling, sex, race, and non-private education. For example previous studies by the authors and others (Godfrey 1990, Waugh & Godfrey, 1994; Waugh, Godfrey, Evans & Craig, 1995) used some students from religious schools but the students were not separated out for analysis on the basis of religion or private school education. However Guttman (1984) examined pupils in both religious and public schools in regard to cognitive morality and actual moral behaviour. The results showed low correlation among various measures of moral cognition and moral behaviour. The religious subjects exhibited higher levels of moral reasoning, but resisted temptation less on a test of actual cheating behaviour. Later Calabrese and Cochran (1990) examined the relationship of alienation to cheating among 1534 students in public and private schools. This sample consisted of grade 9 to 12 students of various racial backgrounds. The sample consisted of 64% from public schools and the remainder from private schools. They reported that cheating was more prevalent among white males who attended private schools who were more likely to cheat to assist others.

Some studies have indicated a connection between the moral philosophy of the school and the incidence of cheating (McCabe, 1992; Hanson, 1990) but few studies (Guttman, 1984; Keane, 1984) have focused on the relationship between the religious philosophy of the school and the incidence of academic dishonesty. Those studies focusing entirely on Australian students are rare (Waugh & Godfrey, 1994; see Croucher, 1997). This study reports on an analysis of the cheating perceptions, attitudes and behaviour of 694 students from an Australian religious school system. These two features of this sample have been neglected to a degree in the field of academic dishonesty research.



The subjects are 694 Year 8 to Year 12 students (12 to 19 year olds) at 13 schools of a Australian religious school system. The majority 560 (81%) are 15 to 18 year olds; the ages of the remaining 134 (19%) are not disclosed (see Table 1). Three hundred and forty four (50%) of the 694 subjects are female and 319 (46%) are males, the sex of the remaining 31 (4%) is not disclosed on the anonymous questionnaire.

Table 1: The ages of the sample

Subjects by age (in years)










The questionnaire is based on the questionnaire tested and used by Evans (Evans & Craig, 1990a). The initial questionnaire was based on previous research findings and attribution theory (Wimer & Kelley, 1982; Weiner, 1985). It contained 109 items relating to six dimensions. Using traditional techniques, this questionnaire has been shown to have moderate to high reliability and validity with Cronbach Alphas between 0.71 and 0.90 (Evans & Craig, 1990a, 1990b; Evans, Craig & Mietzel, 1993). The questionnaire was refined by Waugh and Godfrey (Godfrey & Waugh, 1993; Waugh & Godfrey, 1994; Waugh, Godfrey, Evans & Craig, 1995) and developed further for this study. The questionnaire refined for this study contains 88 items relating to eight dimensions. The structure of both questionnaires is contained in Table 2. The only difference between the two instruments is the reduction in the number of items in each scale in the questionnaire for this study and the addition of two scales to include cheating behaviour items and a semantic differential on attitude to cheating.

The model

The Rasch measurement model (Rasch, 1980) is ideally suited to measure concepts like perceptions of cheating. For ordered response data, the Rasch measurement model was originally set up as the Rating Scale Measurement Model (Andrich, 1978a, 1978b) and later re-named the Extended Logistic Model of Rasch (Andrich, 1988a, 1988b). New computer programmes have been developed so that the model can be easily used with ordered response data (Wright & Masters, 1982; Adams & Khoo, 1992; Andrich, 1988a; Knibb, 1995, Andrich, Luo & Sheridan, 1996).

The EdStats computer programme developed by Knibb (1995) was used to check that the responses fit the Rasch measurement model according to the criteria described by Wright and Masters (1982) and Wright (1985). It calculates the student attitude/behaviour on the scale that is required for the student to have a 50 per cent chance of agreeing with each category for each statement. These attitudes/behaviour are calculated in log odds (logits) on the attitude scale and they must be ordered to represent the increasing attitude/behaviour needed to answer each category. Attitude/behaviour statements for which the students do not use the categories consistently are not considered to fit the model and are discarded.

Table 2: Questionnaire scales



Evans study Waugh &
Godfrey study

perceptions of cheating as a problem
perceptions of what constitutes cheating
perceptions of why cheating occurs with teachers
perceptions of why cheating occurs in classes
perceptions of why cheating occurs among students
perceptions about how cheating can be discouraged
past cheating behaviour of the students
attitudes to cheating






The model calculates item difficulties so that the difficulties of any two items differ by the same number of measurement units irrespective of the student sample. It orders the items along a scale from easiest to hardest to agree. The log odds of a student agreeing with an attitude/ behaviour statement is related to the difference between the attitude/behaviour and the difficulty as measured on the same scale. Statements at the easiest end of the scale (those with negative logit values) are answered in agreement by most students, statements at the hardest end of the scale (positive values) are likely to be answered in agreement only by students with strong cheating perceptions.

Data Analysis

An initial analysis of the cheating as a problem, the cheating behaviour, the reasons for cheating and the prevention of cheating subsets of items were analysed to ascertain the perception of secondary students towards cheating and reported in Education Australia, 37, 1997 (Godfrey & Waugh, 1997). The full data set was later re-analysed with expanded and refined results reported here.

The Cronbach Alpha calculation revealed a co-efficients of reliability ranging from 0.63 to 0.91 for the various scales and 0.89 for the whole questionnaire. This is close to the range (0.71 to 0.90) of the reliability co-efficients for previous administrations of the parent questionnaire (see Evans & Craig, 1990a, 1990b; Evans, Craig & Mietzel, 1993).

The data were first analysed using frequency counts which were converted to percentages on the dimension; cheating as a problem, so that a comparison could be made between the perception of these students on this dimension to those of students not attending religious schools surveyed in previous studies using the same and similar questions. Second, the additional subset of questions contained in this instrument, the cheating behaviour items, was analysed using frequency counts which were converted to percentages to ascertain the extent of the cheating behaviour of these religious secondary students.

The data were analysed after removing any person who did not respond to all of the 88 items. Preliminary investigations and previous research (Andrich & Godfrey, 1978) indicated that those subjects not answering all questions tended to decrease the probability that an item would fit the measurement model. Four hundred and ninety-four subjects remained in the data set after this procedure. Previous studies on the perception of cheating by the authors and others have also indicated that males appear to engage in cheating more than females (Bushway & Nash, 1977; Schab, 1980; Ward & Beck, 1984; Lobel & Levanon, 1988; Karlins, Michaels, Frielinger & Walker, 1989; Evans & Craig, 1990b; Godfrey & Waugh, 1993; Waugh & Godfrey, 1994; Evans, Craig, Mietzel, 1993). Hence the data was examined after it was divided into two groups on the basis of sex.

The EdStats (Knibb, 1995) computer program used to analyse this data performs:

Rasch analysis using Andrich's 1978 rating scale model. Values are estimated using UCON algorithm [Wright & Masters, 1982] . . . The item fit is the standardised t Fit statistic recommended by Wright and Masters [1982]. . . . The pattern of results for items values greater than 2 or less than -2 is not consistent with the item responses fitting the Rasch model. These items should be modified or excluded from the measurement model. (Knibb, 1996, pp. 49-51)

The t Fit values established by Wright and Masters (1982, pp. 99-102) of a range of plus 2 or minus 2 as a check on item fit to the model is used in this analysis.

Results of frequency count analysis

The data summarised in Table 3 are the calculation of percentages from a frequency count of the students responses to each Likert scale item of 'strongly agree, agree, disagree and strongly disagree' on the dimension; cheating as a problem. The Likert scale items have been reported as 'strongly agree/agree' and 'strongly disagree/disagree'. They indicate the extent to which the students in this sample perceive cheating to be a problem in schools and society. As many of these questions are common to those used in previous studies by the authors and others a comparison can be made between the perception of these students on this dimension to those of students not attending religious schools surveyed in previous studies (Godfrey & Waugh, 1993; Evans & Craig, 1990a, 1990b; Evans, Craig & Mietzel, 1993).

The data summarised in Table 4 are the calculation of percentages from the additional subset of questions not used in previous studies by the authors. The table shows a frequency count of the student responses to each of the four point Likert scale items of 'many times, several times, once only, never' reduced to a two point scale of "once or more" and "never" on the dimension; cheating behaviour. The data indicates the occurrence and extent to which the students have engaged in various types of cheating behaviour.

Results of Rasch model analysis

Thirty five items of the original 88 fitted the Rasch model for males and females and the total group. Three from the perceptions of what constitutes cheating sub-group; 10 from perceptions of why cheating occurs; 15 from perceptions about how cheating in examinations and assignments can be prevented or discouraged and 7 from the semantic differential scale of attitudes to cheating. The Rasch analysis usually discards a number of items as there are strict criteria for model fit. The fitting questionnaire statements are listed in Tables 4, 5, 6 and 7 according to their sub-groups and according to the rank order of their difficulties in logits on the basis of the Rasch analysis. The difficulties are reported according to the analysis of the two sex subgroup results and also according to the total sample for purposes of comparison.

The reliability of item estimates with the data from the 494 students was 0.99 and 0.98 for both the 255 females and the 225 males and the indices for each group of items separately range from 0.95 to 0.98 for the males and from 0.96 to 0.99 for the females. The person estimates reliabilities arrange from 0.73 to 0.75. The high reliability indicates that the power of the tests of fit to the measurement model are good. The threshold scores are ordered from low to high corresponding with the categories strongly agree to strongly disagree indicating that the scale is unimodal in each case.

Discussion of frequency count results

Occurrence of cheating

In similar studies it has been reported that school children and teachers perceive cheating in secondary schools as a problem. In the cross cultural study of cheating Evans, Craig and Mietzel (1993) reported that as many as 80% of students believed cheating to be a problem. Evans and Craig (1990a, 1990b) had earlier reported that 50% to 70% of teachers and 60% to 70% of students perceived cheating to be a problem. Godfrey and Waugh (1993) using the same questions with a sample of 223 Australian students report the same percentage range. The analysis of this sample indicates that religious secondary school students also believe that cheating is a problem in schools. These students from religious schools are similar to other students surveyed in that more than 74% strongly agree/agree that they perceive cheating to be a serious problem in schools (see Table 3; Item 3).

A large majority (Table 3; Item 2, 81% strongly disagree/disagree) also believe that students who cheat are hardly ever caught at their deception. Sixty seven percent of the subjects strongly disagree/ disagree that "students usually complain to a person they know is cheating in class" (Table 3; Item 5). Moreover they indicate that academic dishonesty is rarely reported to teachers (Table 3; Item 1, 91% strongly disagree/disagree) and when it is reported or discovered 69% believe it is not punished (Table 3; Item 7).

Cheating behaviour

Table 4 indicates that most pupils surveyed in the sample of religious school students have engaged in most of the types of cheating behaviour at least once in their schooling. However it is apparent from an examination of the 'once or more' column of Table 4 that these students have engaged infrequently in a number of the more serious forms of cheating, for example; asking someone to take their place in an examination venue (5% 'once or more'; see Table 4; item 1), these school students have a low level of engagement in purchasing assignments (7% 'once or more'; see Table 4; item 2) and selling an assignment to another student (7% 'once or more'; see Table 4; item 3).

It is evident that secondary pupils from religious schools are apparently not shielded from a knowledge nor involvement in less serious cheating practices. For example; between 22% to 33% of these students have used dishonest techniques such as failing to attend an assessment session, submitting the same paper for credit in two classes, using signalling systems in assessment sessions, submitted another student's assignment as their own and secret notes once or more (Table 4, items 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8).

Dishonest academic practices that are difficult to detect by supervisors, assessors and teachers are practiced more frequently than the serious cheat techniques by this sample of students. For example "copying" cheat practices such as; copying answers, copying parts of the assignments of others, copying material directly from a text and allowing others to borrow and copy assignments has been used once or more by 46% to 67% of the respondents (Table 4, items 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 & 15). The ubiquitous dishonest examination practice of looking at another student's exam paper has been used 'once or more' by 66% of this sample (Table 4, Item 14).

In short, it is evident that secondary pupils from religious schools are concerned at the level of cheating in their schools and have a clear understanding of cheating practices. The data also indicates that most pupils surveyed in the sample of religious school students have engaged in most of the types of cheating behaviour at least once in their schooling.

Table 3: Cheating as a problem

Frequency (%) of response



1. Students usually report cheating to their teacher



2. Students who cheat in class are hardly ever caught. 81 19



3. Cheating is a serious problem at the secondary school level



4. Students who cheat usually see nothing wrong with it



5. Students usually complain to a person they know is cheating



6. Too many adults, including teachers, cheat



7. Students who are caught cheating are hardly ever punished



Table 4: Cheating behaviour

Type of behaviour Frequency (%) of occurrence of behaviour

Once or


1. Asked student to take place in examination
2. Bought an assignment from someone
3. Sold an assignment to another student
4. Failed to show up for a test without proper excuse
5. Submitted the same paper for credit in two classes
6. Used signal system
7. Handed in an assignment done by someone else
8. Used secret notes
9. Listed unread books in a reference
10. Copied answers
11. Copied parts of other student's assignment
12. Allowed another student to use my assignment
13. Copied material "word for word" from a book
14. Looked at another student's exam paper
15. Let another student copy my assignment



Discussion of Rasch model results

Perceptions of cheating

At another level of analysis 35 statements relating to cheating perceptions were discovered to have strong fit to the Rasch model of measurement indicating a degree of consensus between all statements across all students located at different positions on a perception of cheating scale. It can be claimed that the cheating perception scale of 35 statements has sound psychometric properties. The 35 statements that make up the variable; perceptions of cheating, what constitutes cheating, the reasons for the occurrence of cheating, and how cheating can be discouraged are given in Tables 5, 6, 7 and 8. They define the variable; they have good content and face validity; they are derived from a similar conceptual framework and are located on the same measurement scale as measures of student cheating perceptions. The responses to the cheating statements are bound together well enough to represent the unobservable trait of cheating perceptions and in this way they define the variable. This means that because of the good fit of the items (statements) to the model and the reliability indices when both the items and student perceptions are measured on the same scale the 35 statements can be said to represent the same trait for all students.

What constitutes cheating

For the purposes of this discussion the 35 items have been retained within their various sub groups. The results shown in Table 5 show that religious secondary students have clear perceptions of what constitutes cheating. They find it easy to believe that using secret notes during examinations constitutes cheating and looking at another students' paper to check answers during an examination also constitutes cheating behaviour (Table 5, Item 1 & 2, -1.22 & -1.12 respectively for the males and females combined). On the other hand using notes and other material from past papers to write an assigned paper in a new class they find hard to believe is cheating (Table 5, Item 3, +1.62 for the males and females combined). While the ease and difficulty of belief of the three statements varies between males and females there is only one slight change in the rank ordering of the difficulties.

Reasons for the occurrence of cheating

Religious secondary school students have clear perceptions of the reasons for the occurrence of cheating as listed in Table 6. For example the statement they find easiest to believe is that 'cheating will not occur if teachers take steps to prevent cheating' (Table 6, Item 1, -0.59, males and females combined). Unfortunately many teachers in both religious and state school systems naively believe that their pupils do not or would not be dishonest in school activities.

In regard to the behaviour of teachers, they find it easy to believe that teachers who are not available to assist students in their schooling is a significant reason why students cheat (Table 6, Item 2, -0.29 for the males and females combined). Harsh graders/ markers, they find it easy to believe can also encourage cheating in their classes (Table 6, Item 4, -0.16). Surprisingly they find it difficult to believe that teachers who are unfriendly to students (Table 6, Item 9, +0.33), disorganised or boring cause cheating to occur in their classes (Table 6, Item 5, +0.03 & Item 7, +0.30 respectively).

While they tend to believe that cheating occurs when children are pressured by parents to succeed academically (Table 6, Item 3, -0.18). They do not find it easy to believe that their fellow students who unnecessarily miss school (Table 6, item 8, +0.31) cheat and they find it even harder to believe that sick students who miss school cheat more than others (Table 6, item 10, +0.66). Based on the results recorded in Table 6 there appears to be insignificant differences in the perception of the causes of cheating between males and females except that females find it easier to believe than males that tough graders are a cause of cheating (Table 6, item 3, -0.11 compared to -0.15) and thus the rank ordering of the statements would change to place this statement for females as more significant than the issue of parental pressure.

In short the results of the section of reasons for cheating indicate that teachers who do not try to prevent cheating and/ or do not assist their students and parents who pressure their children to succeed are significant factors in causing dishonest practices in educational institutions.

Table 5: What is cheating

Difficulties in logits

Attitude Statement




1. Using secret notes during an examination that you're not supposed to have.




2. Looking at another student's paper to check your answers during an examination




3. Using notes and other material from your past papers to write an assigned paper in a new class.




Table 6: Reasons why cheating occurs

Difficulties in logits

Attitude Statement




1. Teacher takes no steps to prevent cheating




2. Teacher is not available to students who seek help




3. Students who have parents who pressure them to do well in school




4. Teacher is a tough grader -0.16



5. Teacher is disorganised +0.03



6. Classes where grading is on "the curve" +0.15



7. Teacher is boring or dull +0.30



8. Students who miss a lot of school +0.31



9. Teacher is unfriendly to students +0.33



10. Students who miss class because they are sick +0.66



Prevention of cheating

Most of the items in the prevention of cheating section of the questionnaire were retained under the strict criteria of the model. The subjects appear to have strong consistent views regarding the methods that can be adopted to prevent cheating with little variation in the difficulties expressed as logits between the males and the females (Table 7). The items these subjects find easiest to believe can assist with the prevention of cheating are those involving the methodology of assessment. These respondents believe that students should be informed well in advance of the assessment time of the material to be examined (Table 7, items 1; -0.59). The respondents find it easy to believe that seating arrangements in assessment periods should be arranged to assist with the prevention of cheating (Table 7, items 3; -0.24; Houston, 1986). Also they believe teachers should exercise tighter control over tests etc. so that some students are not given prior warning of the content of examinations (Table 7, items 5;+ 0.1).

Enforcing penalties rather than increasing the penalties for cheating are perceived by these students to be more crucial in the prevention of cheating (Table 7, items 4 & 6; -0.12, + 0.9 respectively). The second easiest item for these subjects to believe will assist with the prevention of cheating is when the teachers work with small classes of students in a personal manner (Table 7, item 2, 0.56; Lobel & Levanon, 1988).

These secondary students do not hold strong views on a number of items in regard to the prevention of cheating. The items upon which they hold ambivalent views relate to procedural manners of assessment sessions. For example the final grade should be based on a variety of tasks rather than one single assessment (Table 7, item 7, +0.10), different versions of instruments should be used so that copying cannot occur during examination sessions (Table 7, item 8, +0.14), previous used examination papers etc., should be made equally available to all students (Table 7, item 9, +0.15). They find it difficult to a degree to believe that any of these procedures would prevent cheating.

The sample finds it hard to believe that various techniques are appropriate to discourage cheating in schools. In particular they find it most difficult to believe that having students sign pledges (Table 7, item 15, +1.35) or putting students on their honour (Table 7, item 14, +1.05) assists in the discouragement of cheating. A surprising result for students attending religious schools. To explain to students why students should not cheat is perceived by these students as having little effect on cheating (Table 7, item 13, +0.79). Probably any such explanations are a waste of time as most students understand what constitutes cheating though there may be some confusion regarding some aspects of plagiarism. Even creating opportunities to allow students to identify their fellow students who cheat is difficult for these students to believe is effective in preventing cheating (Table 7, item 11, +0.63). Co-operative learning nor the removal of grading are also not perceived to be effective in reducing cheating (Table 7, items 10 & 12, +0.53 & +0.71 respectively; cf. Waugh & Godfrey, 1994).

Table 7: Prevention of cheating

Difficulties in logits
Attitude Statement




1. Inform students exactly what they will be tested on in plenty of time before a test.




2. Have small classes where the teacher works closely with students in a personal way.




3. Have seating arrangements for testing that make it difficult or impossible for students to see other students' examination papers.




4. Be sure to always enforce the penalties for anyone who cheats.




5. Teacher to have tighter control over tests so that students cannot ever see them beforehand.




6. Increase the penalties for cheating.




7. Have the final grade in a class based on a lot of quizzes or exams so that no one test counts heavily.




8. Use different versions or forms of a test so that copying cannot occur at exam time.




9. Make old exams, quizzes and examples of course projects equally available to all students.




10. Place less emphasis on individual performance and more emphasis on co-operative learning.




11. Create a way for students who want to report cheating to do so without being identified as a "snitch".




>12. Do away with letter grades and instead of grades use checklists or teacher descriptions about what students have and have not learned.




13. Fully explain the reasons why students should not cheat so that everyone understands the problem.




14. Putting students "on their honour" where students are trusted to do their own work without being supervised.




15. Have Students sign a statement or a pledge on each test they take that says they have done their own work. +1.35 +1.17 +1.73

In short, these subjects have strong consistent views regarding the methods that can be adopted to prevent cheating, for example they believe teachers can assist with the prevention of cheating by informing students well in advance of assessments, ensuring tighter control over assessment materials and seating arrangements and by enforcing penalties rather than increasing penalties. They also find it hard to believe that having students sign pledges or putting students on their honour assists in the discouragement of cheating. Moreover to explain to students why students should not cheat has little effect on cheating.

Table 8: Semantic differential of attitudes to cheating

Attitude semantic differential statement All Males Females

1. Worthless ..... Valuable -0.10 -0.15 -0.07
2. Unnecessary ..... Necessary +0.02 +0.03 +0.10
3. Absurd ..... Intelligent +0.12 +0.08 +0.17
4. Beautiful ..... Ugly +0.29 +0.16 +0.53
5. Strong ..... Weak +0.33 +0.28 +0.48
6. Satisfactory ..... Unsatisfactory +0.34 +0.24 +0.54
7. Good ..... Bad +0.59 +0.46 +0.84


The student perceptions of the cheating phenomenon as an issue of concern in their institutions and their dishonest academic practices has been examined using frequency percentages. The student perceptions of cheating, using the Extended Logistic Model of Rasch, have been examined in regard to four aspects of academic dishonesty; what is cheating, the reasons for cheating, the prevention or discouragement of cheating together with a semantic differential of attitudes to cheating. These four indicators lay on a single continuum of cheating perceptions. The results of these analyses have clear implications for religious school administrators, religious school teachers and educational practice.

Religious school administrators and teachers need to accept that their students are not different to the general school population in regard to their engagement in and knowledge of cheating techniques. Cheating of all types are practiced in religious schools a similar extent as it is practiced in schools that claim no religious affiliation. These students find it easy to agree of they understand cheating, its meaning and its occurrence. They are aware what constitutes dishonest academic practices such as copying, plagiarism and collaboration. These practices clearly and are well understood by students attending religious schools.

Second, the perceptions of religious school students can assist educators to understand the phenomena and apply techniques of assessment procedures that can discourage cheating and to ignore those that have little or no effect on the removal of cheating. These students find it easy to believe that cheating can be discouraged by using certain practices, though probably not prevented entirely. These practices are by informing students of the penalties for cheating and enforcing those penalties, ensuring seating arrangements in examination and testing centers are adequate to prevent cheating and being aware that cheating seems to occur in larger classes.

This study also indicates that teachers can assist in the discouragement of cheating by being aware of the high frequency of the phenomena and being patient and caring in their approach to pupils and their learning. Moreover parents can assist in discouraging cheating by ensuring that their children are not overly pressured in their academic endeavours (cf. Greene & Saxe, 1992).

Future studies are necessary to investigate further the reasons for the different attitudes of the sexes to the problem of cheating, the reasons for cheating and its prevention.


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Please cite as: Godfrey, J. R. & Waugh, R. F. (1998). The perceptions of students from religious schools about academic dishonesty. Issues in Educational Research, 8(2), 95-116.

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