The Journal of Higher Education 73.2 (2002) 297-298
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Cheating on Tests: How To Do It, Detect It, and Prevent It
Cheating on Tests: How To Do It, Detect It, and Prevent It, by Gregory J. Cizek. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1999. 268 pp. $29.95.
Cheating on Tests is "an attempt to bring together what we know about cheating on tests." The book provides a comprehensive summary of the current research on test cheating, but some readers will be disappointed by its emphasis on breadth versus depth. It is primarily a simple survey of the literature on test cheating, and this may be its greatest limitation.
Cizek covers three broad topics: a review of the research on how students cheat and how frequently they do so; an overview of the many correlates of cheating that have been discussed in the literature; and a discussion of how test givers can detect, respond to, and deter cheating. In the final chapter, he promises "to refocus on the more distant, less pragmatic, but more important issues." However, after having completed Cizek's rapid tour of the literature on cheating, many readers may be disappointed to learn that these more important issues receive only limited attention in this final chapter. This failure to provide a thoughtful synthesis of the extant research is a missed opportunity.
Cizek's interpretation of the research on how often students cheat is straightforward--"nearly everyone is doing it." Yet I wonder if many readers really want to know the 15 different techniques by which students inappropriately give, take, or receive information during tests, the 21 different ways in which students might use forbidden materials during a test, or the 23 techniques by which a test taker may take advantage of the testing process in an inappropriate way. I think many readers would gladly sacrifice information about students writing crib notes on tissues to learn more about forms of cheating enabled by new technologies, such as the Internet, which receive relatively little attention.
In spite of his conclusion that "what we currently know about the correlates of cheating provides little useful information," I find Cizek's review of the factors associated with cheating on tests to be valuable. For example, he identifies many classroom and environmental strategies that can easily be implemented by test givers to reduce cheating. He also identifies several demographic characteristics and psychological constructs that seem important to understand for those who wish to develop more effective strategies for controlling cheating.
Cizek's discussion of how to detect, respond to, and deter cheating is somewhat disappointing. For example, his treatment of statistical methods for detecting cheating seems misplaced. As Cizek himself acknowledges, statistical [End Page 297] techniques "are severely limited to objective (e.g., multiple-choice) testing situations involving fairly large numbers of examinees." I don't think the audience interested in such information is the same audience interested in classroom management techniques to detect and deter cheating. Although Cizek expresses some concern about the reliability of simple observational methods, the most common strategy for detecting cheating, I think many readers would be interested in more such practical information. If nothing else, it might provide some ideas for the many teachers who currently do nothing in the face of cheating, leading to a situation where "the chances of being caught are slim and the further chance of harsh punishment is nil," a situation that may contribute to even higher levels of cheating. Although he is equivocal on the point, Cizek suggests more principled approaches such as honor codes may offer even greater potential as "they unashamedly communicate about the value of academic integrity and make upholding a high standard of honest behavior a responsibility of the entire community."
Cizek concludes by refocusing "on the more distant, less pragmatic, but more important issues." He does so by identifying "a few big questions" and "some small answers" that he thinks may result in "sustained discourse and action, regarding how we as educators and people, and the systems...