Cheaters never prosper, so they say. With the virtual and hybrid schooling taking place since last March, it has become increasingly more difficult for teachers to monitor cheating. I have found myself saying to the students on multiple occasions, “If you are cheating, you are only cheating yourself.” While I do believe that, it doesn’t change the fact that cheating will occur at times.
Why Do Students Cheat?
Students cheat for a variety of reasons. There is the obvious reason that the student is simply not prepared for the assessment, but there could be many other underlying factors that contribute to cheating.
Students that feel pressure to be “perfect” may sometimes turn to cheating in order to obtain the highest possible score. This “fear of failure” can lead to cheating. Struggling learners may turn to cheating because the work is difficult and they want to feel successful and make their families proud of their scores.
When it comes to plagiarizing, students can be confused about what plagiarism actually is or what the policies are surrounding it. Another reason why students may cheat is simply that they do not understand the assignment, and instead of asking the teacher for clarification, they turn to others in the class.
Strategies to Combat Cheating in Your Class
Creating clear expectations on assignments can deter cheating. As a teacher, it is important to make sure students understand the task. Giving verbal, as well as written directions, make it easier for students to know what is expected of them. Rubrics for projects are important because students know how they will be scored. This gives clear purpose to the assessment and the breakdown of the score.
Being available to answer questions is also important, such as through “office hours”. If students have questions on projects or assignments, responding in a prompt manner will give students more confidence in what they are completing. On tests or quizzes, having students stay on a virtual meeting in order to answer questions in real time can help combat cheating as well.
Specific Feedback for Low-Stake Assignments
Giving students specific feedback and instruction leading up to assessments can help students develop a greater understanding of the material. Being diligent and checking assignments throughout units and providing “just-in time” supports can better prepare students for major assessments.
Additionally, this may help students to develop more confidence in their abilities and counteract any thoughts of cheating. When you provide specific feedback, you can differentiate your instruction and create small groups. Even during this time of hybrid/remote learning, you can utilize breakout rooms or host small group meets in order to address specific academic needs.
Constructive alignment combines constructivism and alignment into one guiding principle. Constructivism is where learners create meaning out of what they learn, and alignment is where learning outcomes are emphasized. When teachers are experts in their field and create a clearly defined path to the learning outcomes, students will find it easier to follow. Teachers must contribute to the constructive piece, because when teachers create an exciting learning environment and demonstrate passion for education, students tend to assign more meaning to their own learning. Having students take ownership of their own learning is the ultimate goal.
Monitoring student work is so important. When you are giving assignments virtually, it is important to check assignments and not just skim through them. If students feel you are not really checking their work, they are less likely to complete it on their own and put effort into it. I have spoken to many students as young as fourth grade and into high school, where it is apparent that they know the teachers that “really check their work” and know which classes and teachers they can cut corners with.
It is very tough to monitor virtual classrooms for cheating, but there are few different approaches that you can use to help. When it comes to test questions, moving away from multiple-choice questions and using more open-ended, critical thinking questions makes it harder to cheat. Students can simply share multiple-choice answers, but open-ended responses are not as easy to copy.
Another idea is to create different versions of the same test. It is much easier to have Google Forms grade multiple-choice assessments for you, but you can create different versions with the same questions and just switch up the order of the answer options.
Academic Honesty Contract
You can have students sign a contract stating that they will not cheat. This may deter them from cheating, as they know it is something that is important to you and the school district. If students know this is something that you will be monitoring and understand the consequences up front, it may make them think twice before “being dishonest” and cheating.
Cheating isn’t going to ever go away, but there are many ways that you can decrease the students’ ability to do so. Understanding your students’ needs is so important in order to best help them to succeed. Placing emphasis on growth and letting students know that it is okay to make mistakes are ways to help them develop confidence. When students feel pressure to achieve certain grades, they turn to dishonest ways to do so at times. As the great Charlie Brown said, “In the book of life, the answers aren’t in the back.” Learning to work through struggles and cope with disappointment are both life lessons that will be useful in the future.