Ethics Belongs in the Classroom

Cheating in the classroom has no place, but sadly, students often think that the end justifies the means. published a fact sheet on academic cheating that has startling statistics. Among them are:

  • Cheating has risen dramatically over the last half of the century for many reasons, of which increased pressure to get into a prestigious school, a focus on high grades over actual learning, less stigma attached to cheating than in previous years, and “the end justifies the means” factor into the decision to cheat.
  • Students who might not ordinarily cheat see cheaters getting great grades, while they get lower but honest grades.
  • The rise in the use of digital devices in the classroom makes cheating easier than ever.
  • As the importance of good grades increases, the incidence of cheating increases.
  • The penalties for cheating are not harsh or prohibitive.

Are there ways that teachers can address cheating and discourage students from cheating in their individual classrooms? Yes, there are. Consider implementing the following:

  1. Set a culture of responsibility, respect, fairness, trustworthiness, and honesty in the classroom by communicating their value regularly. As a teacher, model honesty for students—admit when you are wrong and take responsibility. Frequently, students have no adults in their lives who are honest and take responsibility when they are not—be different. Strive to be fair in dealing with students, and demonstrate trustworthiness by doing what you say you will.
  2. Reward positive traits such as hard work, persistence in the face of difficulty, progress in skills, courage, and respect for classmates. While grades are important, elevate these characteristics to the same level for students.
  3. Enforce the consequences of cheating consistently. Discuss what they learned and how not to make the same mistake again. Celebrate with students when you see them making great choices.
  4. Help students believe in themselves. Helping students believe in themselves is harder than it sounds and requires a teacher being observant and perceptive. Some ways you as a teacher can do this for your students are:
  • Point out to them when they accomplish goals they previously were not able to. For instance, if you have been teaching an essay format for the SAT/ACT and the students have made great progress, give positive verbal and nonverbal (high five) feedback.
  • Collaborate with parents to reinforce the “You can do this!” belief. In a study of Chinese students and self-efficacy, the researchers found that “positive feedback led to an increase in self-efficacy with the mother’s positive feedback leading to a higher increase in self-efficacy than feedback from the teacher and the father.”
  • Plan discussions around the qualities of integrity, honesty, hard work, and persistence. Here are some quotes to help you get started.

The unfortunate truth is that cheating does not end at graduation; it is a problem in the business world, relationships, and even churches. As a teacher, you have the power and opportunity to change the future of your students through teaching the value of integrity.




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