Savvy skills for managing cheating epidemics

Cheating on assignments and exams seems like a rite of passage of students.

They plagiarize text, purchase pre-made essays, and create personal versions of open-book tests. Hand signals and Morse Code-like tapping were once the mainstays of cheating on exams.

Now students have elevated cheating to an art form. They scribble notes in tiny letters on strips of chewing gum. They transfer information to the inside labels of water bottles, and they write needed information on paper strips affixed to the underside of cosmetic nails.

Technology, especially calculators and smartphones, plays a part in cheating as well.

How bad is cheating?

Many teachers and professors lament about how much time students spend preparing their innovative cheating strategies. The same effort could be put into studying.

As it turns out, college students who cheat have higher GPAs, averaging six-tenths of a point higher than their honest classmates. Nearly two-thirds of all students in higher education admit to cheating, and only three out of every twenty students regret their decision.

Why must students cheat?

Students cheat on assignments and tests for three main reasons.

First, cheating develops camaraderie among classmates. Peer pressure in school intensifies as students get older, and cheating may be the social link that unites them in a common cause.

Also, students know they’re not supposed to cheat, students will sometimes do it as a form of rebellion.

The widespread use of technology has diminished respect for intellectual property and copyrighted material. Kids already share information digitally. In their minds, using someone else’s words or ideas isn’t cheating. It sharing through reposting.

Reduce widespread cheating

You can, however, reduce cheating in your classroom. To minimize opportunities for cheating in your classroom, try these strategies:

Take away the tech. Create a parking lot for cell phones by having students silence their devices and place them on a common table or in the pockets of an over-the-door shoe holder.

Skip the true/false or multiple choice questions. Because the answers consist of a single letter, these question types invite the most cheating.

Use multiple test versions. By having at least two versions of the test, you’ll find out quickly which students are copying from someone else.

Make it private. Separate student desks that are too close to each other. Require the use of cover sheets or temporary carrels to prevent wandering eyes from finding answers on other papers.

MBWA. Borrowed from the business terminology for “manage by walking around,” you instead “monitor by walking around.” Proximity may reduce temptation, but it also allows you to check on what students are doing on the other side of their temporary carrels.

Check for plagiarism. Try some of the free online sites such as Bibme, Grammarly, or Quetext.

Finally, be alert in your classroom. Cheating strategies evolve, but you can keep up with them by Googling “how to cheat.”

The bottom line is that student cheaters are rarely caught, especially once they get to college. Rather than stress over catching cheaters in the act, use preventative strategies to keep it from happening.

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