Several years ago, I ran a column about cheating in the classroom. Statistics suggest that school cheating is increasing on all levels. In the past few years, the Internet and other advances in technology have provided even more opportunities and methods for students to cheat. With final examination season fast approaching, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit this subject and update some of my previous suggestions for coping with cheating. Here, I will present several of the most common ways in which students can cheat and methods that a teacher can use to prevent the cheating.
1. Cheating On Objective Tests. There are many ways that students can cheat on objective tests. They can look off of each other's papers during the test. They can use concealed answer sheets, open books, or even write information for the test on their hands. Some will even go as far as to pass notes to each other or whisper answers to classmates during the test. There are several things that a teacher can do to prevent cheating during tests.
First of all, I firmly believe that a blind teacher should always have an aide in the classroom when a test is being given. For most students, the mere presence of the aide will discourage cheating; they will be less likely to take advantage of a teacher who cannot see what they are doing. Also, an aide can alert you about a cheating situation before it gets out of hand. Second, separate students as much as possible when they are taking a test. This will make it more difficult for them to cheat. Third, consider giving different forms of the same test and alternating them as you pass them out. For example, the first student in a row would get Form A of the test and the second student would get Form B. Using this method will make it fruitless for students to look off of each other's papers because the answers will not match. Different forms of a test should always be used if you teach more than one section of the same course. Otherwise, students from your morning class will tell students from your afternoon class what will be on the test. Fourth, when you are giving a test, make a rule that all books, notebooks and papers must be placed on the floor under the students' chairs. This will make it more difficult for students to look up answers while taking a test. Another good rule is not to allow students to talk or whisper to each other until all test papers have been turned in. Finally, don't just work at your desk and leave everything to your aide while a test is in progress. Instead, patrol your classroom. This will make it easier for you to catch problems which your aide may miss, quietly answer individual questions from students, and, generally, have more control over your classroom.
2. Plagiarism. A basic definition of plagiarism is presenting the words or ideas of another person as one's own. Plagiarism is cheating and it can take many forms, such as turning in all or part of an article from an encyclopedia or reference book as a report without giving credit to the original source, copying another student's homework assignment, or even having a classmate do an assignment. How can you recognize plagiarism? One warning sign might be two or more homework assignments with identical but illogical mistakes. Another indicator may be a general change in the quality of a student's work, such as different handwriting, better spelling than usual, or a writing style or vocabulary which is not typical for that student. Finally, if an F student suddenly starts turning in A-quality work, there may be reason for suspicion.
For some students, plagiarism may be an innocent mistake rather than an attempt to cheat because they don't know what constitutes plagiarism. Therefore, the first step in preventing plagiarism, especially with younger students, will be to explain what it is and teach them the proper way to write a paper, giving credit to the sources that they quote. Another way to prevent plagiarism is to designate which resources your students can use when gathering information for an assignment or require that students present the sources they have used along with the finished assignments. This will make it easier for you to go back and check their work if you suspect plagiarism and can also serve as a deterrent for some students who may be considering plagiarizing someone else's work. Finally, assign occasional impromptu reports to be completed in class. This will show you what your students really know and how well they can write.
3. Internet Cheating. The Internet, when used properly, can be a fantastic tool! However, it can also give students more ways to cheat. Dishonest students can download complete term papers, synopses of classics, and research data without doing any of their own work. Internet cheating is a sophisticated form of plagiarism; so, many of the methods you use for preventing and stopping plagiarism will work for Internet cheating. Also, make yourself aware of the Web sites that students can use by doing your own online exploring. In addition, systems are evolving for citing electronic sources. Two of the best are
If Internet cheating becomes too big a problem, you may have to go so far as to prohibit students from using the Internet for your assignments. This measure should be saved as a last resort because the Internet can be a valuable resource for information as long as it is not abused.
4. Inappropriate Use Of Electronic Aids. Technology has given us a plethora of instruments and equipment to make our lives easier. Some of these include calculators, electronic translators, and computers. Unfortunately, some students will be tempted to use these tools to do their schoolwork instead of learning to perform basic processes for themselves. This is a form of cheating. Some examples include students using a calculator to do math homework when not approved, translating a foreign language assignment with an electronic translator instead of composing their own sentences, or using a computer when it has been prohibited for a particular assignment. The best way to spot this type of cheating is to pay attention to the quality of your students' work. If a student turns in a foreign language assignment in which words are strung together in the wrong order, incorrect forms of verbs and adjectives are used and many vocabulary words that he/she hasn't learned are present, chances are that he has used an electronic translator to do the assignment.
To deal with this form of cheating, start by explaining to your students how and when it is appropriate to use electronic tools. Be sure that they understand that part of education is learning certain processes, such as basic mathematical computation, writing, and composition, and the memorization of vocabulary, grammar and syntax that makes it possible to communicate in a foreign language. Finally, be sure to assign frequent work which students must complete in class without the use of supplementary tools. This will help your students to learn and build their confidence to the point that they will feel that cheating isn't necessary. It will also help you to assess your students' strengths and weaknesses so that you can develop realistic educational goals for them.
Whatever form it takes, cheating must be dealt with when it occurs. Make sure that you know and follow your school's cheating policy. Develop your own cheating policy and stick to it. This policy may include such things as students losing a letter grade, taking a 0 on a test, or having to do an assignment over if they are caught cheating. Make sure that all students know your cheating policy from the very first day of school. This, alone, will be enough to deter most cheating. Finally, it is very important that you teach your students that cheating is dishonest and wrong. Impress upon them the virtues of hard work, honesty, perseverance, and the value of lifelong learning.
Cheating is a problem in schools and classrooms from elementary to post-graduate levels for blind and sighted teachers alike. It is something that all teachers must deal with at one time or another. Do all that you can to recognize and prevent cheating. When it occurs, deal with it swiftly, firmly, and fairly. Finally, set a good example for your students and help them to learn one of the most important virtues that a person can possess: honesty.
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