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Top Five Ways for Educators to Prevent Cheating in School

The following comes from “What We Know and What We Can Do” by Patrick F. Drinin and Tricia Bertran, published by Wiley-Blackwell (2009).  I am grateful that I have been given permission to make it available to the readers of this website.

#1- Infuse academic integrity into the fabric of the school, college or university.
Finally, educators must make academic integrity “stick.” Rather than cheating, academic integrity must be the norm on campus. Educators must strategically and intentionally work to institutionalize academic integrity and weave it into the heart of the structures, cultures, and processes of the organization. We can do this by recognizing the problem and committing to addressing it; by generating a response from studying the problem in depth; by discussing the problem in structured conversations and implementing the proposed solutions; and finally, by attending constantly and consistently to the enactment of integrity as a core institutional value. Obviously, this must be a school-wide commitment–no one educator can do it alone. However, one educator can stimulate the conversations and start the action on campus, in order to gather together a favorable coalition for future work.

#2- Develop student character and integrity.
Creating a teachable moment from a cheating situation is just one way to attend to the development of student character and integrity. Another way is to leverage the entire educational experience as an opportunity for such development. Character or values education has fallen from favor in recent years because of debates over “whose values” should be taught. However, in our book we mention that the Center for Academic Integrity (www.academicintegrity.org) offers a moral vocabulary that is universal and transcendent–responsibility, respect, fairness, trustworthiness, and honesty. These are the five fundamental values of academic integrity. Each school should incorporate the teaching of these five values into their curriculum and their school operations and daily practices should reflect them.

#3- Respond to cheating when it does occur.
Because cheating is endemic to the educational institution, it will occur no matter what preventative and educational measures we implement. Although we cannot control student behavior, we can control our responses to it. If the goal is to prevent and reduce cheating in school, we must respond to it when we see it. We hear far too many stories of teachers ignoring cheating when it happens by “looking the other way” or of others blaming the teachers for the student cheating that occurs. This can, however, not only implicitly encourage cheating to continue and become normative but also create a lost opportunity for learning. Responding to cheating regularly and consistently signifies to students that such dishonest behavior will not be tolerated, no matter the circumstances. And this, of course, can prevent future cheating because students will recognize that the costs outweigh the benefits.

#4- Reduce temptations and opportunities for cheating.
In our book, Cheating in School, we discuss that cheating is endemic to the educational institution, but that we can prevent some cheating by reducing temptations and opportunities for it to occur. For example, can students be spaced out in large class exams so they are not tempted to look on another’s paper? Can alternate versions of the exam be used? Are examinations thoroughly monitored and papers closely read to signal to students that cheating is risky? Although we caution schools not to implement draconian measures that can create classrooms that better resemble the prison than the educational system, implementing reasonable precautions against student cheating can create a powerful symbol that the school does care about protecting academic integrity.

#5- Acknowledge that cheating is going to occur and is problematic.
Cheating is the “dark, deep secret” of education. As educators, we all know that it goes on but yet, for the most part, we do not like to publicly acknowledge that it does, let alone acknowledge that it is a problem that must be addressed. But there is much to be gained from such public acknowledgement: a united school that is empowered to move strategically and intentionally toward a solution; a modeling of the integrity that is expected of students; and a lifting of the veil that obscures a teacher’s own power in preventing and confronting student cheating. If a school acknowledges that cheating is occurring and is problematic, then we can begin to think about preventing cheating in school.

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