Dealing with Dishonesty
by Tom Lucey
How much do your students practice honest, ethical behavior on school work and tests? Recent events related to President Clinton's behavior in office, and the events leading to the selection of President George W. Bush provide less than stellar examples of honest and ethical behavior for our students.
Even today's classrooms experience widespread lapses of integrity and ethics. Ligon (2000) observed that teachers in Texas succumbed to integrity lapses under the pressures associated with standardized testing environments. Shepard (2000) provides sound theoretical and practical thoughts to alleviate our present assessment challenges. Until these concepts are accepted by the education policy makers, teachers need to model ethical conduct for their students. (Ligon, 2000). More often than not, these attitudes develop prior to entering the classroom (Wellhousen & Martin, 1995). Being behavioral coaches who foster student life-skills, teachers possess an implicit responsibility to model, teach, and prompt student ethics and integrity. It takes only a brief glance at the media to demonstrate consequences of unethical conduct.
The following compilation consists of over fifty measures to prevent, detect, and respond to unethical student conduct. It also provides their sources for elaboration on this important topic.
Understand and Address the Conditions for Cheating
1. Know students' motives.
Learn why students cheat and prevent it by countering the factors. Some reasons students cheat include: taking easy approaches to assignments, making assignments low priorities, practicing poor time-management skills, harboring embarrassment over writing abilities, and craving the rush from rule breaking (Harris, 2001).
2. Identify the cause of the cheating.
Recognize that on a personal level, cheating represents primarily a result of a student's lack of self-confidence. "The child may show signs of hunger, thirst, fatigue, or be experiencing fear of parents, teacher, or peers." The student cheats because he or she needs and wants to be successful (Disciplinehelp, 2001).
3. Discuss situations the class might have to face and what they think would be good solutions.
Use such scenarios as how they might react if they saw a classmate taking someone's money or how they would respond if someone asked them to help cheat on a test. This process would help students to learn values and build healthy relationships (Disciplinehelp).
4. Talk to students in a positive manner about cheating.
Follow suggestions contained in a brochure from the Educational Testing Service which recommend, among others, focusing on the students' sense of accomplishment; reinforcing an image of cheating as neither being "acceptable" or "normal"; pondering a world where everyone cheated; and prompting interest in learning rather than grades (Cromwell, 2000).
5. Organize and structure your lessons.
Improve your teaching and rapport. Research suggests students most likely cheat when teaching objectives are not clear and when the teacher is viewed as inept or not "committed to good teaching" (Murdock, 1999).
6. Tell students the importance of their learning.
Explain why as well as what you're teaching. Students report they cheat less when knowing the relevance and importance of lesson content (Murdock).
7. Test on class content.
Pressure from test content from outside class prompts cheating because students can not anticipate your expectations. Pressure also results from inconsistent class and testing procedures. For example, calculator use in class and prohibition on tests prompts cheating (Murdock).
8. Give students feedback on work.
Provide students some direction for improvement. Writing corrective responses and suggestions for correction on homework prompts students to make an effort and feel a sense of control, lessening the "need" to cheat (Murdock).
9. Give students more opportunities to perform.
Allow students ongoing opportunities to communicate knowledge. Providing more chances to demonstrate knowledge reduces pressure to perform well on tests and lessens the likelihood of cheating (Murdock).
10. Teach students to use and integrate self-assessment tools.
Permit students some say in their observations. By providing students some autonomy in their assessment, you alleviate fear of unfair judgments and less chance of cheating. (Murdock)
11. Give procedures for test taking rather than threaten consequences for cheating.
"Teach a lesson, model and practice the behavior during tests. The procedure could include the following processes: arranging desk for privacy, working quietly and independently, having something to do when finished, focusing on own work, write what you know about a topic rather than leaving the question blank." (Jan, 2001).
12. Develop a handout informing how to avoid cheating and plagiarism.
Give the students a hand-out of that describes proper test taking and paper writing procedures. There's an excellent hand out online from the University of Manitoba which may be modified for class use. The references contain this site (University of Manitoba, 1998).
13. Discuss personal integrity with the students and go over expectations and logical consequences for failure to abide by class policies.
Provide students the parameters for working. Ensure they know what is permitted and what is not (Cromwell).
14. Use essay form whenever possible for tests and homework assignments
Objective based tests provide for many opportunities for copying. Subjective or essay based tests work well for most subjects. Even in math, the students can be expected to explain how they figured out their answers (Cromwell)
15. Use high cognitive level questions assignments.
Challenge the students with solutions to higher thinking level questions which require thoughtful responses. They are more difficult to copy (Murdock).
16. Create a learning environment which encourages cooperation rather than competition.
Foster a cooperative atmosphere, creating a setting to learn rather than to get good grades (Murdock).
17. Learn about the methods of plagiarism so you may anticipate them.
Methods of plagiarism include: Downloading free research papers, buying papers from commercial sources, copying an article from the web or an online or electronic database, copying a paper from a local source, cutting and pasting to create a paper from several sources, quoting less than all the words copied and faking a citation (Harris).
18. Teach the students about plagiarism.
Define the concept in detail, explaining the consequences. Provide examples. Show a paper from a research paper site and point out its flaws, telling students where it came from. (Harris).
19. Give specific topics for term paper or other take home assignments. Realize that many online and hardcopy resources exist for students to plagiarize research assignments from. Specific assignment topics limit chances students will have other work to plagiarize from (Navarro, Clark, and Halley, 2001).
20. Require specific parts to the paper.
Assign a certain number of sources from different types of media; require use of a specific article or source; expect an interview with an expert on the topic (Harris).
21. Require oral reports with student papers.
Ask students questions about the PROCESS of their research. A one to one meeting may also be used instead of a class presentation (Harris).
22. Require an annotated bibliography.
Require students to include a brief synopsis of the source, a description of its location (including library call letters or URLs), and a critique of its usefulness (Harris).
23. Require a "metalearning" essay.
After collecting the papers, assign the students an in-class essay explaining their discoveries about research from their experience (Harris).
24. Assign shorter papers, research proposals, and oral reports, prompting an ongoing work process.
Demanding more frequent and less time consuming assignments provides less opportunities to find previously developed work (Erlich,1998).
25. Require a record which becomes part of the final product.
Require a research plan requiring library usage. Expect students to turn in all handwritten notes, websearch logs, marked photocopies or printouts, and copies of all computer disk files (Erlich).
26. Keep copies of past papers.
Copy past papers you've graded, creating a database of assignments which students might plagiarize from (Navarro, Clark, and Halley).
27. Clarify if you permit student collaboration on take-home assignments or not.
Ensure students understand your expectations and know the students who work together. Students who work together on assignments develop products which are very similar (Navarro, Clark, and Halley).
28. Specify requirements for footnotes, use of quotation marks, and bibliography.
Communicate expectations to students regarding citing and referencing resources used in their work (Navarro, Clark, and Halley).
29. Assign different research or take-home assignments to different class sections.
Create a smaller pool of peers for students to collaborate with. Anticipate students' communications with each other outside the classroom. By assigning different topics, there's a smaller chance of students plagiarizing each other's work (Navarro, Clark, and Halley).
30. Read all papers on the same topic together.
Realize that students write about the same thing in different ways. Familiar sounding papers probably are, especially when you've read about the same topic several times within a short time-frame (Navarro, Clark, and Halley).
Prevent Cheating on Tests
31. Give different versions of tests (simply changing the order of questions is helpful in lengthy conditions).
Challenge the students to be honest. Students need to work harder to give answers on exams where questions or their order are shuffled or changed (Navarro, Clark, and Halley).
32. Rearrange alternative answers on multiple choice exams.
Place yourself in the perspective of the cheater who can only see the letters of the question responses. By rearranging the solutions, you distort their response patterns (Bellezza and Bellezza, 1989).
33. Assign seats that vary from one test to the next and differ from students' regular class seats.
Ensure students can not plan how to cheat based on who they're sitting near (Bellezza and Bellezza).
34. Make duplicates of random exams to compare with exams returned for regrading (especially good idea for Science and Math classes).
Realize that cheating efforts continue after you grade the test. Students may change their responses after the test is graded when they know the correct answer. Students may exercise this practice on tests which they complete in pencil. See also Number 46 (Navarro, Clark, and Halley).
35.Change exam questions periodically.
Remember not to rely on the text assessment guide. Collect tests after they've been graded and counter circulation of test for future study. Changing the questions prevents cheating in this regard (Navarro, Clark, and Halley).
36. Distribute and collect tests randomly.
Remember the test occurs from the distribution of the first test to the collection of the last test. Distributing and collecting tests in orderly fashion allows cheating students to anticipate your location while you proctor. Random collection and distribution of tests prevents this situation (Navarro, Clark, and Halley).
37. Examine the cited sources carefully.
Look at the sources listed, especially online sources. Assess their use in the paper. Look closely to see if student relied on some more extensively than others (Erlich).
38. Use resources to help detect plagiarism in papers.
Use web resources such as http://www.plagiarism.org to check term papers against web resources and cite parts of papers of a dubious nature. Other anti-cheating sites include IntregriGuard and The Essay Verification Engine (Cromwell).
39. Put a word or phrase from the paper into a search engine online if the content looks peculiar.
Start with the first sentence of the paper. Search for the phrase or sentence which catches your attention also (Gebhardt, 2001).
40. Look at a top-notch final paper from a student who hasn't performed well on supporting parts of the assignment.
Exercise caution here. A student may have exercised a valid effort as a last ditch effort for a good grade. A different writing style from other assignments would be a good tip-off, however (Gebhardt).
41. Look closely at an average student turning in a sophisticated and error-free paper.
Remember that inconsistency in work may suggest the research work was not done This tactic closely relates to 40. (Navarro, Clark, and Halley).
42. Look into footnotes which do not match the cited text.
Consider that careless errors often signal a weak attempt to masque copied sources (Navarro, Clark, and Halley).
43. Closely review a paper that does not contain any footnotes or quotation marks.
Students do not have the ability to write papers on research topics without assistance (Navarro, Clark, and Halley).
44. Investigate a paper where the type face on the title page does not match the type in the body of the paper.
Realize that students may take another's work and post their name to it (Navarro, Clark, and Halley).
45. Look for clues which will let you know something's wrong.
Recognize the following conditions which hint of possible problems: mixed citation styles, unusual formatting, irrelevant content, outdated references, inconsistent diction, and inconsistent style (Harris).
Cheating on Tests or Exams
46. Watch closely for numerous erasures on an exam returned for regrading.
Remember that grade alterers often make a habit of this practice on their tests or exams. This item relates to item number 34. (Navarro, Clark, and Halley).
47. Look closely if identical incorrect answers appear repeatedly on two or more tests.
Realize that group cheating efforts may provide similar test results (Navarro, Clark, and Halley). If the tests are similar, the students sit near each other, and no collaboration appears to be involved, the student sitting behind is usually the one cheating (Bellezza and Bellezza).
48. Before EACH exam, check for notes written under and formulas programmed into calculators, pencil and pen marks on the desk, and notes and papers on the floor near the desk.
Anticipate students will come prepared for tests in many imaginable ways (Navarro, Clark, and Halley).
49. Don't respond overzealously.
Remember that cheating represents a sign of insecurity or difficulty. Present your findings to the student privately and offer a chance to respond (Harris)
50. Don't refer to the situation as cheating to the student.
Referring to the circumstance as cheating or plagiarism makes the student defensive and lessens the chance of explanation or cooperation (Disciplinehelp).
51. Realize that you might be wrong.
Remember that you may be dealing with an honest student. Making an accusation rather then asking for an explanation lowers your regard in students' minds (Harris).
52. Recognize that more than one student may be involved in the act.
Cheating may involve collaboration between students. Look at work of other students for similar patterns in work products and conduct (Disciplinehelp).
53. Avoid using students against each other or urging peers to disclose misbehavior.
This practice causes resentment between students in the class and causes disrespect for the teacher (Disciplinehelp).
54. Give the suspected student the choice to take a zero on the test or to retake the test at a time when at least one parent can be there to proctor.
This practice also teaches the values of parenting (Cromwell).
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