How to Limit Academic Dishonesty

How to Limit Academic Dishonesty

“This is outrageous. I studied hard to get an 'A' in this test and they were cheating and bragging about it! I cannot stand this”, Jane said even as she sounded really hurt and angry. After all, chemistry was her favorite subject. And that was all the more reason why she couldn't possibly tolerate other dishonest students copying their answers from each other’s papers.Her professor Paula Blakeney was aware of the situation since the beginning of the semester. The two boys with the shocking copper colored hair had made things difficult for everybody. “Cheating” was their middle name. In fact, Charles and Jeff together had been a menace for every student who took the Chemistry class. Any action taken against them seemed futile. The pervasive practice had seeped in to such an extent that chances of weeding it out seemed bleak.Academic dishonesty is a alarmingly increasing issue and incidents like the one above have become part of a common practice. Cheating is just one among the many forms of this type of dishonesty. A few among the other instances include:

  • Plagiarism
  • Fabrication
  • Bribery
  • Impersonation

A study conducted by the Josephson Institute on 43,000 high school students in public and private schools revealed 59% students who admitted to cheating, with 34% doing it more than two times. One in three students admitted that they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment. More recent studies indicate that 80-95% of high school students have admitted to cheating of some form.With such alarming figures threatening to burn a hole in the roof, it is imperative to take measures to curb such dishonesty. Here are a few suggestions in this direction:

Promoting intrinsic education

Pulling all-nighters for students nowadays is quite a common scenario. Students cram to overcome their exam-related stress. “Kids cheat when they become stressed”, according to Eric Anderman, Professor of Educational Psychology at The Ohio State University and co-editor of the book Psychology of Academic Cheating. He goes on to explain that the incidences of cheating increase with the pressure of scoring good marks in exams. This shifts the focus to extrinsic learning encouraging a desire for good marks without developing the skills required to gain expertise over the subject.One good way to curb this issue is by promoting project-based or query-based learning. Students turning in drafts of papers and projects can then be monitored on their daily performance. You can also teach students how to develop their own ideas from raw information provided to them. This not only reduces cramming, but also promotes academic integrity. This way they are less likely to cheat and more likely to develop an intrinsic understanding of the subjects involved.

Getting to know your students

Have you ever wondered that the student seated at the back of the class and scribbling frantically from his neighbor’s paper is actually a victim of peer pressure? Or, the girl sitting right in front of her is cheating to measure up to the exceptional Math skills of her older sister that she herself doesn't seem to have? All it takes is just a good conversation to help your students develop an identity. The trick is to not let the thread of conversation go cold.You might consider knowing about the names of your students, taking your time to answer every query that they have, learning about their interests, what they are weak in, what they would like to do differently, their problems and so on. When students understand that the teacher knows them as individuals and supports them, they are less likely to resort to unfair means to score well in their exams. An atmosphere of care provides a fertile ground for students to grow up as responsible individuals.

Teaching integrity and honesty

According to Jonathan Lamb, Assistant Head of School and Dean of Academics at The Storm King School in New York, “If we understand students are not intellectually complete when they arrive, we should not somehow expect them to be morally complete.” This calls for an increased effort to develop honesty, integrity, tenacity and a spirit of fair play alongside the school curriculum.It would take more than just a week-long assembly to curb the alarming statistics that reflect academic dishonesty. Schools need to constantly reiterate these values for a more visible effect. Some schools have an honor code that students are required to sign every time they turn in an assignment, validating their honesty. Student counseling has also a shown marked improvement in curbing different forms of academic dishonesty. In addition to that, it is important to create an awareness of the meaning and effects of such dishonesty.

Revising assessment policies

Unit tests tend to create a lot of stress on a student. And this forms one of the primary reasons for cheating. A series of projects, presentations, essays and think-alouds with quizzes and tests can help in checking the urge to cheat. In addition to that, reducing homework to what's absolutely necessary is another way. You can avoid scheduling multiple tests or assignment submissions on the same day since this considerably reduces the student workload. This would also allow room for them to study and complete their work on time.

Setting a good example

You already know how kids mimic their elders. If you are a parent, you might want to maneuver that to your advantage. You can be a role model for your kids by putting a stopper on white lies, shortcuts and getting things the easy way. Teaching how to say “No” to participating in cheating or plagiarism is also a great way to improve academic integrity. Setting a good example to your kids is quite helpful in nipping the bad practices in the bud.Having said all that, it is also quite important to report such practices as soon as you spot one and take necessary action against it. Monitoring every student during an examination properly and checking minutely for recycling of previous projects, assignments or homework could help in reducing the problem considerably.What strategies have you implemented to curb academic dishonesty? Share those with us in the comments section below.

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