Decreasing Cheating

Several years ago, I arranged for an Eastern Psychological Symposium on the application of psychological research in maximizing students’ intellectual engagement in (and out of) class. I was reminded of this symposium while reading the Chronicle of Higher Education. A faculty member was highlighting the challenges he faced prior academic year when he started to use a anti-plagiarism software, Turnit-In

His experiences were certainly interesting, and as I thought of cheating in my non-statistics classes, I started to wonder … why don’t I catch students cheating in statistics. It is the class that occupies 50% of my professional schedule. I don’t catch cheaters, as I minimize any benefit students may have in cheating.

(1) I do not collect or correct homework. I provide students with worksheets (Green & Sandy, 2010) Students are instructed to complete before completing the more complicated problems within the body of the textbook. In both cases, the Assignments and Exercises for Students and the textbook examples, answers are provided to the students. In fact, for many of the Assignments and Exercises for Students  problems, interim solutions are provided for students, so they can check to what point they had the answer correct. Students must take responsibility for their own learning, and most do. Those who don’t cannot be rewarded with cheating, and instead, fail to master the material and thus fail the class.

(2) During exams, I provide students with the formulas. Let’s face it … we double check formulas that we don’t use regularly. If students were to cheat, bringing along a copy of the formula seems like the most obvious place to start. Not much else could help them. The problems are too long and would take too much writing space to be helpful to risk being caught cheating.

However, there are some other behaviors that a professor can participate in that will decrease cheating.

(3) Stating a plagiarism policy in your syllabus is associated with less cheating.

(4) As is explaining to students, on a personal level, how you feel when students cheat.

(5) Here is an additional article on decreasing cheating: In short, James Lang reviews a research study that found one of the ways a faculty can go about decreasing cheating, is by not by focusing on cheating behaviors, but by focusing on learning behaviors. Moreover, it seems that students who were in classes with fewer tests, quizzes and other assessment tools demonstrated greater cheating behavior. Offering students nonthreatening ways for them and you to evaluate their cognitive development (like in the homework problems listed above), students are less incline to cheat. They simply have less reason to do so. Yet, they are spending time learning and mastering the material.

In the end … this is a challenge I think we will forever be battling, but don’t give up!

I’m most certainly looking for current research on this topic, so please let me know if you are involved with this kind of research.

May your students be intellectually engaged, and may cheating in your classes be non-existent!


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