Monday, August 17, 2009

Cheating Among Students: an Epidemic?

It seems like you can't read a newspaper, watch the news, or search the internet without finding reports on cheating. It's athletes, politicians, students or somebody else. I will assume the the first two are money or power-related, but why do students cheat (because everybody does it, because it's easier than learning the material, for the thrill of it, or because of demands for academic achievement by state and federal education authorities)? And why are they so open about their methods (just check out all of the examples on YouTube)?

I found the following article written, "Cheating Stats Getting Out of Control: Researcher" by Amy Minsky in the Vancouver Sun (August 8, 2009) and I also found a YouTube video, "Cheating Documentary" that I thought you might enjoy.

OTTAWA — Cheating among students is reaching "epidemic" proportions, according to an expert who spoke at the annual American Psychological Association conference Saturday in Toronto.

The problem is widespread and growing, with some studies showing that up to 80 per cent of high-achieving high school students, and 75 per cent of college students admit to cheating, said Eric Anderman — a professor of educational policy and leadership at Ohio State University.

Although this trend has been growing over the past 50 years, it is well within the abilities of schools and teachers to reverse, he said.

Anderman and his colleagues argue the environment and atmosphere a teacher brings into a classroom makes all the difference.

Oftentimes, teachers "threaten" students into paying attention. "They warn them that this will be on Friday's test, and if they don't do well on the test it will be really bad" Anderman said.

But research shows cheating is more likely to occur when a good test score is a student's ultimate goal.

Previous study's by the American Psychological Association show cheating is relatively infrequent in elementary school, but increases as children become adolescents and progress through grade levels. The increasing incidence of cheating correlates almost perfectly with increasing pressure from teachers to get good grades.

"The teacher could tell their students it is important to learn a topic because it's interesting and helpful, rather than pressuring them to because it's on a test."

This way, Anderman and his colleagues said students won't see cheating as a means to an end.

"Kids should feel the goal is to learn," Anderman said. "If they feel they need to learn this material for their life, then there isn't logically a reason to cheat. The kids will value learning."

Christopher Usih, superintendent for student success at the Toronto District School Board, said there are several steps schools should take to discourage cheating. First, he said, students need to be made aware of what constitutes academic dishonesty.

"One of the most common forms is plagiarism. If students don't know what it is, it's difficult to punish them for copying something they read," Usih said.

The school board issues student agendas in which rules against plagiarism and other forms of cheating, and the repercussions associated with them, are explained. Usih said teachers are expected to go over the rules in class and have them attached to course outlines.

A further, and more valuable action teachers can take, is to teach students how to think critically.

Usih added he discourages "simple true or false or multiple-choice questions," saying it's more feasible for students to cheat when a test only involves basic recall.

Instead, he said the board encourages ways for instructors to teach their students how to be critical thinkers. "It will force the student to use their own words to defend their position."

The purpose of sending a child to school, Anderman said, is for them to learn.

"When kids cheat, they're only learning how to cheat, which is something they might take with them in their adult life."
© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

Cheating Documentary


  1. Indeed. Take a look at some of described on this blog:

    He also links to a huge cheating scandal where some high school kids actually broke into their school to steal exams, was publicised nationally. Might be worth a read.

  2. Cheating is part of a much wider problem with society and the home personal honor, telling the truth, respect doesn't mean what it use to.


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