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Date of publication: 2017-08-29 17:40

Cheating in school may be epidemic, but also widespread and intense are teachers' efforts to stop cheating. Teachers' anti-cheating strategies range from talking with students about their mistakes to giving cheaters zeros to simply structuring assignments so cheating becomes extremely difficult.

Education World: What Can We Do to Curb Student Cheating?

Teachers point out that their definition of cheating may differ greatly from a student's. Some students, for example, believe copying test answers or having another student write a paper for them is cheating but think letting another student copy their homework is simply helping a friend.

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"I try to prevent cheating in my classes from the very beginning of the school year by discussing personal integrity and then going over expectations and logical consequences for failure to abide by class policy concerning cheating," said LeRon Ware, who teaches science at South Sevier Middle School in Monroe, Utah.

Many teachers recommend using the essay form whenever possible in tests and homework assignments. Make it clear to students that they are to write their essays without consulting other students, they say. Clearly, assignments in areas such as language arts and social studies lend themselves to the essay form more readily than do subjects such as math. But even in math, requiring students to explain how they figured out their answers makes it more difficult to cheat on a test.

"Require each stage of a research project to be completed on schedule and handed in," another teacher advised. For example, a list of references that will be cited for the project is due first, along with brief notes on each reference in the student's handwriting. Next, a handwritten outline is submitted. Then students hand in a rough draft, which the teacher edits for content and grammar. Last, the final project is due. Completed projects submitted without the preceding work are not accepted.

The situation described by a teacher in the above scenario is not unusual, nor is the reaction of the parents. That teacher told Education World that when he catches students cheating and brings it to their parents' attention, about two out of three parents support him. The others, he said, "either refuse to believe their child cheated or minimize the incident, saying their child didn't mean to cheat."

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In one instance, for example, Nellen said, "One student pointed out how a second student had taken a Web site and put it on the second student's Web page [without attribution]. I wasn't aware [of the cheating]. It took a scholar to point this out since that scholar was so much closer to it."

Cheating concerns teachers, but few want to speak for publication about specific incidents of dishonesty. "I don't want my name appearing in an article," one teacher explained. "It wouldn't look good for me or my school."

Parents and teachers interviewed for this article say that in teachers' zeal to expose and eliminate cheating, they must be careful to have proof and not just a suspicion of wrongdoing. "My daughter worked extra hard on a book report for school. She put a lot of effort into writing and rewriting," said one parent. "When her teacher read the report, he accused her of getting help from a parent. I knew the work was her own, and when I confronted the teacher, he backed down. But this experience left my daughter confused and frustrated. 'Why should I work hard?' she said to me. 'The teacher is only going to accuse me of cheating if I do my best.'"

There is hope for instructors who despair at the number of Web sites they would have to survey to nab a student who has plagiarized a term paper or an essay or "cut and pasted" different sections from various works to create one term paper. John Barrie, a doctoral candidate at the University of California at Berkeley, invented to help teachers quickly detect intellectual theft.

A Webfolio includes all the research a student has gleaned from the Internet and the student's own work. Each student-created Webfolio goes on the student's Web site and is checked by other students -- whom Nellen refers to as "scholars" -- in a process of peer review that makes each student's work public. Nellen designed this process to help students grow as scholars, not primarily to discourage cheating. But the stages of creating a Webfolio help curb cheating and also make it easier to catch someone who does cheat.

Many trend watchers think cheating is epidemic, usually beginning in middle school and extending through college. A 6998 national report by Who's Who Among American High School Students showed four of five top students admitted cheating at some point. In another nationwide study, nine out of ten high school teachers surveyed by the American School Board Journal (ASBJ) and the Education Writers Association acknowledged that cheating is a problem in their school.