Cheating & Education

Unfortunately, cheating and education seem to go hand in hand. There will always be some students (and sometimes teachers and administrators) who feel compelled to cheat for a variety of reasons. Cheating can, and does, range from a student peering at another student’s paper during a test for a bit of help with the answers to teacher and administrators working together in order to artificially boost their students’ standardized test scores.

Prevalence of Cheating

Numerous articles have been published recently that detail the simply massive amount of cheating that happens across schools today. It is no longer merely the slacker students who cheat in order to get by; now you see the top students engaging in cheating in order to thrive, to be the best of the best. This is likely due to the increased pressure that students feel to succeed.

There are other contributing factors to the rise of cheating: it is simply easier to accomplish. Today, students have internet access and many websites dedicated to teaching students how to cheat and where they can buy dissertation or essay to turn in as if their own. If teachers allow cell phones into their classrooms, then students need only be sneaky enough in order to consult the Internet on a tricky question or two for their own benefit.

Why Students Cheat

Cheating may be easier to accomplish than ever, but it is still important to ask the question, why do students cheat? What compels them to participate in academic dishonesty?

  1. Students Don’t Always Know What Constitutes Actual Cheating
    • Many students consider working together on homework completely acceptable. Some schools would agree with that verdict and others wouldn’t, creating a grey area that can easily bridge into others.
    • Many students don’t understand the problem with using someone else’s words and failing to attribute the writing properly. Furthermore, many students think that paraphrasing can be achieved by simply changing one or two words in the sentences.
    • This falls on the schools as well. Many students report having never been properly informed of their school’s definitions of academic dishonesty and policies pertaining to it.
  2. Pressure to Exceed No Matter the Cost
    • Today’s culture puts a lot of pressure on students to do their best to succeed. Schools seem to have become more and more competitive over the years, with students believing that their whole life hinges on whether or not they achieve a 4.0 grade point average. When a student starts to fall short of that goal, operating under the belief that it is the most important element in their lives will often drive them to cheat.
  3. Environment of Cheating
    • Forming a loop, students are more likely to cheat when they know their peers are doing it. Therefore, the more students that cheat, the more that the other students feel at liberty to cheat as well.
    • Many students feel as though the students who cheat never get caught or punished, creating a sense of no culpability.

There are other contributing factors to the prevalence of cheating, but those mentioned above are the largest.

What Can Schools Do About It?

It is easy for people to agree that cheating is bad and needs to be curbed. In order to do so, schools must look at the reasons behind cheating and address them.

First, schools would need to work to stop providing opportunities for cheating. This could mean no more take-home exams or it could mean stricter policing on the presence of cell phones in the classroom. It could also mean no multiple-choice tests. Either way, the opportunities to cheat are currently many and need to be curbed.

Second, schools need to clearly define the act of cheating and inform their students of what does and does not count as cheating. Misinformation only hurts the process, and as students continue to move throughout school from high school to college, they will continue to cheat if not taught how to properly quote someone else’s words and give them credit, how to properly paraphrase, and so on.

Third, schools and parents should work together to remove some of the pressure that students feel. Students may be feeling pressure from just the school, just their parents, or both to succeed at any cost. As long as educators and parents continue to teach that lesson that success is the most important thing, students will cheat for better grades, better success. Instead, educators and parents should encourage students to focus on the learning process. If you get a B, but you learned a lot, then that is better than earning an A because you cheated and having learned very little.

Lastly, schools need to provide proper punishment for students who engage in cheating. This can be tricky because students have many ways of cheating, but by curbing opportunities to cheat and following the other strategies, there should be less actual cheating to catch anyway.

Cheating will never become completely absent from schools. There will always be students who feel compelled to do so and will find a way no matter how many preventative measures a school takes. However, the high levels that cheating has reached can certainly be remedied and it is important for schools to focus on doing so.