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I've always found that if you make your assessments fair and doable the students are more inclined to want to do well on it as opposed to cheat. I think trying to outsmart the kids and set up tests that call for half of the class failing set up environments where students feel almost obligated to cheat.
Setting up an environment of trust can go a long way. Students feel comfortable telling you when they feel the test is a problem (instead of just whining on test day) and trust that they will actually be prepared for the test by working in class.
Go beyond just changing test questions... and make assessments items that aren't even "questions"... they're "problems" that require students to think, produce, defend, and create. Cheating becomes virtually impossible.
This is a great question, inquiry and sociological study. The question as stated is too black and white; educators and the world tend to get black and white in these situations once the rules have been established. Cheating is stealing and is NOT tolerated. What a crappy situation we (educators) have created for students if they think their only hope of a passing grade is to cheat. Of course cheating is not to be condoned, but why in this day and age is this an issue?? I don't care about factoids that are regurgitated on an exam. Show me what you can do; how you think; how you analyze; how you create. The type of test that a student can actually cheat on is old-world-think. Does this happen daily? Yes, sadly enough. We have No Gray Matter Left Behind after the zombie-like drills for state standardized tests. Do we persist in creating drones? The difference between a equi-lateral triangle and an isosceles triangle is better described through a project or an invention than darkening in an answer with number two lead. What is the difference if you can answer the question if you can't get up and dance with it.
At what age do students start to engage in that behavior? What responsible role do the adults play in creating an atmosphere in which a child would want to cheat. To feel so desperate and so disempowered as to take the risk of humiliation and ultimately an even greater failure must be a frightening experience. Educators can make the greatest impact with feedback on students when they are young; getting this out of the way is a great benefit to the child. Unfortunately our culture promulgates cheating and hyper-competitive behaviors; this carries over into the psyche of the student and it may get expressed as cheating. I happen to like open book tests. What is all the nonsense on testing; the fruits of labor (study) becomes obvious all too soon. There are far too many other ways to evaluate a students performance (portfolio based). Try these on for size: Undiagnosed learning dysfunction/disability; self-esteem issues; domestic strife; poor nutrition; lack of access to materials and resources in the home; lack on in home guidance. Isn't it better to the student and community at large to uncover the back-story of the cheater. I think this is a topic that lends itself to lengthy and deliciously deep conversations.
Consequences are poor teachers as they are mostly non-creative negative motivators. It may help adults feel as if they are in power and control (what most adults crave); yet if the problem is just beneath the surface for this student what good has been done.
The sad thing about those who cheat is that the are really cheating themselves; I know it sounds like rhetoric, but it is and always has been true; you can't fake deep understanding of an isotope and follow through on a scientific formula in a novel situation and then demonstrate the results to the class; is this not more valuable than mere definition of a fact.
We adults set up the dynamics then we attempt to villianize the child. o many educators make me laugh at their uni-dimensional thinking! Let's put on our thinking caps teachers; I think this is an easy problem to solve; yet too often teachers are not into the solution; they love to moan and complain about these horrible little creatures that the are not paid enough to test with spirit and insight.
And there you have it ladies and gents; the truth is that our cadre of teachers are often not insightful enough to prevent this sort of situation by making cheating the last thing a child would want to do; teaching is about creating healthy relationships with the learners. Teachers need to know who their students are and what makes them tick and where the social difficulties may be. The students merely are reflectors of what is going on in the world today. Talk with students more honestly and openly about these matters and save the kids and adults grief.
The most effective way is through effective teaching strategies that emphasize doing your best as well as creating learning environments that are not hostile and aggressive. Stop blaming the kids for the back story; this is where the answer lies if you care to open up to the truth. So educators, please put your pencils down and resist the urge to say this is too hard a question; stop cheating and start teaching!