Preventing Student Cheating
By Dr. Kenneth Shore
While cheating is more of a concern with middle and high school students, it is not uncommon with elementary school children. The pressures that older students may feel to do well in school and that may give rise to cheating can also affect younger children. Elementary school teachers play a key role in conveying the importance of honesty in school and helping students learn to take pride in their own work.
Towards this end, it is important to make sure that younger students understand what it means to cheat, especially if they have had few opportunities to work independently in school. If they are used to working in groups where it is expected that they share information, they may not grasp that it is inappropriate to copy the work of others when working on their own.
What You Can Do
- Talk with your class about cheating. Begin by letting them know your policy about cheating and the classroom consequences. Encourage your students to discuss the issue by asking them how it feels to earn a good grade by studying hard compared with how it feels to earn a good grade by getting the answers from someone else. You might ask them why they think students feel the need to cheat and how they would feel if they found out one of their idols cheated. In discussing the consequences of cheating, tell them that students who copy answers from a classmate may be getting the wrong answers. Inform them that if they are having problems with a subject that you expect them to let you know and that you will provide extra help.
- Explain your rules before giving a test. You might tell your students to clear their desks of all materials, face forward, keep their eyes on their own paper, and remain seated and silent until the test is over. You might also remind them of the consequences for cheating. Consider posting these rules in the classroom.
- Structure your room so as to minimize cheating. Consider having students move their desks further apart when taking tests. In addition, you might have them place simple barriers, perhaps made of file folders, on their desks during tests to prevent classmates from seeing their test papers.
- Give students multiple versions of the same test. Creating different versions of a test is easy with a computer. You don’t need to add new questions to the alternate versions but rather change the order of the questions on the original test. Telling students that you are doing this will prevent them from cheating. You don’t even have to create different versions to achieve this deterrent effect. You might just label the tests Version A, Version B and Version C or have the test run off on two or three different colored papers without changing the order of the questions to make students think there are different forms of the test.
- Have students show their work. Tests that require students to explain their answers, whether by showing the steps used to solve a math problem or the reasoning behind their response, minimize the chance of cheating. In addition, these open-ended tests allow you to give partial credit for using a correct process or demonstrating some understanding.
- Monitor your students from the back of the room. Students are less likely to glance at a classmate’s paper if they think you may be watching them. Try circulating around the room, passing students in an unpredictable pattern while being sure to walk past those who have a history of cheating.