Responding to Cheating Incidents
By Dr. Kenneth Shore
In considering how to respond to students who cheat, teachers need to think not just about punishing their behavior but also about correcting it. Simply providing undesirable consequences for cheating without focusing on the underlying reasons for the behavior can have the effect of making students more crafty cheaters.
Correcting the behavior may require finding out why the student cheated and then addressing those needs. At the same time, you need to recognize that in responding to a student who cheats, you are sending an important message to your other students about the consequences of cheating. Failure to confront a child who cheats may lead your other students to think they can cheat with impunity.
What You Can Do
- Have a private talk with the student. If you are certain the student was cheating, talk with him after class but do not embarrass him publicly. Assume a calm but serious demeanor but avoid expressions of anger. Accusing him of cheating will likely elicit a denial. Also avoid trying to trick him into an admission of cheating. Instead describe what you saw and let him know that you are disappointed in his behavior. Try to figure out what prompted him to cheat, paying particular attention to academic deficiencies, poor study habits, feelings of academic anxiety, and parental pressure to succeed.
- Provide consequences. In deciding what these should be, consider his age and sensitivity level and whether this has happened before. With a young elementary student, you might simply inform him that copying is not permitted and perhaps move his desk away from those of other students and allow him to continue. With an older student, you might go over to him, quietly take his test and ask him to see you after class. In talking with him, you might let him know what you observed and then tell him he will have to retake the test and that you will average his second test score with a zero or F on the first test. Tell him that if this behavior happens again that he will receive a failing grade without a chance for a retake. If a student is caught copying an assignment from a classmate, you might have the student redo the assignment and average the grade on the second assignment with a zero or F on the first.
- Figure out why the student is cheating and provide appropriate help. He may be motivated to cheat because he is feeling intense pressure to do well in school or may lack confidence in his ability to succeed. You may conclude he would benefit from academic support such as prodding him to ask for help in class or during a test, providing a review sheet prior to the test, tutoring him after school, or encouraging parents to provide assistance at home. If you conclude that the cheating reflects a lack of confidence, find opportunities to praise the student, highlight his accomplishments, and foster his success with academic tasks.
- Consider informing the student’s parents. This is especially important if the cheating has happened more than once. In speaking with them, focus on ways to correct the behavior more than on ways to punish the student. If the cheating reflects the student’s academic weaknesses or lack of confidence, encourage the parents to provide additional help in completing homework and preparing for classroom tests.
- Keep a close watch on a student with a history of cheating. You might seat him near your desk and away from other students. Also wander by his desk occasionally during a test. If necessary, give him the test in a private setting with adult supervision. Allow the student to ask you questions if he is confused about the test instructions or a particular question or problem.