Susie sneaks a peak at Andrea’s test answer. Ted looks through the cracks between his fingers while everyone is hiding in hide-and-seek. Both Susie and Ted are cheating, deliberately breaking rules for their own gain. Two of the most common reasons children cheat at school are to win, and to get better marks.
- Change how children are graded in school. Cheating is partly a by-product of our educational system’s emphasis on getting good grades, and its limited scope of how children can be evaluated. Exams which are particularly likely to induce cheating are those with trick questions, or questions designed to separate the wheat from the chaff. These tend to make children nervous and forget what they ordinarily would know. Options to the standard pen and paper test are oral exams, open-book exams, group-participation exams, take-home exams, or no exams. Another idea is asking students to contribute their own questions to exams. This way they may feel more at-ease before writing their exam, as well as greater responsibility in answering their questions honestly.
- Help students realize their whole self-concept is not riding on a game or an examination mark. Make comments like, “I’m proud of you that you stood up for Sarah in front of your other friends,” or, “I wish I knew how to tell a joke the way you do.” These broaden children’s awareness of qualities people admire, and help them recognize the positive attributes they have outside of getting good marks.
- Discuss the virtues of honesty with your class. Describe cheating as a no-win solution. Even if children get what they want, they won’t feel proud of their attainment, because they know they cheated. As well, other people eventually will find out they cannot be trusted, and will not want to be their friends or give them responsibilities. For instance, kids don’t want to play with someone who cheats.
- Breathe down their backs. Studies have demonstrated that if children don’t think they will get away with cheating, they are less likely to cheat. Good tactics for keeping children straight are circulating around the room and sitting at the back of the room.
- Give alternate versions of the same exam, either by changing the questions, or if the exam is multiple choice, changing the order of the answers. You’ll find that by doing this once you will bring any straying eyes back to their own papers.
- Arrange desks so the suspected cheaters are sitting next to each other. Usually cheaters know who knows more and who knows less than they do.
- Hold a cheating exam. Ask your students to prepare for their exams by cheating. Let them cheat in any way they want. At the end collect their papers, and carry on as if their marks will count. Afterwards ask them questions like, “Did you think it was a fair exam?” “Would you like to do all your exams this way?” “What would happen if you did?” “What would happen if teachers, doctors, politicians, and parents cheated?” This lets children experience first-hand the self-defeating nature of cheating.
- Have the student who is cheating write down beside his answer the name of the student he copied it from–giving credit where credit is due (Rogers, 1987).
- Setting a child up so you can catch him cheating red-handed. Instead of this, give him opportunities to prove to you and himself that he can be trusted.
Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him. Booker T. Washington.