Cheating in high school and college

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Señor Boethius
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Cheating in high school and college

Post by Señor Boethius » Wed Feb 08, 2006 12:35 am

I am presently teaching English at a Mexican college and I have become quite annoyed at the amount of cheating that occurs. Many of my students consider cheating a valid way to get good grades, others like to help out their witless friends, and others just like to “check? their answers during quizzes and exams.

I have talked about this problem with my students many times, and one of the comments I often hear from them is that this is not just a Mexican problem, but it happens all over the world. I agreed, but I thought it was much worse in Mexico than in other places where I have taught (the USA and Korea).

One of the major problems at my school is that if students do get caught cheating, they are rarely even given a slap on the wrist. As long as the parents keep paying, the administration doesn’t see much of a problem.

I was wondering about other people’s experiences. How bad is/was cheating in your high school and/or college?

What did your teachers do to prevent cheating?

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GlottalGreekGeek
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Post by GlottalGreekGeek » Wed Feb 08, 2006 1:32 am

The most memorable incident involving cheating goes back to middle school. I was in a paticular class where certain girls would cheat on quizzes 50% of the time, though that statistic has limited accuracy since I was usually paying more attention to the quiz than other people's habits. Finally one of them got caught, and got a referral (the highest punishment short of suspension). She was crying because she was one of the girls who cheated less often and she kept on saying "--- does it all the time and they didn't catch her." I had limited sympathy for her. It was unfair that they caught her instead of some of the others, but she should not have cheated either.

There are a couple of boys at my present school who are chronic cheaters. Sometimes they get away with it, and sometimes their schemes backfire. They are most successful at cheating P.E. hours. My high school (indeed all high schools in the city) require two years of P.E. A little less than a fourth of the students, myself included, get this requirement automatically fulfilled through dance and theatre classes. There are two P.E. classes availible for other students, but they can only handle 60 students a year (basically, a small percentage of the school). Therefore the majority of students have to fulfill the P.E. requirement through extracurricular activities. These chronic cheaters merely lie about doing their P.E. hours, and they get away with it because the administrators have more pressing matters to consider, and they certainly want an excuse to let these students graduate.

If you really want to curb cheating, give assignments which are difficult to cheat on. It's difficult to cheat on an essay like "Write about a member of your family" (the essay must be in English, of course). If they copy each other, fail both of them (that's the policy most teachers use if they see two essays which are too similar). You could make multiple versions of tests, make sure people who sit next to each other get different versions, and if anybody talks or moves during the test, fail them (another popular policy at my school).

Or you could just let them cheat. Ultimately, you get paid whether they cheat or not (especially if the administration does not care). They are supposedly taking your English class in order to learn English. If they decide to short-change their education by cheating, that's their loss, not yours. However, if you take pride in being a good teacher, I can understand why you do not take this approach.

EDIT : When I was researching the Italian education system, I heard that cheating is much more prevelent in Italy than in the USA, and Italian and Mexican cultures definately come from some of the same sources. In the estadosunidos culture, we generally value honesty, quality, and integrety, and we certainly lump cheating among the enemy of those values (we don't want doctors who cheated through medical school operating on our body). While I'm sure Mexicans value those things too, they do not connect cheating so strongly with the enemies of those values. From what I can understand of their culture, cheating is a practical way to get things done.

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Post by Carola » Wed Feb 08, 2006 9:51 pm

It was even a chronic problem when I was learning music! Any subject which required a written answer seemed to be open season for cheating. What those students didn't seem to realise was that if they didn't actually know the theory they were going to fail performance (when you had to get up there and improvise the jazz pieces).
It must be a problem in universities as well as we have to sign declarations about plagiarim and cheating which threaten all sorts of ghastly penalties if caught. With the sort of examples coming from politicians and various CEO's of big corporations is it any wonder a teenage student would think it is OK to cheat?
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Kopio
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Post by Kopio » Thu Feb 09, 2006 10:36 pm

Cheating is most certainly a problem in the US. I know that I go to a Christian college, and as a grader for first and third year Greek, I have caught numerous students cheating (which is really depressing on a spiritual level for me). There are two very memorable instances that stick out in my mind.

The first I caught myself. For part of the final in first yeart Greek, the students have to translate several chapters of the Gospel of Mark. One of the students had cut and pasted out of an electronic version of the NIV for the entire passage. How did I know?? There was a [bracketed] textual note that said [some manuscripts do not contain this verse]....WOW! Since students have no idea how to read a textual apparatus, I had this one to rights. The professor (who is the picture of kindess and mercy) called the student into his office, gave them a very strong talking to, and then gave them a zero for the assignments that this student had copied. It was enough of a hit to knock this students grade down a full letter.

The second, I caught wind of through the grapevine, and reported it to the same teacher (I was his grader, so I did feel obliged). A number of the students in his 3rd year Greek class had worked together on an assignment that was very clearly supposed to be worked on idepenently. They actually (reportedly) broke the assignment into 4 parts (there were four of them), each completed a part, and then slightly modified the parts so that they were not identical. It was after the fact that we found out, and the instructor could of, but didn't want to, call in the Administrative Dean, and have the grade struck from their record, etc. Here's the rub though. They all cheated in this class except for 2 people. Next year they all signed up for 4th year.....Mwahahahahaha. My fourth year Greek class was one of the toughest classes I have ever had, with one of the toughest profs I have ever had. The two students who didnt' cheat passes with an A and a B (very solid for this class), the students who cheated on their third year project ALL FAILED THE CLASS! That's right F's across the board. All four of the students changed their Major (which was Greek up till that point), because none of them had the chops to pull of the class. FWIW, when I took it I got a C+ and a B (the C+ was my first one in college!)

When I told the prof whose class they had cheated on, he said, "I knew they'd get theirs in the end"

That being said....I liked what GGG suggested about having them write about a certain topic. One thing my 4th year prof liked to do, was hand us a quiz for translation with options. It would have 6 passages we could choose from, of which we would have to translate 3 or 4. All that being said though...remember. it is only themselves they are cheating. They are at a loss, not you. You have done your job, and tried your best. If the students refuse to learn, and rely on cheating, your hands are still clean.

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Post by annis » Thu Feb 09, 2006 10:59 pm

Kopio wrote:All that being said though...remember. it is only themselves they are cheating.
I'd have to disagree with that. Or at least, I don't think it's the full picture.

One of the stranger things I have ever encountered is a college student claiming the university was a service institution whose only purpose is to server student needs, which he interpreted as getting a degree. He then offered some bizarre justification of cheating by a business model. He claimed Libertarianism as his model for this, but while I'm famous among my friends for rants (usually fueled by scotch or ouzo) against Libertarianism, not even I am prepared to accept that he got the idea there.

In any case, this got me thinking a bit about the job of teaching institutions. They do provide a service, but not just to the students, but to society, or, if we must stick to a business model, to businesses. A degree is supposed to be a sign that the student has mastered some basic set of knowledge. Every cheater that gets through with a degree lowers the worth of every other degree from that institution. He cheats not only himself, but everyone else in his future who has some reason to be interested in his degree.
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Post by bellum paxque » Fri Feb 10, 2006 2:17 am

Someone earlier in the thread pointed out that, in other cultures, cheating may be considered simply a practical way of achieving goals. Doesn't cheating require cooperation? planning? ingenuity? circumspection? In a sense, then, cheaters are learners, too, though perhaps not quite in the way the professor expects. Since most of the workplace does not demand technical knowledge as much as it does a general aptitude for learning and working -- as you yourself noted recently, Annis -- it could be argued that cheating is just another way of proving one's ability to get reuslts . Kids who cheat are proving, in their own way, that they can make their way in the world.

Equivocation aside, however, I think cheaters should be punished ruthlessly, preferably by pillory.

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Post by Bert » Fri Feb 10, 2006 2:48 am

bellum paxque wrote: In a sense, then, cheaters are learners, too, though perhaps not quite in the way the professor expects. Since most of the workplace does not demand technical knowledge as much as it does a general aptitude for learning and working -- as you yourself noted recently, Annis -- it could be argued that cheating is just another way of proving one's ability to get reuslts . Kids who cheat are proving, in their own way, that they can make their way in the world.
On the jobsite I sure would not appreciate someones ability to get out of work, even if (s)he was real good at it.
bellum paxque wrote:
Equivocation aside, however, I think cheaters should be punished ruthlessly, preferably by pillory.
I am glad you added this to your post.

Señor Boethius
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Post by Señor Boethius » Fri Feb 10, 2006 6:10 am

In my classes, I usually give different versions of the same exam, and it's always a pleasure for me to catch a few students cheating.

I also do a little experiment. I give the students a difficult quiz, and then I leave the class. When I come back, I collect the quizzes and have the students translate the school's mission statement into English, which says that students will learn the highest values and other grandiose things. I then ask the students if they think our school achieves its goal. Some say yes, others no. Next I talk about cheating at the school, and students say that it's very common. Then I tell them that the quiz they just took was not a real quiz, but a quiz in moral virtue. Some look a little guilty. We talk more about cheating, and I try to lead them into giving good reasons not to cheat: you don't learn anything, how would you like your doctor to have passed medical school by cheating, and then I try to connect the idea of cheating in the classroom with the rampant corruption in Mexican society. Some students get my point.

Next time I catch a student cheating I think I'll send the student's photo along with a description of the cheating to the local paper. Perhaps public shame would prevent cheating.

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Post by GlottalGreekGeek » Sat Feb 11, 2006 12:33 am

Se�or Boethius wrote: Next time I catch a student cheating I think I'll send the student's photo along with a description of the cheating to the local paper. Perhaps public shame would prevent cheating.
I don't know what it's like down there, but perhaps you should warn the parents in advance. You might get into some sticky trouble if you publicly shame one of the students. Perhaps you should contact all the parents telling them that if their child cheats they're child will be in the local paper, or maybe you want to warn the parents of the cheating child the first time he/she cheats, and then the second time carry out the threat.

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Post by Señor Boethius » Sat Feb 11, 2006 1:38 am

My newspaper idea wasn't terribly serious, merely wishful thinking.

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