Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Speaker describes how to prevent academic cheating

The best way to prevent academic cheating has nothing to do with ensuring students do not use their cell phones during tests or cleverly detecting plagiarism in a paper, Eric Anderman said at Randolph College Tuesday. Instead, cheating is best prevented when students value learning more than they value grades.

Randolph College's student judiciary committee met with Eric Anderman for
dinner and a discussion about promoting academic honesty and integrity.
“Statistically, the student in the classroom where they’re just focused on the grade is much more likely to cheat,” said Anderman, one of the country’s foremost scholars on the subject of why people cheat. “If the take-home message is learning, you’re not going to have a lot of cheating in your class.”

Anderman spoke at Randolph to share insight gained from his years of research about cheating. Academic dishonesty is extremely common, he said, with 86 percent of high school students admitting to cheating at least once. That is a low estimate, Anderman said.

Students engage in cheating by sending text messages to notify friends of test content, making copies of tests using a smartphone, plagiarizing published articles, buying term papers, and even hiring others to take college readiness tests for them, he said. Meanwhile, some teachers have been caught cheating to garner higher standardized test scores for their schools.

Although students in some demographics are more likely to cheat than others, cheating crosses cultural, ethnic, economic, and religious lines. “Whether you do it and whether you think it’s right or wrong are not the same thing,” he said. “There are people who think cheating is wrong, who still do it.”

Anderman shared quotes from high school students who have been interviewed by him and his graduate students at The Ohio State University. Asked about their motivations for cheating, all cited extrinsic motivations: qualifying for a scholarship, getting admitted to a good college that would lead to high-paying jobs, and garnering grades that would please the students’ parents.

He said one way to decrease cheating is to focus more on intrinsic values such as mastery of a topic or the desire to learn more about it, and focus less on testing and grades. Students are less likely to cheat when they are given the opportunity to re-do assignments until they master the material, he said.

Another way to reduce cheating is to create a culture that discourages cheating. Honor codes help create that atmosphere, he said. “The evidence is pretty positive that they do work,” he said.

Anderman learned about Randolph’s honor code while touring the campus on Tuesday and while having dinner with Randolph College’s student judiciary committee, which administers the honor code.  He praised Randolph’s honor code for how involved students are in it and how important it was to each student he met. “Honor codes communicate core values to students about the institutions, but in some institutions, people are not aware of them,” he said.