Cheating on college campuses has been a problem for many years. College students cheat on midterms, a final exam or term paper for many reasons, usually to improve their college GPA or to “get through” a class they find uninteresting. Colleges and universities are taking notice and taking action to dissuade college cheating and improve student success.
Why students cheat
Researchers say that two-thirds of college students engage in some form of cheating. In his review of the book, “Cheating in College: Why Students Do It and What Educators Can Do about It,” by Donald L. McCabe, Kenneth D. Butterfield and Linda K. Treviño, posted on Kansas State University’s Web site, Matt Church, academic advising coordinator for Arts & Sciences at University of Louisville, reported that “student attitudes towards cheating are shaped and determined prior to college. …Students appear to use the same form of cheating in higher education as they did in high school. The authors also include a nomenclature of cheating tendencies, finding that men, younger students, athletes, fraternity and sorority members, and those involved in extra-curricular activities are more prone to cheating.”
Why students say they cheat:
• Everyone from politicians to athletes cheat, so there’s nothing wrong with it.
• We live in a results-oriented society, so all that matters is the grade I get.
• What I learn in school isn’t applicable to real life, so it doesn’t matter if I cheat.
• The system is already rigged, so cheating evens the score.
Methods of cheating
• willingly collaborating with other students to share answers or copy off test papers
• purchasing answers to standardized tests
• purchasing term papers
• copying material without proper citation
• acquiring textbook test banks
• using unauthorized devices during exams
• writing test answers on body parts
• leaving the test room during the test to check for answers
Colleges are designed for cheating
In “How college classes encourage cheating” posted on Huffington Post, August 4, 2013, James M. Lang, director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College, argues that “it may be that cheating rates are so high because too many university curriculums and courses are designed for cheating. And, based on current trends in college education, the problem may be about to get worse.”
Psychologists say that cheating is not necessarily done by dishonest people, but by people willing to be dishonest under the right conditions. For example, an introductory elective course typically contains many students, contains students for whom the class is not part of their major, and the course grade is based on only a couple of exams.
These conditions set up the student for cheating: The large class size distances the student from a relationship with the teacher, the topic matter is something the student must “get through” before he can take the classes he is interested in, and the pressure to pass those few tests is enormous. Students are less likely to cheat on upper level classes that have smaller class sizes and are focused on their field of study.
How colleges are reducing cheating
What safeguards can colleges put in place to counter cheating at their schools? The competitive Radiologic Technology program at Kapiolani Community College in Honolulu, the only program of its kind in the state, accepts only 16 students out of about 70 applications it receives, so a high score on its multiple-choice certification test is imperative for applicants. After an unusually high number of students did very well on the test, the college learned of a cheating ring in which someone identified as “Jane Doe” emailed test answers to students.
“The [KCC grievance] committee finds that evidence of cheating in the fall 2012 course appears pervasive and substantial,” said Susan Jaworowski, academic grievance chairwoman, in the article, “Cheating on Tests Spurs KCC to Change Exam Rules,” by Susan Essoyan published January 21, 2014, in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “The committee is concerned that an atmosphere in which a substantial number of students blatantly cheat creates a chilling effect on all students aware of that cheating… and casts a shadow on the program and the college,” said Jaworowski.
Kapiolani Community College took steps to reduce cheating by:
• revising or replacing all exams
• proctoring exams in class by an instructor
• refusing to allow students to review their answers after completion of an exam
• requiring students to put their belongings in a separate room during exams
Other colleges are reducing cheating by:
• redesigning classes to develop motivation in students
• improving intrinsic learning (learning for the love of learning, rather than for a grade)
• including more discussions and more tests so pressure is not on a few exams
Have you been tempted to cheat just to “get through” a class?