Academic Integrity

You will be faced with integrity issues as you teach. The fact is that cheating is widespread, especially in later grades; students copy from each other or plagiarize work all the time. Some teachers choose to ignore this because the issue is difficult to deal with. However, if you truly want your students to be prepared, you must take a strong stand against cheating.

A Policy on Cheating

Most schools have discipline policies related to cheating and it is your responsibility to enforce this policy. It is not always easy to catch cheaters, however. While you might be able to catch someone looking at another student's paper during a test, it is much harder to catch someone who has an old copy of a test.

Therefore, it is a good idea for you to vary your tests from year to year. If you have a real problem, you can even vary them from class to class. If you are having an issue with students cheating during tests, surprise them with different forms of tests.

Sometimes catching cheaters seems like a losing proposition. Students are not easy to catch and are often very defensive when you do catch them. Parents sometimes have a hard time believing their children have cheated. However, if you believe in the integrity of the school system, then you have to keep trying.

A survey of 4,500 high school students, taken by the Rutgers Management Education Center, found that 75 percent of them seriously cheated. Further, many parents and students have very narrow definitions of what constitutes cheating. This is a huge problem that is causing great concern among educators.

It is important to realize that cheating will be a new concept to young students. In elementary grades, younger children might not understand the differences between collaboration and cheating. Therefore, it is important to provide examples of acceptable collaboration at a young age. If you help students understand these concepts early, it might help deter them from cheating in later grades.

Dealing with Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a specialized form of cheating in which students and others directly copy words or unique ideas from other sources. Sometimes students mistakenly plagiarize because they do not understand all the rules. They believe that as long as they cite their source they can copy something out of a book. It's important to teach your students exactly what plagiarism is before they begin working on any research projects.

It can often be difficult to catch students who have plagiarized. For one thing, it is often difficult to find the original source. This is where the Internet can help. Type a unique part of the suspected plagiarized work into a search engine to see if you come up with any exact matches. Special software to help teachers catch plagiarized text is also available.

However, if students have used printed materials not available online or are not listed on search engines, then you will have a hard time finding the source. When this occurs, you will have to rely on methods such as comparing the writing structure of the student's normal work to that of the suspected passage. If there are big words in the passage, you could ask the student to define the words for you. You could even ask him to explain what he has written in his own words.

It's Not Easy to Catch

None of this is an exact science. It is a sad fact that students can go online and buy research papers. Technically, this isn't plagiarism, and it's hard to catch. Your best defense for catching plagiarism and cheating might be a good offense. Consider requiring an oral defense of all research papers to be presented in front of the class. Even if students buy their papers, they will still have to master the material in order to answer your questions.

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