When Students Cheat

When students cheat or plagiarize it hurts my soul.  Today I caught a fourth student copying work off of a website.  It causes me to pause and ask: “How many more of my students have cheated their way through the year?”  I don’t want to become jaded and cynical, or to feel like my students are always cheating.  From the beginning of the year I encourage them to demonstrate their own thinking, to show their creativity, and produce work that reflects who they are as a person. I reward independent creative thought, I get excited when they share new insights or quirky thoughts that only they can come up with. So, why do so many of them cheat or plagiarize their work?

There is an ongoing debate over whether or not the feeling of the need to cheat comes from the school valuing grades more than the students learning. The fear of failure, demanding schedules, lack of interest and perception that cheating is easy are some of the other reasons students may cheat (http://tlt.psu.edu/plagiarism/instructor-guide/why-students-plagiarize/).  There are a number of other factors as well, but I think, in my circumstances this year, as much as the institution may disagree, the value placed on grades far exceeds the value placed on student learning.  We can say as much as we want that learning is the priority, but until teachers stop using grades as a threat, common exams become less of a norm, and exemptions because of grades cease, the truth is, Grades will seem to be more important – and students, are very observant of this fact.

I have never seen so many tears over a low score; I have never seen so many students advocate for just one more point on a test or quiz; I have never seen students get as angry as I have this year about having to work with someone because they think they will pull their average down. As an educator who cares about my students and desires them to be independent, creative and critical thinkers, this frustrates me. It not only frustrates me, but it hurts.  It makes it so much more difficult to continue doing what I am doing. I feel like I am working in a system that goes against my nature as a teacher and I am trapped for one more year.  What’s even more difficult is that some parents here are supporting their kids in their efforts to cheat the system.41789_4.20.cl.oliviaanthonyo

My biggest hope is that by the end of this year my students will realize how much I value who they are as people. I hope that they will recognize that they have something of value to add to the conversation.  I want them to know that their voice is more important to me than the voice of someone they think says it better than they do.  Their thinking, their creativity, their ideas, their opinions, their dreams, these are the things that are important.

It’s a sad reality when students believe that “a person who has an entirely honest life can’t succeed these days” (http://tlt.psu.edu/plagiarism/instructor-guide/why-students-plagiarize/).  I hope this isn’t true or the belief of either my students or in actuality, because if it is… we are all doomed.

~ by Ryan on May 6, 2015.

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