The thing with cheating in school is that it trades a short-term “positive” (completion of an assignment; better grade) for a long-term negative (lost learning opportunity; inaccurate feedback on learning; degradation of character).
In my classroom practice, the surest way to decrease student cheating is to give my students regular opportunities to think on these things.
There are a few inner realizations a student needs to have — realizations I can help them reach — in order to care about cheating in this way.
Realization 1: The point of school is to grow in mastery of whatever class you're in. To do this, you have to give your personal best on each given assignment, all while keeping in balance the other important things on which flourishing is built (e.g., rest, enjoyment, relationships).
This is something to communicate not once or twice, but rather hundreds and hundreds of times per class per school year. Each teacher needs to articulate this in their own way, but the point — of art, of phys ed, of science, of poetry — is GROWTH TOWARD MASTERY.
Realization 2: Learning toward mastery is good because learning toward mastery is good. It's much more enjoyable to learn than to not learn; it's much more enjoyable to engage with what's happening in class than it is to disengage; it's much more enjoyable to know things than to not know things.
Again, casting this vision and creating this culture is my job during my class time. Many other factors influence the degree to which a student believes these things, but the only factor I control is my influence. And that factor is very significant in the context of my classroom.
Once students leave my class, my influence drops precipitously. But while they're with me, my influence is really big.
Realization 3: Learners are the ones who do their learning. A teacher can't do the learning for a student. The student sitting next to me can't put forth the effort it will take for me to grow. I've got to do it, with “it” being the reading, the thinking, the writing, the asking, the wondering, the sketching, the note-taking, the push-ups.
If we teachers grow in our attention to cultivating these key realizations, suddenly cheating becomes much less of a problem. It doesn't vanish — I have academic dishonesty cases every school year — but it does sink to the background where it belongs.
What I've said above is true in a world with ChatGPT just as it was true in a world with essay-writing services ten years ago, just as it was true in the 1950s and 1850s and before.
These are timeless realities.
Think on them, colleague. And enjoy them.
Clay Masters says
I recently read about how “Why?” is the most important question teachers can address in the classroom. The three realizations are powerful answers to that question as well as a way to mitigate cheating. Can you please share how you provide opportunities for students to regularly think on these realizations?