Just What Kind Of Cheating Are You Talking About?

cheating1.jpgThis headline – Cheat In Michigan And Go To Jail – caught my eye, and not because I like to read about infidelity… in fact I immediately assumed it was about university cheating.

Being a teacher has meant that I’ve had to deal with cheating from an angle I never thought much about before.

I’ll come clean about my own experience first: I’m pretty honest and also pretty chicken; the biggest amount of cheating I got involved with as a student was for the monthly seventh-grade history test. There was a “chronology” section where you had to match five events to the years in which they occurred. I was on the fringes of a rowdier group, some of whom had the class in the morning and who would tell us the events and the correct order. Oh, the shame.

Cheating seems to be rife in many contexts abroad, and definitely not limited to English language tests (though that’s the obvious focus for the TEFL Logue).

There are most certainly lots of factors underlying the situation such as the nature of the tests, implications of the result and the grading procedure that make it a bad move to make judgments comparing place to place. Suffice it to say, while I understand there are many factors at work here, I think cheating is not a good thing.

In any case, it’s quite a situation when you find your professional adult students cheating or hear about younger students cheating on university tests in class discussions. I think in many cases people feel that the standards they are held to are unrealistic and still unlikely to change. There is also kind of a snowball effect that as more and more people cheat, those who refuse to on moral principle are at a bigger and bigger disadvantage.

As a teacher, it drives me crazy when students try to cheat. Do they think I’m too dumb or unobservant to notice? Are they counting on the fact that I will be too polite to confront them? Are they in fact just desperate to get the best mark possible? Yes, cheating is cheating, but in my mind the best strategy for dealing with people cheating does depend on their motives.

I have approached people who were clearly cheating and told them to work alone, or to move their papers and books away. But I also had a forty-year-old male colleague who was teaching a group of lower level military people – when they started conversing amongst themselves during a test he couldn’t get them to stop. People have to “play along” to a degree for things to work…and I think it is going to be hard to reestablish credibility after it has left. It may seem open and shut, but actually depends on many things, including how far you have the support of your school or the person organizing the class.