In the last post, I broke the painful news that your students are going to cheat. This is not a new phenomenon, but what can the educator do to eliminate it? The bad news is…nothing. It is impossible to eliminate cheating, but you can make it more difficult for the cheaters to be successful. Minimizing the opportunity is the best that we can hope for.
One of the most important strategies is to set out expectations for honesty in your class from the start. Can the students collaborate on homework assignments? Is it acceptable to use old exams to study from? In the same vein, be very explicit in your syllabus as to the penalties for cheating and be prepared to deliver on them. More on this in a moment.
Reduce the temptation to cheat. Demonstrate that you care about academic integrity by your actions. Many teachers may believe that their lack of oversight during test sessions signifies respect towards the honest of their students; Cizek noted that it actually increases cheating. In addition this irritates students who expect teachers to monitor the testing environment and are discouraged if teachers are ignoring classmates’ obvious cheating. Resist the urge to sit up front and work on other items during the exam. Movement and observation from the back of the class improves the motivation of students to maintain honesty exponentially. Have your students turn off and place all cellphones on a desk at the front of the class. All backpacks should be placed in a separate area of the class or placed behind the student’s desk. Doing so will make it more difficult for the student to peer into them.
Utilize high level, critical thinking types of questions. Most of the information that students bring with them consists of items that are easily memorized. Early on, the instructor should develop and deliver questions at the application and analysis level of Blooms. Educators should become well versed in the development and interpretation of test item development. Using test banks from publisher, verbatim, should be viewed as a mortal sin as most are written at the knowledge level. In addition to critical thinking items on the test, exams should be timed. Doing so will make it more difficult for students to search for the multiple bits of information to make a decision on their selected answer.
Randomize your test items as well as choices. This does not mean that you must have multiple versions of the exam for a particular class, but having, not only the questions in random order but the item responses as well will give the appearance of multiple test versions.
Have an open and honest discussion as to the importance of academic honesty, especially as related to the emergency care of patients. Stress that not being able to formulate a plan of care due to failure of the students to become competent EMS providers could have an adverse effect, not only on the patient but upon their own career as well. With the easy access of litigation in America today a lawsuit due to their inability to provide the standard of care due a patient, could be costly, both personally and professionally.
In the event of a cheating event, deal with it expeditiously. Obviously, you must follow the regulations set out by your facility, but it is imperative that the issue be dealt with. It is true that the issue must be handled in a confidential manner, but the informal class grapevine will broadcast the message without any school officials violating policy. An educator who becomes known as someone who does not address cheating in the class becomes as guilty as the student who cheats.
Cizek, G. J. (1999). Cheating on tests: How to do it, detect it, and prevent it. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.