Cheater Pants!

by Robert Pondiscio
May 14th, 2010

A new study shows that most high school students cheat.  But they have inconsistent notions about what is or is not cheating.    Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln surveyed 100 members of the junior class of a large midwestern high school, according to Science News.  Nearly nine out of ten said glancing at someone else’s answers during a test was cheating, but 87 percent admitting doing so anyway. Nearly all of them (94 percent) agreed that giving answers to someone during a test cheating, but 74 percent admitted to doing so.

Less than half (47 percent) agreed that providing test questions to a fellow student who had yet to take a test was cheating.   “The results suggest that students’ attitudes are tied to effort. Cheating that still required students to put forth some effort was viewed as less dishonest than cheating that required little effort,” said Kenneth Kiewra, professor of educational psychology at UNL, one of the study’s authors.

Hey, that’s not cheating.  It’s group work!


  1. Cheating was rampant when I was in school (the dinosaur era), probably before that, and I’m sure continues today. It started as soon as kids got asked anything (kindergarten), whether it was a worksheet, a quiz, or a test. It appeared to be borderline, part of school.

    As a teacher, I was nothing short of vigilant about not allowing it my classroom. And oh yes, I know they tried, the little buggers. I have to believe I was successful at not allowing it because kids had to prove to me they had mastered what they were on before I moved them ahead. This aspect of the process minimized their ability to fudge.

    Comment by Paul Hoss — May 14, 2010 @ 5:21 pm

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  3. I don’t think kids think of giving each other test questions as group work, I’d guess it was more a case of solidarity in the class war between kids and adults.

    Comment by Rachel — May 15, 2010 @ 10:58 pm

  4. AJ,

    How is turnitin superior to simply Googling a suspect phrase from a student’s paper? That’s what I do and it seems pretty effective.

    Another thought: have students do more writing in class. Don’t let them turn in papers that come from home.

    Comment by Ben F — May 15, 2010 @ 11:26 pm

  5. As a member of our school’s Honor Council (students and teachers are elected to the council, which has responsibility not for exacting punishments but for aspirationally promoting the idea of honor) I have learned that teacher actions and demeanors are much more important than I used to think, with regard to whether kids cheat. Give meaningful work, meaningfully administered, and with careful attention during assessments? Cheating goes way down.

    Paul Hoss’s comment about the word “prove” is the key one: if the teacher cares about and is focused on each kid and what he or she can demonstrate, cheating becomes less relevant as a solution; if the teacher collects products and gives only occasional attention to them, the kids quickly realize that the social contract about meaningful work is a Potemkin Village, and they react accordingly (i.e., negatively).

    @ AJ (#5): My school does not use Turnitin (cost is high) but from what I know about it the main advantage is that the database builds in all work done in the school. That means that every essay by another student, an older sibling, even kids at other schools would be compared to the submitted essay — the database is much larger than what Google would see. (I admit, though, that I had a Turnitin temporary subscription and tested it by submitting something that I found online, and Turnitin failed to notice that, although Google easily did. I hope they have improved the product since then.)

    Comment by Carl Rosin — May 19, 2010 @ 2:12 pm

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