Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cheating is Rampant in College

Professor Stephen Davis, in a presentation to Jackson State Community College on 13th March last, confirms what many academics feel is happening in Colleges all over the world - Professor: Cheating is rampant in college (from The Jackson Sun newspaper). The article quotes him as saying "Cheating is a contagious type of behavior" and that "Cheaters have lost an internal set of controls" - in other words, students are cheating more and feeling less guilty about it.
Image from
"Five Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism"

I have written about serious form of cheating, plagiarism, before on this blog - here, here, and here. As a Lecturer I have a responsibility to detect and report plagiarism when I suspect it. On this blog I have highlighted it as a scourge. Any opportunity I get to highlight this further - I will take.

It is my belief that every student who plagiarizes the work of others knows exactly what they are doing. However - many students will still take a chance and hope that their dumb professors/lecturers will not spot it and that somehow software like Turnitin (we use this in NCI) will not detect it either.

Prof Davis suggests that to overcome plagiarism, we need to be more vigilant - he advises teachers to "require students to turn in papers in increments such as a first draft and preliminary research". However, Davis also says that "students cheat if they perceive at the beginning of a semester that their teacher is unfair" - this is a new one on me, but I can see his point. Fairness and valuing work done are important considerations here.

Davis also encourages us to "have an open dialogue with students and get a baseline feeling on how the campus feels about academic honesty". Many students are terrified of being caught cheating, and will not do it. They are also terrified of accidentally cheating - bad scholarship (eg omitting one reference) is not the same as deliberate cheating. I myself encourage students to read the many leaflets and literature provided in libraries which will tell them what plagiarism is, and how to avoid it.

Finally - here's a new method of cheating that I had not heard of before. According to Davis, "one of the ways students are cheating is with the usage of water bottles. They write answers on the label. If the bottle is opened, it magnifies the writing". (Must pass this one on to the Exams Office!).

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