Many of us don’t think about academic dishonesty until we are confronted with it. But why not be proactive and try to prevent academic dishonesty in the first place? Here are several proactive ways to prevent plagiarism or cheating, starting with when you’re planning your course, and then considering important communication to have with students.
To help reduce plagiarism or cheating, here are several avenues to think about when planning your course:
- Plan for multiple small-stakes assignments, instead of one larger assignment worth a significant portion of the grade. This reduces the incentive to cheat and also makes it logistically harder for students to purchase papers or have someone else do the work for them.
- Scaffold assignments to have multiple pieces of an assignment building throughout the semester. This helps you see the developing assignment and learn the student’s voice, so you are better able to determine a final product that doesn’t fit with the previous work.
- Create new assignments each term. This reduces the chance that work can be resubmitted term after term.
- Create unique assignments that students are less likely to be able to find directly on the internet. For example, Google your assignments- if you can find resources that directly address the topic, then your students can as well.
- Finally, I won’t discuss exams in detail here, but this article is a good place to start for more information on how to prevent cheating in online exams.
Clearly communicate expectations to students
Another important way to set the stage is to proactively communicate your expectations to students. Here are some specific areas to focus on:
- Make sure you have clearly written policies – AND penalties for what happens if those policies are not followed – in your course syllabus, and repeated other places in the class (such as announcements, introductory areas for the assignments or exams, etc.).
- Educate your students on what plagiarism (or cheating) is, and what behaviors are or are not ok in your class. Some students don’t know when it’s ok to work with other students and when it’s not, and there may even be differences between their classes on this point. They may not know how to cite sources, or when to cite sources, why it’s not ok to cut and paste off the internet, etc. You could have an introductory discussion around plagiarism or academic integrity, or refer students to many relevant resources online. For example, a fun game to check out is the “Goblin Threat” plagiarism game by Lycoming College.
- • Discuss your institution’s academic honesty policy with students. Here’s an interesting finding: “Students cheat. But they cheat less often at schools with an honor code and a peer culture that condemns dishonesty” (McCabe and Trevino). Other important aspects of this finding include the institution clearly communicating that academic integrity is a top institutional priority, and also students having a role in the judicial processes evaluating alleged infringements. You alone can’t change the institutional culture to make these things happen, but you can make sure to discuss any existing policy with your students and let them know that you expect it to be upheld. You could also do an assignment where students “sign” an academic integrity contract with you at the beginning of class.
Of course there is no guarantee that these efforts will prevent all attempts at academic dishonesty. However, they should help reduce the frequency. So try to work these items in the next time you revise your class, and post a comment on how it goes (or other thoughts on this topic)!
– Gail E. Krovitz, Ph.D. –
Director of Academic Training & Consulting
Krovitz G. 2007. Ways to prevent cheating in online exams. Educator’s Voice 8(6). Accessed online at http://www.ecollege.com/Newsletter/EducatorsVoice/EducatorsVoice-Vol8Iss6.learn
Lycoming College. Goblin Threat Plagiarism Game. http://www.lycoming.edu/library/instruction/tutorials/plagiarismGame.aspx?goback=.gde_52119_member_106954972
McCabe D. and L.K. Trevino. 2002. Honesty and honor codes. Academe January-February. Accessed online at: http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/pubsres/academe/2002/JF/Feat/mcca.htm