Recently, I have been feeling the frustration that bubbles up every once in a while when I find students trying to subvert their own education through trickery. Sure, teachers will always battle the homework copiers, cheat sheet creators, plagiarizers, and last minute project workers, but the students that really get to me are the ones who spend so much time finding ways to trick the system when they could spend the same amount of time studying and legitimately learn! I try really, really hard to inspire students to care about their own education over and above a pursuit of the almighty grade. Sometimes I fail miserably. Here are a couple of struggles I've faced lately and what I am trying to do about them. I'd love to hear how you handle students when they try to game your systems.
I've been writing a short series about the 10 most surprising difficulties I face as a teacher and today I want to tackle my struggle with student cheating. I've tried my best to get away from homework assignments that are easy to copy and moved instead to reading assignments or online forum discussions. However, the problem of assessment cheating continues. Below are my main issues followed by tips and tricks I use during tests, quizzes, and essays. I would love to hear your stories and tips from the trenches, so feel free to leave a comment!
I will never forget the first time I knew I had caught a cheater. It was in my first year teaching, and I remember that I really, really wanted to make sure that my kids turned in original work. I was very sensitive to plagiarism, since I had been accused of it once (long story; I will tell it another time). I worked very hard to come up with non-generic essay prompts and research projects (an absolute essential, by the way) so that students would at the very least have a more difficult time plagiarizing! Lo and behold, I knew I hit the mother lode when a student handed in his paper...complete with hyperlinks. Yes, hyperlinks--those words that are underlined and take you directly to another webpage! How dumb did he think I was?!! This was a senior, who certainly should have known better, and I immediately confronted him. He tried to deny it at first, but all I could blurt out was, "If you were going to cheat, you could have at least removed the hyperlinks!" The class was in shock. They couldn't believe it either. We all giggled in embarrassment for both the student and the audacity of the act.