Thursday, August 15, 2013

Coping with Cheating

So far in my illustrious 11 week teaching career, I have had to deal with cheating in several different forms.  On the very first homework I ever assigned, one student turned something in that had that distinctive Google-translate read to it. I was 95% certain that the kid had just typed his essay up in Thai, fed it into the Google, and wrote down what it spewed out.  Before returning their papers, I lectured the entire class about this.  Told them I can tell when something was created by a robot.  They nodded their heads and I haven't received another paper with that Google translate odor since.

Then of course there was the kid who tried turning in something that he had copied verbatim from a website.  I wrote the URL on his page, privately gave him a stern talking-to in the hallway and told him to write it again.  Thing is, what he eventually gave me wasn't half bad.  Anyways, my fellow teachers told me I should have made him stand in front of the class and read what he had allegedly written, and then grill him with questions about its meaning.  I'm not that mean. 

There is the constant issue of how clumps of students who all sit near one another and aren't the brightest kids in class frequently just happen to get all the same questions wrong on their quizzes and tests.  Hmmm...  I can't help but laugh when I come across the common occurrence of a kid who has whited-out what WAS the right answer and replaced it with a wrong answer.... the same wrong answer all the kids in his clump-of-mediocrity also got wrong. 

Today, I am dealing with a new kind of cheating and I'm not quite certain of the best way to stymie it.  The assignment was to write a formal e-mail to an important person (I provided them names) inviting that distinguished figure to a fictitious conference we were going to have at our school.  The twist being that I would then correct their first drafts for errors, give them back, and they would then re-write them with my edits and turn in something that was perfect.  We'll see how part two goes, but due to the nature of the assignment, I am going over these things with an editor's zeal, turning what is objectively pretty poor English into something that they can keep as an example of something 'they' wrote that is without flaws.  As I've been going through them, as always, there were lots of mistakes they all made, but then I noticed something unusual.  Some of them were almost identical!  I found four papers (two sets of two) where one kid had quite obviously just copied what the other had done.  A sentence or two omitted, a word changed here and there, but 95% identical to one another. 

Who copied from whom? I can't tell. Is someone who allows his buddy to copy his work as culpable as the one doing the copying?

I know that the battle against 'copying' is one I can't expect to win.  I'm not being defeatist, just admitting to something I've been told and witnessed about the education culture here. 

Just today, one of my colleagues shared this link about a Bangkok university making their students wear anti-cheating helmets.

Anyways, my thinking is that in class tomorrow when I go over the common mistakes I found in most of the papers, I will discuss this copying issue.  Present it as that they are only cheating themselves of the opportunity to learn.  Cheating their parents of the extra money they spend to put their sons in my IEP class.... and if it happens again, I will tear up their papers and make both students start over.  Since this version is a 'rough draft', they've got a chance to rectify their error before I give them a grade.  I've warned all 4 students in writing on their rough drafts that the final version better not look like their buddy's.

If you were in my shoes, what would you do?  


  1. I think your solution sounds very fair. You give them a chance to not cheat and yet let them know you are not stupid and are aware of the copying. Can you separate the group that works together?

    Cheating happens, but a good teacher should be able to catch and deal with it most of the time in a rational way.

  2. I think you're doing a great job. I don't think shaming the child in front of his/her peers is the answer. You've warned them and then it's up to them how they want to deal with it. If they continue to cheat they get a grade that shows that. Merikay has a good idea about separating that group if that's possible.

  3. I feel thier pain. For me it was Spanish class. It was cheet or fail in something I saw no purpose for. I passed....
    Maybe you can point out thier future use as English becomes the language of international business. English may improve thier earning potential and status. Show them the reason for the effort.


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