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cheating in exams


24 July 2023

BY: matrixmath

What students cheat. Whether it’s pressure to pass exams, get good grades or to help out friends, most students have been exposed to cheating in some form or another. Most know it to be wrong yet can find a way to justify why it was done. “Everyone else is doing it so if I don’t I’ll fail”, “It’s not an important exam so it doesn’t matter”, etc.

As parents and teachers, we play a role in ensuring that students don’t feel the need to cheat. Here are some strategies that can be put in place in schools with the support of parents.


Reduce the pressure to perform

Students tend to cheat when they don’t value the work asked to do. Tests for tests sake, repetitive homework assignments all lose their value and students are more tempted to cheat rather than spend their time working on them. Providing assignments that allow students to think critically removes most of the incentive to cheat. Having a focus on learning rather than test taking also helps.


Be careful with praise

Avoid the tendency to praise a child for being smart but rather praise specific actions. Praise the effort rather than the result. Children will then be less likely to cheat just to get praise based on inflated test results. Provide constructive criticism. Acknowledge where they worked well and then make a suggestion for improvement. “You’ve made great progress this semester, but here are some areas for growth in the next semester you can work on.” will be more positively received than “You need to work harder next semester.”


Create a student-driven culture of integrity

Creating a learning environment where honourable behaviour is defined and enforced by the students helps to reduce the temptation to cheat as a form of peer pressure. There is no feeling worse than being the one bad apple that spoiled the bunch for everyone else. Get students to write their own honour code and teach it to the form below, who then pass it on to the form below them. Penalties for breaking the code can also be decided by the student council.


Encourage students to think about how they think

Use metacognition to help students process their motivations and actions. Get them to consider the consequences of their actions if they cheat and examine under what circumstances they think it is OK to cheat, if at all. Get them to be more aware of why they act the way they act and the effect it can have on others, and if they cheat and get caught, what would the repercussions be for them?


Make the teaching of ethical behaviour part of the curriculum

Build lesson in ethics into the curriculum so students implicitly know what is right and wrong. Set an environment where students feel they can be open and talk about their feelings so pressures to perform can surface and measures can be taken to help the student so they don’t feel they need to resort to cheating.

While rules on ethics need to be enforced, understanding why students cheat, the motivations for their behaviour, can help encourage ethical behaviour rather than focusing on penalising bad behaviour. After all, you get what you focus on.

At Matrix Math, our teachers are trained to maintain an open environment where students can talk about the pressures they may face. Take a trial lesson today!