Test written on small chalk board

Tips to help prevent and manage cheating in the classroom

By Jennifer Williams
Human Services
Delaware Technical Community College
George Campus

Teaching comes with many rewards as well as some challenges.  One of the challenges many of us may face is how to handle when a student cheats on an exam.  We as instructors offer support to our students in a variety of ways to help them be successful on the exam.  This support can include interactive reviews, study guides, and insight on some of the essay exam questions that will be on the test.  As an instructor, when I became aware of a student cheating on an exam it made me ask why did the student cheat when I provided so many ways to help them be successful?  If the student was struggling why wouldn’t they reach out to me?  Is there anything more I could have done to help the class feel better prepared for the exam?  I have come to realize that cheating may be something that inevitably occurs in the college environment.  I have to remember that we are dealing with young adults who may struggle to accept responsibility for their failure to adequately prepare for the exam and resort to cheating out of desperation for what they believe will be a dire consequence if they fail the exam. After experiencing cheating from my own students, I decided to do some independent research to offer these tips to prevent and manage cheating in the classroom.

Strategies to Reduce Cheating

One way to help prevent cheating is by arranging the class so that the students sit every other seat.  Sometimes this cannot happen because the classroom size or set up does not accommodate doing so, but when you can this is a good method to help prevent cheating.

Another thing that can be done is to sit in the back of the classroom.  Sitting in the back of the classroom reduces a students ability to plan when to cheat because they do not always know where you are looking.

When giving a short answer, fill in the blank, true false, or multiple choice exam, you could create multiple versions of the same exam.  Another option would be to give an all essay exam.

What to Do When Students Do Cheat

Even with everything we put in place to prevent cheating, there are times when students will still attempt to cheat on their exam.  How do we address these things when they occur?  I have struggled with whether I should address the issue as I see it (and potentially interrupt the other testers) or wait and address it individually with the student later.  I have tried both methods in the past, and have learned from both experiences.

It may be best to first have a blurb in your course requirements about the expectations regarding cheating.  Notify the students of the consequences if you observe them cheating. At the beginning of each exam, you may want to remind the students of these consequences, as well as the testing environment expectations, such as what items they are allowed to have out on their desk.

Another question that often comes up is what to do if a student has to go to the restroom during an exam.  This is a question you may want to think about because there is always the possibility that students take their phones with them to look up information while they are “using the restroom.”

Cheating or the attempt to cheat is something that we will inevitably experience at some point during our career in education.  Using some of the tips that have been provided may be helpful to you in preventing or reducing the incidence of cheating. However, when it does occur you also have some helpful tips on how to manage it.

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