Why Students Cheat – And Why It's Okay

I was a cheater.

Yup.

I cheated all through high school. In Algebra II, Geometry, English IV and Computer Science.

And I had the right to.

Being Engaged

You may have seen this video of an angry student ranting at a teacher for being unengaging.

I was never so brave.

Of course, I was never so angry. I didn’t have the sense to be mad at a teacher for not engaging me. Nor did I mind when they were incapable of teaching every student.

I just made sure to have an appropriate workaround when necessary.

Making the Grade

Cheating might not have been important if I wasn’t conscious of the grade game. Grades were supposed to reflect my learning. But there are two parties to that: the teacher, who ultimately assigns the grades, and me, the student.

If the teacher opted to grade on things that weren’t actually measuring learning, I had no issue cheating the grades. (tweet this)

Had all my teachers offered an alternative of being creative and engaging in exchange for me not cheating, I would have taken it. (Many teachers did, and I joyously accepted!)

Sharing Work

If you're in front of the class, please be engaging. Don't give mundane worksheets that kids don't want to do. MathFour.comAlgebra II was rote and boring. We were assigned 50 problems each night all requiring exactly the same method.

Geometry was fun and exciting. But it was a serious challenge for some – in particular my friend Diane.

So we decided to help each other out.

Every night she would go home and do two sets of algebra homework, and I would do two sets of geometry homework. Of course we made sure to make errors so we wouldn’t always show exactly the same answers.

We were cheaters, but we were smart, after all.

Giving Away Work

We were required to take computer math. It was a great course, but again, some people struggled.

Not everyone is a programmer. Some people are able to think more like a computer than others. My friend, Tiana, wasn’t so much of a computer-like thinker.

So I helped her out.

I would teach her and get her understanding the general concepts – as much as she could in the short time. Once I was satisfied she was on her way to learning, I would write the program for her on my computer.

I made adjustments in the program so that it would work, but it would still have some flaws. I would pass it to her on a floppy disc in a spiral notebook so she could turn it in as her own.

Taking Work

In English IV we were asked to read books. Not unusual, I know. But to make sure that we read them, the teacher would assign us 20 questions per chapter. They looked something like this:

  • What was the color of the main character’s scarf?
  • How many apples were on the table in the dining room?
  • At what time of day did she leave to go to the party?

These were not engaging nor thought-provoking questions. We were insulted. I wasn’t the only cheater in this bunch, either. There were about 15 of us who would take the answers from Kevin and Grant.

I’m not sure if they were happy about us taking their answers, but they gave them up. Mob pressure probably played a part. (Sorry, guys.)

Enjoying Learning

I want to enjoy my learning. And so do your students.

If you’re in front of the class, please be engaging. Don’t give mundane worksheets that kids don’t want to do.

Don’t under-teach. And don’t expect a difficult topic to be absorbed quickly.

Make sure your students are playing the learning game and not a contrived grade game.

Don’t encourage cheating in your class.

Are you engaging? Do you have cheaters in your class? Share your thoughts in the comments!



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One Response to Why Students Cheat – And Why It's Okay

  1. Eesh. Cheating is never okay. Sure, maybe you were able to get away with it and realized what was busy work and what wasn’t, but the vast majority of students who take on cheating aren’t doing so because they aren’t engaged enough–which is a huge assumption you’ve made in writing this post.

    No, most cheating results as students are too lazy to actually do the studying or don’t think it will apply to them. Key point here–they don’t “think” it will apply to them. I find it hard to believe that most cheating students know better than their instructors what material is and is not important. Most of these students also believe they’re smart when the opposite is usually true.

    I applaud your efforts to want learning to be more engaging, but I wouldn’t say that cheating is solely the result of unengaged learning. That book question example also sounds extreme.

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