home Features Pressure, Convenience, and the Cheating Epidemic

Pressure, Convenience, and the Cheating Epidemic

Jared Lin | jlin19@dtechhs.org | March 11, 2019

Photo by Matthew Silverman

The educational tools we possess today have far surpassed those of previous generations, however, with great power, comes great responsibility. Our Chromebooks are portals to knowledge — but they’re also pathways to temptation. Technology has made it much easier for students to cheat, whether that’s sharing documents, searching for answers during tests, or straight-up plagiarism.

Most often, the pressure on students stems from grades. “[Ever since] elementary school, all you know is the grade, the grade, the grade. [These are] values that are instilled in you [from] a young age,” emphasized Sarah Lucckesi, d.tech’s Education Specialist. All incidences of student cheating are brought to Henry Lonnemann, d.tech’s Student Culture Coordinator, who records it in a spreadsheet for tracking academic integrity violations. Lonnemann says cheating most commonly “happens more towards end of semester,” according to his data. This is probably because the end of the semester is often a stressful time-crunch for students, as all assignments must be completed in time to pass their classes. Turning to cheating methods during this time can be tempting.

A better understanding of cheating begins with unraveling the motivation behind it. “There are students who are super creative, self-directed in d.lab classes, but choose to cheat in their math class,” said Emmy Joseph, Education Specialist. “They separate [the classes]. One is an academic bucket, one is their personal growth.” That separation often stems from the difficulty in making a personal connection with their academic classes. “Students should always have a personal connection to the assignment,” said Lonnemann. “[They] should be creative with the information, not retelling. [We] shouldn’t be asking students to regurgitate information that they can Google in two seconds.”

When a student has a good grade, they feel good about themselves. They are praised by their parents and fellow students, and it makes them strive to keep up and improve. However, grade comparison and living up to everyone’s expectations, including their own, can rapidly become a great burden. This sense of pressure is exacerbated by the internet. “[Nowadays], it’s so much easier to compare yourself with strangers online. It used to just be neighbors & friends,” Joseph said. Just as images of celebrities and movie stars have caused teenagers to become extremely conscious of their bodies, the sense that others are surpassing you academically is a similar motivation to cheat.

Other times, students feel that they are unable to complete the assignment to a satisfactory level without some extra “help.” Jaime Frankos, d.tech’s Speech Pathologist, spoke about a student with a learning disability who was tasked with writing an opinion paper. “[He used] Google, cutting and pasting pieces from others’ opinions.” The teacher quickly identified that the writing didn’t match the way that the student typically wrote, and asked him to redo the assignment. “He was having a hard time putting [his] own stamp on things,” Frankos said. The student doubted himself, thinking that he wasn’t able to complete the assignment, but the teacher believed in him, giving the student the time and opportunity to work on it until the entire piece was his own opinion.

Opinion pieces aren’t the only places where Google is misused. A science teacher caught a student alt-tabbing, which is a shortcut to instantly swap to a different window, during a quiz. Lonnemann checked the student’s search history and found multiple searches on the topic. As for the reasoning behind it, Joseph inferred that it was “[the student’s] fear of not being good enough, not knowing [what they should know]; it’s easier to [simply] cheat.”

Fortunately for the school, Google has been working on a countermeasure. d.tech is currently testing out Google Forms’ new Locked Mode, which prevents students from going to different tabs or windows until they complete the quiz in the form.

Some d.tech members have concerns about how lenient the consequences are for cheating. A student described that she was given lunch detention for a violation, but forgot and staff didn’t follow up on it. “[Students] don’t really see the impact of [their] behavior when [they] do cheat,” said Lucckesi.

Senior Malia Savella speaks about her encounter with cheating in 9th grade: “In freshman year, we had an exam in the middle of the year [in Economics class].” Savella continues, “It was a pretty big deal, around the time when we were transitioning from being taught by Mr. [Rob] Bolt to being taught by Mr. [Rich] Hamblin.” The exam was a written response format, which was intended to be completed on a Google Doc. “A lot of students found out that it was really easy for someone in 1st or 2nd [period] to [make a copy] and share with someone in 3rd or 4th,” said Savella. She estimates that 30-60 percent of the class participated in the event, which Hamblin attempted to address by having the class do a retake. Unfortunately, the result didn’t appear to differ; the cheating still took place during the retake. The students involved didn’t suffer any consequences, likely due to the faculty transition and large number of students involved in the fiasco.

Now, d.tech’s Academic Integrity Policy states that first time offenders will redo the assignment or an equivalent, with a maximum grade of 75 if it’s a Performance Task, or in the case of a Success Skills assignment, it would be a 0. The violation would be reported to parents and logged as a Community Agreement Violation (CAV), in addition to possibly signing an Academic Integrity Contract and/or receiving a detention. Last school year, the policy stated that an offending student would receive a 0 regardless of the type of assignment, but Lonnemann felt that it was too harsh because it would result in the student failing the class, as all Comprehension Checks and Performance Tasks must be passed in order to pass the class. “[The previous policy] didn’t align with our [proficiency-based] learning model,” Lonnemann reasoned.

With that said, whether it is the system or the change in mindset of the students, students have seen less cheating among the upperclassmen. Savella mentioned that she “sees less cheating now,” which is a positive trend as students grow older and gain more experience. The pressure of performance and the temptation to cheat is an issue that both staff and students will continue to battle in years to come.

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