The reason I say this is because, in almost every instance, when I have caught cheaters it’s in a very nebulous, murky area. In times past I’ve seen students with wandering eyes who get similar answers and scratch work to their neighbors. I’m not entirely sure they’re cheating and I’m definitely not sure enough to call them a cheater.
Because I teach many of my classes in laboratory settings the ability to cheat is, in some ways, multiplied. Students have large computer screens in front of them that obfuscate their doings, and I have no ability to remotely see what they see. The “screen” also acts as a “screen” so they could be using a phone in front of me, and unless I’m moving around constantly it would be tough to see.
My classrooms are changing a lot, and as a result my cheating and plagiarism policy has changed a lot. Here are some things I try to keep in mind when continuing to develop my cheating and plagiarism policy:
1) If I’m not sure, there are usually ways to approximate a bad result. In the case of the former, when I have a student that I’m pretty sure but not completely sure is cheating, I tell them I had “a problem” grading their test and that they need to take it again in the Testing Center, leaving the problem unspecified. Many times, where I’m almost sure I was sure they were cheating, they seem to know what’s up and don’t argue about it much. If they do argue about it – well, I can’t do much about it, because there was “a problem”.
If the student approximates what they got the original test I normally give them the better of the two scores. If the scores are dramatically different and the second one under more controlled conditions is lower I normally assume they were cheating, and the penalty is almost always sufficient.
2) Within my classroom, I try to use non-egregious cheating as an opportunity for growth. Because I can’t know about my students’ academic behavior in other classes (and I don’t think I’d want to know, even if I could) I can’t tell whether or not cheating is a pattern a student has with other classes. When I catch students making slight acts of cheating I try to make them opportunities to learn – both for them and for myself.
3) Consider taking away the tools of cheaters. On tests now I allow my students to use calculators and notecards – a part of me says to myself, “What else would a cheater like?” The truth of the matter is, though, as a Math teacher there are far more powerful tools a student can use to break the rules. Right now there are apps students can find – Wolfram Alpha being the most common, but hardly being unique – and I consistently wonder to myself if continuing to teach things that a phone can do easily is being the most productive use of class and curriculum time.
What is your cheating policy? How do you catch cheaters? How has your policy changed over time, given your experiences?