Why students cheat

Why students cheat
Monday, December 12, 2005
By Alan Haskvitz

There are several reasons why students cheat in school and all of them reflect on three factors. The first is pressure to get good grades. The second is being unprepared, and the final is the challenge of trying to get away with it. Unfortunately, by cheating the student is setting a pattern for life. Instead of accepting the challenge of learning they accept the challenge of not getting caught.

Impact of Cheating

There are a multiple number of ways that students cheat. These include crib notes, plagiarism from another paper or the Internet, copying, or giving test questions to a classmate. The rationalization that is used by the student is often complex going from "I didn't understand the question" to "He copied from me." The latter is especially difficult because some students don't think it is wrong to help a friend as they misapply the sharing concept learned in their younger years to rationalize their actions.

In reality the majority of students who cheat do so to improve their chances for success in the long run. Students feel that good grades will get them into a good college or university and a good job. In other words, the means justify the end. A student who fails is considered inferior and, ironically, the inferior student is the most likely one to cheat. Please note that I stated inferior student, not inferior person or intellect. Many highly successful people have not been good students and that is why it is all the more difficult to deal with cheating by overly sympathetic teachers and parents. It is extremely difficult to tread the line between understanding of the situation and tolerating falsehoods when dealing with a sensitive child. What needs to be remembered is that cheating is a learned behavior that may well not limited to the classroom if it is not corrected at an early age.

It is interesting to note that no less a scholar than Thomas Jefferson opposed testing, as do many current educators. Jefferson felt that when a student wanted to attend university they could and when they felt educated enough they could leave. Singapore, a country that prides itself on high-test scores, is facing some reaction by parents who claim all their children are good at is taking tests. However, these ideas basically beg the question of why children cheat, although they provide some quality concerns about the necessity and usefulness of tests.

The art of becoming a good student is an action that cannot be shared. It is self-imposed for the most part, and implies that the challenge and pursuit of excellence is worth the battle. How the child comes upon this motivation isn't as important as how it is maintained so that the goal is not abandoned and thus long-term goals overshadow cheating and the opportunity for short-term gain.

Cheating and deceit are unusual in that by their nature they create false expectations and a deepening of the dependency on cheating. If a student is doing well on his or work class work by cheating and the parent or teacher does not find out the expectations for that child are increased thus putting more pressure on the student. In Colorado some 80 percent of the prisoners have learning disorders. http://web.archive.org/web/20060525215213/http://tinyurl.com/bzkum%20

Perhaps many of them were not properly diagnosed because they felt it was easier to cheat. This is also born out by the fact that Whitley (1998) found past cheating to be among the strongest predictors of future cheating.


It is no secret that many parents find that grades are the most important factor for a child and this is reflected in bumper stickers proclaiming honor roll status. Unfortunately, this attitude also has a negative effect, as students become more grade oriented instead of learning oriented. They select the easiest teachers, the easiest classes, and deny themselves the opportunity to be challenged or to take academic risks. This attitude could potentially result in lingering dependency on parents and running away from situations and relationships if maturity, guidance, and understanding are not offered. Cheating is not unusually with studies indicating that over 70 percent of university students have indicated that they have done so, but when it becomes prevalent and encouraged by the results it cannot be valued.

Who Cheats

First, studies have indicated that males are more likely to cheat.

Secondly, s students more involved in a lot of extra curricular activities are also more prone to cheat, but the emphasis here is on the amount of time spent on these activities. If there is little time left over to study and do school work because of a heavy load of music, dance, sports, or clubs it is just common sense that the child is not going to be as well prepared.

Next, there is an indication that poorer students are more likely not to be prepared and resort to cheating to avoid additional concerns from parents.

Fourth, if the student does not relate well to the subject or the teacher they are more likely to cheat. In other words they are simply not motivated or challenged. It could be added here that if a child sees others cheat and complains about it and nothing is done they are more likely to cheat themselves.

Fifth, if a child's friends cheat they tend to also behave in a similar fashion either to gain favoritism or because it reduces the edge of dishonesty as they surround themselves with others with similar standards.

Parent Actions

Ironically, of those that act to deceive, most do so knowing that cheating is wrong but carry out the deed to impress others. A tantalizing slant on an emotional issue, but one that a caring parent can help to eliminate by not having false expectations for their child and by providing guidance in both avoiding cheating and also understanding what actions to take when others try to take advantage of them.

What else can a parent do? First, keep track of all test papers that are returned and keep them in a file. This helps the child get organized and also enables a parent to quickly note any unusual answers or grade patterns. Secondly, don't ask about grades as much as what the child is learning. Yes, grades are important, but if a student isn't learning anything that is far worse. Get involved with their homework. Help them prepare for class on a daily basis even if it is just writing a note to them to remind them of a future assignment or helping them with a mnemonic devise for a difficult lesson. Finally, draw some realistic guidelines for your children when it comes to honesty and the satisfaction of doing a job well even if it is a tedious or uninvoloving one.

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Alan Haskvitz can be contacted through his website at http://web.archive.org/web/20060525215213/http://www.reacheverychild.com/


December 5th, 2005

Alan Haskvitz

Columnist EducationNews.org

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