Unless we want to be stuck in the messy situation of catching students in the act, calling parents, and plugging zeroes in the grade book, we need to be proactive. So, how can you create an environment that will make it difficult for students to cheat? While no method is full proof (at least that I know of), here are some steps that you can take to minimize cheating in your classroom.
1. Reduce the Pressure - kids who are under stress to get that "A" are more likely to cheat. As my regular readers know, my students have the ability to be re-assessed on any topic within that grading period. This is one of the many reasons I have chosen to do this. The "A" is attainable without cheating, even if it comes a bit later. It doesn't make "sense" to cheat and risk a zero when you have the luxury of time and re-testing.
2. Grade Reviews - I make sure to talk to every student privately, if only for a minute or two, about their progress each quarter. We do not talk about the letter grade they are receiving, but rather what I notice to be their strengths and weaknesses. If a student performs considerably higher or lower than usual on an assessment, there is another brief conversation - "I noticed you did very well on this, can you tell me what you did differently?". Knowing that you know and knowing that they will be approached are excellent ways to deter cheating because the student knows that the odds are high that you will notice if something is awry.
3. Be Invisible During the Test - I may have mentioned this before, but when students take an assessment, I seat myself behind them so their backs are to me. They can't see me, but I can see them. They don't know for sure where I am, but I know where they are. If they turn around to look at you, they know they will draw attention to themselves. Don't work on other school work, don't respond to e-mails, don't do anything but stare at them.
4. Give Students Private Think Space - During an assessment my students are given something called a "blocker" (two folders stapled together) to put on their desk. Not only does this prevent others from looking at their neighbor's paper, but it gives them "think space". They are less aware of things around them that might be distracting and they can stare at the folder instead of into space. They also create a great "after the test" activity for doodlers (I just make it clear that all doodles must be school appropriate, though I will admit to finding some questionable pictures now and again).
5. Be a Good Teacher - this probably goes without saying, but if you constantly check for understanding prior to the assessment and create lessons that target weaknesses and misconceptions, your students will feel confident enough to not HAVE to cheat.
The culture you create in your classroom is the number 1 deterrent for cheating behavior. You will never be able to guarantee that kids won't cheat, but you can guarantee that if they do you will notice and give a consequence. You have to take the rewards of cheating (the grade, social prestige) away by creating a classroom that is focused on skills rather than letter grades and where not only you, but also your students, share the responsibilities of success.
What tips do you have to prevent cheating? Leave me a comment below!