Sunday, 30 March 2014

Cheating and plagiarism in schools

Cheating, deceiving, plagiarism. Why are these present in nowadays students? In some countries more, in some less. Today I want to discuss my opinion on how to fight cheating and what are some major reasons for it.

As a student I have unique perspective on this subject. I am part of this problem, that seems to be rather big here where I come from. There are rules that prohibit cheating and plagiarism but that doesn't stop students in copying work from others. So what is wrong and what other action can be taken? In order to answer this question I want to look deeper into motivation.

Motivation

Motivation refers to “the reasons underlying behaviour” [2] and is divided into two categories: Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. As Deci et al. [1] observe, “intrinsic motivation energizes and sustains activities through the spontaneous satisfactions inherent in effective volitional action. It is manifest in behaviours such as play, exploration, and challenge seeking that people often do for external rewards”. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is influenced by rewards, whether they are physical, for example money, or not, for example promotion or higher prestige and standing in community.

We have motivation that is based on rewards and we have motivation based on actual enjoyment. Educators traditionally consider intrinsic motivation to be of higher importance than extrinsic motivation because it results in better learning results [1]. This is very simple. When you enjoying activity or you want to better yourself, you will do research about it, you will think about it more often, you will try to create new ways of improving upon existing versions of whatever you are working with. On the other hand if you are payed to do something, you do it more often [3], but your mind is less open. You don't think of new easier ways, you just use the longer method that will give you your payment. This of course means that being rewarded for learning, or punished by failing, is not going to be the best possible motivation out there. Nevertheless it is way easier than to create intrinsic motivation towards every subject.

Also look at the motivations and their outcomes. Intrinsic motivation makes you enjoy task, it is present when you want to better yourself. You are rewarded for learning. And you are rewarded by learning. Extrinsic motivation is different. You hand in exam and you get points. That's it. Doesn't matter what happens before you hand in the exam. The key is that the exam is in and if it is good, you get graded well. So what is stopping you from taking exam from somebody else? You still get the points no? Theoretically yes. And for that reasons there are some anti-cheating rules. These rules are in place to negatively motivate student against cheating. Again, it is form of motivation and it works, just not as well as intrinsic motivation would. At least in my opinion.

Cheating

If your goal is to learn, cheating will actually go against your goal. That is why students motivated by intrinsic motivation will not cheat as much [3]. So the key here is to try to develop intrinsic motivation as opposed to forcing out more extrinsic motivations. By no means should extrinsic motivation be forgotten. It is impossible to make sure all students are enjoying all subjects. Take for example my IT school which includes economy, science, law, psychology, etc. Why would IT student enjoy law? If he wanted to study law he would go to law school. But he is studying IT, or at least trying to. From time to time, some students enjoy some of these subjects (like me). But that is very low percentage of total amount. If there were not enough extrinsic motivations forcing us to be fair and forget about cheating, hell we would cheat like there is no tomorrow.

Another factor is existing community in which students are. Research [3] shows that the more cheating a person sees, the more cheating he will do himself. That makes sense doesn't? If something is openly visible, people will go for it. Cheaters will also try to justify their cheating because for them it seemed to be more natural than for non-cheaters. That is also reason why they are doing it. Whether it is to justify necessity to complete subject completely irrelevant to branch of study, or some other reason, justification can be made. Usually flawed because it involves cheating, but justification nevertheless.

Another interesting thing that came out of research [3] was comparing claims about cheating made by non-cheaters and cheaters. Since cheaters cheat more, they are also aware of cheating and therefore claim there is more cheating. Non-cheaters think there is less cheating than cheaters. The truth is that there is actually more cheating than either of these groups is willing to admit.

Conclusion

These are two things are known about people: We want to better ourselves and we always pick the "way of least resistance". If we don't want to learn certain subject, we will pick the easiest option in passing that subject. What is easier than cheating? The only reason why not everybody is doing it, is that there is enough punishments on the line for those who are caught. What about the rest though?

You want less cheating? Make things more interesting. This is very, very difficult task and countless amount of people don't understand it or don't know how to accomplish it. Well for starter you have to start reading a lot of manuals, books, researches, advises and many other sources. You won't succeed without it. No students come to your lectures? Well, maybe it is not because they are lazy bums, maybe you need to step up your game. It will not only help yourself, it will help your students. There is high amount of students failing certain subjects? Well, maybe it is that they don't like those subjects or that those subjects are really badly designed. Try looking into that. Ask students, read about similar problems, implement changes.

Blaming only students for cheating is like blaming only banana for going black when you fail to eat it in time.

References

  1. Deci, E. L., Koestner, R., Ryan, R. M.: A meta-analytic review of experiments examining the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. In: Psychological Bulletin, (1999), pp. 627–668.
  2. Guay, F., Chanal, J., Ratelle, C. F., Marsh, H. W., Larose, S., Boivin, M.: Intrinsic, identified, and controlled types of motivation for school subjects in young elementary school children. In: British Journal of Educational Psychology, (2010), pp. 712.
  3. Jordan, A. E.: College Student Cheating: The Role of Motivation, Perceived Norms, Attitudes, and Knowledge of Institutional Policy, (2001)

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