Last month, a story our of Severna Park, Maryland caught my eye since it dealt with cheating on an Advance placement exam. Students at Severna Park High discussed the culture of cheating that runs rampant in that high school and possibly many others. Today, the Washington Post reports on the other side of the cheating world, the efforts by teachers to prevent cheating. Teachers use some common, and common sensical, methods to deter cheating such as putting backpacks, cell phones, Ipods and anything else other than pens and pencils at the front of the room, different test forms, chair spacing and things of that nature to prevent cheating. Some teachers do a "hand check," making students show their hands and arms to prove they don't have notes written on flesh.
All of these are good steps and logical. But one of the most effective methods to combat cheating is to foster an ethical environment where cheating is not only frowned upon by teachers and administrators but frowned upon by the students. The phrase "cheaters never win" should be a mantra with peer enforcement as much as administration enforcement. Strong honor codes, rapidly and publicly enforced, would reduce cheating.
Most students do not like to be branded in negative ways and being branded with a scarlet C is going to be much more an effective deterrant than anything teachers can do.