Professor lecturing to a class


In the introduction to his book, Cheating Lessons: Learning from academic dishonesty, James M. Lang (2013) describes an epiphany:

. . .I realized that if I looked at the problem of cheating through the lens of cognitive theory and tried to understand cheating as an inappropriate response to a learning environment that wasn’t working for the student, I could potentially empower individual faculty members to respond more effectively to academic dishonesty by modifying the learning environments they constructed. (p.2)

Lang goes on to suggest that the best way to reduce cheating is to teach an interesting and engaging course where students want to learn. Even small changes in a course can help improve student motivation and engagement.

The UF Libraries has provided access to the Cheating Lessons eBook for UF faculty, staff, and students. You may access the book from campus or through VPN. How to access library resources off-campus.


Foster Intrinsic Motivation

Research into motivation reveals that external rewards, such as grades, have a negative effect on the desire to complete a task. In fact,  they promote a focus on short-term goals. Grades are not going away any time soon, but it is possible to foster intrinsic motivation by the way you frame the assignment or activity. (Pink, 2009)

  • Provide some autonomy over some of the assignment elements such as:
    • Choice of topic or activity.
    • Presentation medium.
  • Integrate social interaction with peers.
  • Encourage exploration and discovery.
  • Connect with “real-world” problems and processes used in the discipline.
  • Provide challenging problems.
Scaffold Learning

Build students’ knowledge and skills through practice activities and low-points assessments. These can also serve to build student confidence that they can be successful without resorting to cheating. Break down large projects or papers into components with interim deadlines that force students to submit work frequently. Smaller chunks of work seem less overwhelming and reduce the potential for students to procrastinate. Requiring submission of “process” documents reduces the students’ ability to purchase a paper or project.

Foster Student-Student and Student-Teacher Connections

In a survey of the literature regarding cheating, Kerry Adzima identified “. . .the lack of face-to-face contact between teachers and students creates a psychological barrier that makes students feel as if dishonest behavior is more acceptable.” (Adzima, 2020). This problem can be exacerbated in the online environment. Even small actions can help to foster student-student and student-teacher connections.

  • If possible, learn students’ names (print out the Canvas roster as an aid).
  • Arrive before class, greet students and chat with them informally (if they seem interested in talking).
  • Help students connect with peers through note-taking pairs or other cooperative learning activities (visit the K. Patricia Cross Academy website for ideas).
  • Give everyone an opportunity to contribute – small group discussion can help introverts feel more comfortable about sharing their thoughts (see the UF Instructor Guide for ideas).
  • Use diverse voices and experiences in your teaching (see the Culturally Responsive Teaching Checklist).
Explain the Value of Learning Activities

The value of learning activities may not be clear to students. Research conducted by the Transparency in Learning and Teaching project (TILT Higher Ed) determined that making the purpose, task, and criteria of problem-based assignments explicit resulted in improved learning for all students, with greater gains for underserved students. Clear descriptions of these elements help to build academic confidence, a sense of belonging, and metacognition. (Winkelmes, 2019).

Practices to Reduce Cheating Incidents on Exams

High-stakes exams can be an efficient and effective way to measure student learning. However, when futures rest on a single test, students may feel that they have no choice, but to use every available avenue to do well. If it isn’t possible to break up large exams into smaller assessments, a combination of practices that include thorough preparation, quality questions, and academic integrity reminders can help to reduce cheating incidents.

  • Provide weekly low-stakes quizzes with the same types of questions that will be on the exam and offer help during office hours to those who do poorly.
  • In-class clicker questions are another opportunity for students to answer exam-style questions.
  • Rename some office hours as “Exam Review” sessions to take advantage of students’ interest in test preparation.
  • As much as possible, avoid using publisher question banks as-is.
  • Use some questions that demonstrate higher-order thinking (See A Practical Guide to Assessment, Module 3e).
  • If possible, follow higher-order questions with a short answer question asking how students arrived at their previous answer choice (this does require grading time).
  • Visit A Practical Guide to Assessment for guidance in writing questions and analyzing results.
Academic Integrity Reminders
  • Before each exam, discuss the importance of academic integrity within your course and the discipline.
  • Describe the specific aids (if any) students may use for the exam (calculator, scratch paper, formula list).
  • Provide agreement to the UF Honor Code as the first question of the exam.
Use Exams as a Learning Activity

Two-Stage Collaborative Assessment can increase the value of problem-solving tests as a learning activity. Students take the exam individually during the beginning of a class period. During the second part of the class, they collaborate with a group to answer the same or similar questions. Biology Professor, Dr. David Julian describes how to do this in his Teaching Beyond the Podium podcast, Two-Stage Collaborative Assessment (15:14). He has found that this approach reduces test anxiety, and while the collaborative part of the exam is only worth 20% of the grade, “. . .the students really feel that the group effort really changes the dynamic of the entire exam.” (Julian, 2018)


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