What's Happening in Character?

How a Meaningful Curriculum Can Help Prevent Cheating

Posted by David Wangaard on Mon, Apr 27, 2015 @ 09:04 AM

by David B. Wangaard, Ed.D., President/Director, The School for Ethical Education

Teaching a challenging curriculum is a double-edged sword in regards to academic integrity.  Challenges that are useful to students to achieve mastery learning can help students rise to the occasion and persist in their studies.  Challenges that are perceived to be unfair and of little relevance to student interest or needs can lead to increase student rationalizations to cheat.  Some students in high-achieving schools have been noted to claim a “right to cheat” as they cite the multiple academic challenges they face (extreme workloads, poor instruction, demands for perfection) and argue their school circumstances are unjust and unfair. 

Academic integrity has a direct connection to many of Character.org’s 11 Principles for Effective Character Education.  At the heart of completing work with integrity is the recognition that core values such as honesty, responsibility and fairness are relevant to students and teachers (Principles 1 & 2) and that academic integrity should be reflected in how teachers lead their classes (Principle 3.3) and teach ethical analysis[1] (Principle 3.2).  Academic integrity is clearly one measure of how students demonstrate moral action (Principle 5) and seek to develop their own intrinsic motivation (Principle 7).  And with the focus of this current Blog on Principle 6, let us examine how academic integrity is particularly strengthened as teachers implement strategies to teach a meaningful and challenging curriculum.

The research on academic integrity consistently points to certain teacher and student behaviors that either support academic integrity or contribute to increased student cheating. No teacher wants to encourage cheating, but student cheating is recognized to increase when students disengage from learning or perceive lessons to be busy work, or completed to achieve status (grades or prestige) and not mastery of the subject.  Thus, as Character.org encourages teachers to practice learning strategies such as cooperative and experiential learning to engage students in authentic learning; these strategies also help reduce the tendency for student cheating.

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Topics: Academic Integrity