From Cheating to Learning

Lang bookby Debie Lohe, Director, Reinert Center

It’s easy to assume that student cheating and violations of academic integrity norms are on the rise.  With students’ increasing use of technology and the increasingly blurry lines around re-use of existing creative works in our broader culture (just look at musical “sampling”), many worry that students’ understanding of “ownership” and “original” intellectual work is deteriorating.  Certainly, pass through any academic department on any college campus, and you’re apt to overhear someone say things like, Students today just have no regard for academic integrity! Or, We just live in a cheating culture now, and there’s nothing we can do about it.  But the good news is, there are things we can do about it.

In his new book, Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty, James M. Lang (SLU alum, faculty member at Assumption College, and regular columnist for the Chronicle of Higher Education) provides a rationale and a roadmap for doing just that.

The book is driven by a powerful message: shift your focus from activities that prevent cheating to those that promote learning, and you create a learning environment that can reduce cheating.  Lang begins by exploring the recent literature on cheating (students are not, by the way, “cheating more” today than they did in the past) and placing that literature alongside research about how learning actually works (for one thing, learners have to be involved in their learning).  This leads him to four broad categories of practice that can result in what he calls “The (Nearly) Cheating-Free Classroom”:

1 Fostering Intrinsic Motivation

2 Learning for Mastery

3 Lowering Stakes

4 Instilling Self-Efficacy

The middle section of the book is devoted to these categories of practice.  For each, Lang offers concrete examples of strategies and activities used by actual faculty members to promote learning and reduce cheating.  Finally, at the end, he broadens his focus to include larger-scale initiatives and campus-wide approaches to creating a culture that privileges learning over preventing cheating.

If you’re interested in shifting your own focus from preventing cheating to promoting learning, come see us in the Reinert Center.  We’d be happy to help you explore small, concrete strategies that can have a large impact.

Book cover image courtesy of Amazon.com

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