Those a just a few words that describe ‘academic misconduct’ or ‘academic dishonesty’.

As HSC and IB students knuckle down before their final exams, and as other school students manage competing assignment deadlines, they’re bound to be lectured on academic honesty sooner or later.

Most high school students have to tick or sign a declaration when submitting an assignment, stating that it is all their own work, and/or submit their assignment though Turn It In to prove that their work is original. While these measures help to discourage dishonesty, there’s more we can do to instil integrity in our students so that cheating doesn’t become a temptation.

1.    Taking responsibility for their own learning

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) defines academic integrity as ‘the expectation that teachers, students, researchers and all members of the academic community act with: honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility.’ 

Integrity doesn’t just pertain to assessments. It is a consistent attitude where the student respects the work and rights of others, doesn’t steal, and when they use another’s work, they attribute it correctly. Principled students take responsibility for their own learning and act with fairness, justice and honesty in all they do.

When students are encouraged to take ownership of their learning, they are more likely to manage their time and commitments wisely and put in the required effort to produce their own work. So too, when they feel overwhelmed or unsure, they are more likely to ask for help instead of masking their struggles in an effort to look like they have it all together.

2.    Help them find their ‘why’

Studies show that unmotivated students are more likely to see cheating as an easier way to complete their coursework instead of investing their own effort.

When we help students to see how a task is relevant to their learning or their overall interests, they see the value in personal effort and are less inclined to take shortcuts.

Tutoring provides a safe space where questions are encouraged and doubts can be shared and overcome. In addition, tutors can extend the student’s learning beyond classroom content to excite their curiosity and help them to see how tasks and subjects link together, and how that knowledge is relevant and significant to their lives.

3.    Focus on progress over grades

Grades are important. After all, grades are how we measure knowledge and progress as objectively as possible. While grades can be motivating in the short-term, solely focusing on grades diminishes the student’s desire to learn or acquire new skills over time. Focusing too much on marks and scores can even leave students feeling overwhelmed and anxious which can cause them to believe that cheating is the only way to reach their (or your) desired grade.

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It is a misconception that only ‘lazy’ students cheat. It is ever more the case that intelligent, high-achieving students become so afraid of ‘failure’ that they think cheating is their only option. Recent studies suggest that cheating is rarely premeditated. Instead, most cheating occurrences are impulse decisions made under fear or stress.

By empowering students to be resilient problem solvers, we show them that there is more to success than a mark, and that learning is an invigorating, joyful daily exercise.

4.    Practice = progress

Learners who want to master a skill or technique know that there are no shortcuts: there is only regular practice. For instance, learning a musical instrument, a sport, or a language cannot be fast-tracked except through increasing practice.

Likewise, we can help students to see that through regular revision, doing their homework, and giving enough time to their assignments, they will develop and master writing skills, argumentation, and knowledge in their subjects.

Even for the student’s least-liked subjects, encouraging an attitude of practice as the precursor to success, they’ll see that effort and honesty will benefit them, and others, far more than cheating.

5.    The proven power of self-belief and encouragement

When students are supported in their learning journey, and encouraged as they develop their skills, they grow to genuinely believe they are capable of success.

Tutors are not only academic support, they also model an array of study techniques to suit your child’s personality and learning needs. For example, instead of reading and highlighting or copying out textbook passages to learn by rote, tutors can show students how to ask questions about the topic and use the textbook information, and research, to answer their questions.

Tutors can also workshop writing activities with students and provide feedback on exercises and past papers to empower the student with strategies to assess and revise their own work.

6.    Teaching proper research skills

Our complex world requires students to solve problems by applying what they know to a situation. Knowledge is important but it’s not enough to prepare young people to proactively shape of the world they live in.

It is often the case that many students reach high school, or even their senior years without adequate research skills. These skills and principles take time to impart and learn, and students who don’t master them quickly are often left behind.

Tutors can:

  • Give students the extra time they need to learn the difference between quoting, paraphrasing, and summarising and how to do them honestly;
  • Practice reading and analysing texts with students at their level, giving them the vocabulary to express themselves in their own words;
  • Give students the confidence to engage with ideas and come up with new arguments instead of passing other people’s work off as their own; 
  • Create a safe space to make mistakes, which minimises the allure of using someone else’s words because a student doesn’t trust their ability to “say it right”; and
  • Patiently demonstrate correct referencing again, and again, and again.

Help! I found out my child is cheating!

(Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash)

If you become aware that your child has been dishonest, the best thing you can do is to use it as a learning opportunity. Stay calm and ask open-ended questions and listen to them with sensitivity and empathy.

For some students cheating is a cry for help. Staying calm opens up a safe space for them to admit they are struggling with time management, feeling overwhelmed by difficult content or extra-curricular commitments, or they’re having friendship or mental health issues.

When you listen to them, they are more likely to listen to you when you affirm that cheating is wrong because it is disrespectful to the person whose work has been misused, and that it has serious consequences. Then, from a place of mutual understanding, you can help them to address the underlying issues.

Don’t wait until you get a call from your child’s teacher before you address academic honesty.

The good news is that you aren’t alone when it comes to instilling the values of academic honesty in your children. Our experienced tutors can complement and build upon ethical principles taught in the classroom and empower your child to act with honesty and integrity in their studies and beyond.

Contact Us today to find out more.

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