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Teaching Strategy Best Practices: How to Spot and Handle Cheating

An MSEd degree can make educators more effective and give them the skills to help prevent cheating

The pressure to get good grades has never been greater, especially as competition to attend the best colleges and universities increases. Unfortunately, this focus on grades can lead to academic dishonesty. Cheating happens at all levels of education—not just in high school. While some may say it’s normal and therefore inevitable, especially given the various forms of digital technology that make it easier for students to cheat today, it’s an issue that teachers can tackle in their classrooms as part of their teaching strategy.

Even as 86% of college students have disclosed they have cheated in some fashion and 97% indicated they were not caught in the act,* experts say the best place to start combating this behavior is in primary school. At a young age, students learn by modeling others, and they often don’t fully recognize their actions as cheating or that they’ve done anything wrong. However, building students’ confidence and instilling a sense of pride and integrity in their work early on can help dissuade the behavior in the future. Failing to address the issue of recurring cheating behavior can lead to long-term effects in school, such as an inability to advance academically, losing the trust of school officials, and even ethical deficiencies that could last into adulthood.


How to Spot and Handle Cheating

At all levels of education, it’s helpful for teachers to gain an understanding of their students’ motivations for academic dishonesty. For example, some students might cheat because they’re too lazy to study. Others could be struggling to grasp certain concepts of the curriculum and think cheating is a viable solution. Parents may also pressure their children to succeed—sometimes at all costs.

During quiz and test time, there are students who will first make attempts to solve the problem, but then resolve to cheating if they are unsuccessful. Others, however, have already strategically made their decision to cheat prior to the test.

Here are some best practices teachers can use to handle cheating:

  • Define cheating early in the school year. Cheating is not okay, even though some students may think it is. To avoid any misunderstanding, clearly define what cheating is in your classroom and remind students periodically throughout the year. For example, cloning another’s work verbatim, copying and pasting large passages, texting others for answers, storing information in a mobile device or graphing calculator, accessing legacy assignments, and reusing recycled material are just a few of the various forms of cheating.
  • Put safeguards in place. There are programs that scan for plagiarism and identify passages that are not unique. Some teachers recommend using essays and avoiding short-answer quizzes and tests, even for math, because explaining takes more thought and reasoning, thereby decreasing chances of cheating. In addition, making different versions of the same test, encouraging students to cover their answers, and proctoring the class from the back of the classroom can help quell cheating behavior.
  • Communicate consequences clearly. Schools may have protocols in place for ethics violations, but teachers can also create rules for their classroom. Whether it’s giving a zero for the assignment, throwing the test away completely and having them redo it, or informing parents of the unacceptable behavior, students should be aware of the potential outcomes of their actions.
  • Don’t ignore the signs. Not only do students lose out on a valuable education, but teachers also lose respect when widespread cheating is happening. Be careful not to accuse a student of any wrongdoing without being completely certain. Some types of student behavior can make teachers suspicious, but being too quick to suggest a student is cheating can cause irreparable damage to a student’s self-esteem and reputation.
  • Become a more effective educator. Graduate programs for teachers, such as a master’s in education, can help prepare teachers to make a greater impact in their classrooms. Learning how to build a supportive learning community that motivates and engages students can help cut down on cheating. An MS in Education (MSEd) can contribute to a higher level of teacher performance by providing necessary skills to adapt to various learning and language styles so that all students have an equal opportunity to succeed.

If you’re interested in best practices like these, explore Walden University’s MS in Education online degree program. You’ll be able to strengthen your skills in the classroom while positioning yourself for greater success as an educator.

*D. Schaffhauser, 9 in 10 Students Admit to Cheating in College, Suspect Faculty Do the Same, Campus Technology, on the internet at

†Cascio, C., How Will Cheating in School Affect the Rest of Your Life?, Our Everyday Life, on the internet at

‡H. Seeman, Cheating in the Classroom: How to Prevent It and How to Handle It if It Happens, Education World, on the internet at