Academic Dishonesty: The Teacher’s View

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Lauren Stuzin, English

What’s your perception of cheating, especially encompassing plagiarism in the English Department?

I would say I haven’t encountered it all that often, which makes me happy, because I think students should rather have ideas of their own than take from online. But I do think that when it does happen it’s mostly because you guys are very overwhelmed and stressed, and there’s only so much time in your days. So while it’s really bad to plagiarize, and no one should do it—you should try to come up with your own ideas—it’s better to have this happen in high school and to learn from it than for it to happen in the future. So I do think it’s a learning experience, and I understand that students can feel overwhelmed with the amount of work at Stuyvesant.

If you catch a student cheating (plagiarizing), what happens?

In the English department if you plagiarise an assignment you’ll receive a zero for that assignment. You’ll also probably have a conversation with the Assistant Principal [Eric] Grossman regarding plagiarism and problems with it, and what constitutes plagiarism. Then, you’re expected to not do that again, and you’ll be able to submit future assignments.

Do you agree with Stuyvesant’s cheating policy?

Yes, I do think it’s important that students are aware of the fact that plagiarizing is a problem, and I think that students are going to need to know in college. And it’s good to know the rules for citation, and also, I think receiving a zero on the assignment you plagiarized is a fair punishment.

Stuyvesant is notorious for cheating—a couple years ago we had the Regents scandal, and last year, we had this scandal in the Spanish Department. What do you think makes cheating unique at Stuy, or so widespread?

I think it’s the fact that Stuyvesant students have way more work than any other school, and I do think at least I try to keep aware of the amount of homework I’m assigning and how long readings are taking—because I don’t want to necessarily add to that work. I don’t want students to feel like my work is busy work, or just taking up time. I want to make sure that what I assign is meaningful, so it doesn’t just add to this burden that you guys feel every day when you go home and have hours and hours of homework ahead of you. I feel like sometimes teachers forget students have lives outside of school and belong to a million extracurriculars. You’re very active in your communities, and you have stuff to do at home.

Have you ever cheated when you were little, like in high school?

I think in high school I probably shared homework. I distinctly remember once in elementary school I ratted someone else out for cheating and I felt really bad about that when I was 11.

Dr. Jeffrey Kivi

What do you think about cheating? Why do kids do it? What do you do to try to stop cheating from happening?

I give multiple versions of a test to try to limit the temptation because I know that kids, those who weren't even planning on cheating, at the spur of the moment, give in to temptation to look at the test of the student next to them. That’s why I give out multiple tests to illuminate that sort of spontaneous temptation.

I used to give lots of homework and there are a lot of reasons why I have deemphasized homework but one of the reasons is that kids with the Internet and these groups that they form and they all share everything so easily, so you start to see too much of kids handing in the same homework with the same wording. And it was clear that kids weren't doing their own work and it's like, how do you stop that? And it's pretty much impossible to stop kids using the internet for helping each other out, posting answers, or looking up the answers online. To an extent, giving homework was less useful because kids weren't necessarily doing the answers on their own, they were getting them online. So that’s some of the reasons why I deemphasized it. I'd rather have kids work on something in class so they can think about it and work it out themselves or with their neighbors or teammates rather than looking up the answers that were posted in groups or online.

What do you do when you find a student is cheating?

I don't think about it an awful lot. I leave it up to the administration to deal with overall. I just try to do things that give kids less of an opportunity make the wrong choice and hopefully encourage them to solve things on their own.

Dr. Susan Barrow

What are your experiences with cheating?

My experience teaching mostly Art Appreciation with freshmen is that I never worried about them cheating. I did have an experience a couple of years ago where I thought that I was vigilant, but I had classes in the morning, and a student in the afternoon had informed me that students in the cafeteria were looking at a copy of my test on Facebook. I had to involve [Assistant Principal of Security, Health, and Physical Education Brian] Moran, and I gave the student a chance to reflect on this instance. A couple of people named the same person as the perpetrator anonymously.

What are your methods of stopping cheating? In tests and homework?

I collect any phones before any test I give. Phones are out in a box. Honestly, I don't think that students understand what plagiarism is or isn't. They don't, especially freshmen, they have no clear understanding of it, the administration does a better job explaining it to them. For museum reports, I ask students to make a personal statement that says they didn't copy, they didn't plagiarize, so I think that if anyone has any integrity, they should learn when they’re young and that's the best I can do. I also walk around constantly during tests.

Why do you think students cheat?

They cheat because they don’t think they will be caught. I think that students in this school are under pressure to get good grades and the best way possible, unfortunately, is cheating, and some of them think that if they get a bad grade, it ruins their whole life or something.

What are your consequences for anyone caught cheating?

I think that students have subtle ways of cheating, but I'm not going to spend the whole day tracking down cheaters. If it's really blatant, I rip up their test or give them a zero, and in cases, not recently, but kids handing in an identical report I call them in, sit them down, and ask why the reports are virtually identical. So then one of them will eventually admit that they copied off the other.

Marianne Prabhu, Biology

Why do you think students cheat?

I think that students don't even realize that things they do constitute as cheating; for example, copying homework. Some students don’t even think that they’re doing it until we point it out to them.

What are your penalties for cheating?

I've never had a situation where I had to give a student a full zero or something like that. But I know for the most part, our department policy is they get a zero for that assignment.

How do you prevent kids from cheating?

One thing I do is let students use a notes guide, a specific one, on exams. This way, they don't feel like they have to cheat, they already have some of their notes in front of them, and I try to test them more on applications, so there is a lot of writing and it's hard to cheat in the first place.

Jerry Citron, Biology

Why do you think students cheat?

Students cheat because of a multiple of reasons, primarily stress and also because they want to do something fast and they don't want to study. The other reason students cheat is because maybe the situation in class is not fair in the way they think [it] should be, and they feel that the only way they do well is to cheat.

How do you stop kids from cheating?

There are some students who genuinely do well because they work really really hard on something. And that’s another issue. Some students take easier classes, and therefore have an easier time, and some students take a lot of AP courses and are therefore very stressed out. And I do believe that students cheat because they have five AP classes and they start to prioritize one over another. Like, ”I was able to study for this one, but not this one, but I have exams back to back. I'm going to cheat, or try to cheat.” Some kids have notes on cards, on a piece of paper, some like to write notes on their hands and some will look at other people's paper[s], so to prevent that is to make multiple copies of an exam so that there is an “A,” “B,” “C” version of the exam and that will prevent cheating in class. I walk up and down the aisles to make sure that kids aren't looking at each other’s papers or have any external examples. There are many physical things you can do, but ultimately, any kid who cheats is hurting himself, so that's how I look at it. If you’re going to cheat and do it in a way you think is being successful and you’re not being successful, you’re really just turning on yourself, and ultimately, you don't do very well in school.

What are your consequences for cheating?

If you are caught cheating on tests, you should get a zero, you should absolutely get a zero, that should be the consequence. If you do it again, then the administration should get involved. The really good students may have cheated once or twice. They just know how to manage time, manage the stress in order to learn. And there are other kids who try to circumvent the system.

Do you do anything to help with the stress?

I do test corrections when I can. Curving the exam sometimes helps. Sometimes, if I find a question is horrendous, because most students get it wrong, I just throw it out. That's my fault, not the students’. I'm trying to make it feel like the exam isn't trying to hurt them but to learn information and use it again as a tool to learn what you didn't understand before the test. So if the test can be a tool for learning, if students can see it as a tool, and not as an absolute assessment, then there might be less cheating. I don't know but that's what I'm hoping.

Eric Grossman, Assistant Principal of English

What do you think about cheating or in the case of the English department, plagiarism? Why do you think that kids do it?

Part of my job is to meet with students and their teachers when plagiarizing occurs. You asked about plagiarism, I'm not a big fan of it. Overwhelmingly, when it happens it happens because students feel overwhelmed and stressed out and panicky and make a bad decision last minute, often late at night, and that's understandable. The goal is to make sure that they learn from it, and while the consequences are meant to resonate, to feel meaningful enough to create an impression, they are not meant to and don't ruin lives or chances to get into a decent college. If it happens chronically, then that is a different story and a different problem.

Can you talk about the consequences?

Well, there is an academic policy of the school and if a student cheats on an assignment, whatever that looks like, if it’s a single line from a website or if it's a cut and paste, it’s still academic dishonesty. So the scale of seriousness rises or falls depending on the size of the assignment and what is sad and ironic is that when a student cheats, their hope is to do better; [however] they do much much worse. We want kids to be successful, we want them to be in structures that encourage and support that.

What methods do you use to stop cheating?

Most teachers develop [a] pretty good “spidey sense” when something appears off. In terms of strategy to discourage it, talking about it and making it clear to our students that we care about it and why we care about is the most important thing. Most students are attuned to their teachers: what they value, what they as students should value, and having those conversation[s] make it less likely to occur. It does not mean that it can never occur, but it’s just communicating what the ideas of the case are and why.

Do you think teachers have ways of making sure that students are working on their assignments?

In a lot of classes, especially in the lower grades, there are multiple due dates of multiple parts of a project. In a [Freshman Composition] class, a thesis may be due a certain day and then they'll workshop it, and passages from a book and supporting evidence may be due a certain day, and by the time the essay is actually due, there are a lot of steps along the way that give a chance for teachers to check in and make sure that students are not saving the entire thing for the night before.