Surveys have shown that cheating among students is reaching 'epidemic' proportions, with some studies reporting that up to 80 percent of high-achieving high school students and 75 percent of college students admit to cheating. But now, a new research has suggested how to tackle and eliminate this growing problem.
"We know when kids cheat, why kids cheat and how kids cheat," said Eric Anderman, a recognized expert on student cheating and professor of educational policy and leadership at Ohio State University.
"We know how to motivate kids so that they are much less likely to cheat. The only problem is that what we know about reducing cheating often isn't put into practice in schools," Anderman said.
Anderman said how teachers present the goals of learning in class is the key to reducing cheating. But this is the knowledge that is rarely put into practice in classrooms.
Research has consistently shown that cheating is more likely to occur in classrooms that focus on performance - getting the best possible grades, doing the best on tests.
Cheating is less likely to occur when the goal for students is "personal mastery" of the material - in other words, learning and understanding what is being taught.
Anderman said that federal mandates under "No Child Left Behind," with its emphasis on test scores, send exactly the wrong message to students and teachers and actually encourage cheating.
"These standardized tests aren't going to go away, but we don't have to talk about them in the classroom as the ultimate outcome and goal," he said.
"This produces anxiety and stress in both teachers and students, and that's what leads to cheating," he added.
Ironically, students may actually do better if the focus in classrooms was on personal mastery and not on the tests, according to Anderman.
He said that students will learn better, remember the material longer, cheat less, and still do just as well, if not better, when they do standardized testing.
Schools should work to help teachers change the goals in classrooms from test-taking to mastering the materials, and help them communicate effectively to their students, he added.
"It doesn't help when teachers always talk about 'the test' and reminding students that something 'will be on the test.' The goal should be learning, and not test-taking," Anderman said.
"You can change the goal structure in classrooms. If you change that, you will likely reduce cheating," he added.
The research has been presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Toronto.