Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty

By James Lang

I read an insightful book over the summer that made me stop and think. It was so inspiring that I decided to blog this fall about the topic. Academic dishonesty is brought up frequently in Teaching and Learning Technologies Online Working Group Discussion lunches and it’s a topic that many of us are concerned about.

I’ll begin the academic dishonesty blog series with a book overview of Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty (Harvard University Press, 2013) by James Lang. (The following posts will examine techniques faculty can use to deter academic dishonesty in classes as well as recommendations by our online Elon faculty). James Lang is an Associate Professor of English, and the Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence, at Assumption College. He also has a regular column in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Lang believes there are educational practices that reduce academic dishonesty and concurrently support learning. In Cheating Lessons, he discusses how to design learning environments that discourage cheating. He blends pedagogy with research on cognition and provides practical suggestions for faculty that can be used in all types of academic settings. Lang identifies four conditions that foster cheating:

  1. emphasis on performance
  2. high stakes tests
  3. extrinsic motivation for success
  4. low expectation of student success

Lang argues that if educators focus on creating learning environments that provide the opposite of these four conditions, they can increase the students’ ability and desire to learn. He suggests incorporating these four things into your teaching:

  1. providing frequent low stakes tests
  2. stressing mastery over performance
  3. helping students develop self-efficacy
  4. fostering intrinsic motivation

Lang recommends using frequent low-stakes tests and allowing students to practice skills until they master the subject material. Multiple-attempt tests allow students to strengthen their skills, which contributes to academic self-efficacy. He also suggests including a few strategies to assist students in developing intrinsic motivation such as:

  • engaging students in critical thinking assignments
  • developing discussions on topics that students can connect with
  • incorporating creative course-specific projects

I highly recommend this book. I agree with Lang, that academic dishonesty is a persistent problem. His exploration of course design coupled with common classroom practices that foster cheating, was eye-opening. Lang’s message empowers faculty to create effective learning environments that foster intrinsic motivation, promote mastery, and instill a sense of self-efficacy to facilitate student learning.

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Cheri Crabb, PhD

Cheri Crabb, PhD

I am dedicated to working with online faculty at Elon University and pride myself on designing quality curriculum advocating instructional technology usage. My career in academia is focused on instructional design and development using integrated electronic media systems. I earned my Doctor of Philosophy in Instructional Systems Design and Development from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University while representing NASA’s Office of Education as their first Graduate Studies Research Program doctoral fellowship recipient.

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