Course Resource Kit

What is cheating?

There are both unintentional and intentional acts of plagiarism or academic dishonesty. Students might, for example, not fully understand the difference between a paraphrase and a quotation, or the details of a specific style guide, especially in the first year of postsecondary study. Likewise, students will have different notions of collaboration and tutoring, depending on past experiences or the cultures of the institutions where they studied previously (Roberts, 2007). These can be teachable moments, rather than potentially punitive ones. Making expectations clear and giving students space to ask questions about process can help to reduce the frequency of unintentional cheating, and is also good practice for creating a growth environment for academic skills. This also connects to the idea of construct relevance: if you are assigning a research paper, have you scaffolded in all the relevant skills? And if you don’t have time within the structure of your course to build in that scaffolding, does it have enough value to you to evaluate students on it?

Intentional acts of academic dishonesty, however, are very different, and broadly fall into two categories: traditional concepts of cheating, and a larger movement towards what is called “contract cheating.” Traditional cheating encompasses things like looking off a neighbour’s test, cutting and pasting content and handing it in as your own, or reusing a friend’s assignments from a previous semester. Contract cheating, conversely, involves paying someone else to produce coursework. Contract cheating can involve a single assignment, an entire course, or even a whole program of study.

It is worth noting that to establish a culture of academic integrity, ethical use of sources and course content should be modeled at all levels: do instructors cite sources for images used in PowerPoint slides, for example, or disclose to students when they are making use of pre-prepared textbook resources? If the goal is for learners to view academic integrity as a central value of the institution, and one that they ought to take on for themselves, then it cannot be a concept they only encounter punitively when they have made a mistake.