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Students are more likely to cheat or plagiarize if the assessment is very high-stakes or if they have low expectations of success due to perceived lack of ability or test anxiety.
A high-stakes assessment (one counting for a large percent of the final grade) creates significant pressure on students because there is so much riding it and any little mistakes can greatly affect their grade. If the test involves abilities the student perceives as innate (as some students do when it comes to math or writing), the problem is compounded. Motivational theories predict that when students perceive a low probability of success for a given task, they won’t invest effort in it. But if the task is high-stakes and they must succeed at it anyway, they might try cheating instead of studying. Furthermore, a course structured with a few very high-stakes assessments (e.g., where one midterm and one final decide the final grade) determines students’ grades based on a very small sample of tasks that may or may not be an accurate assessment of their proficiency.
This way, you get several samples of student work, evolving over time, and the students get spaced practice and feedback. If low-stakes assessments are combined with timely and constructive feedback on strengths as well as concrete suggestions for improvement, they will facilitate learning and build student confidence for later high-stakes assessments, thus reducing the likelihood of cheating.
Academic Development is our support unit for students in academic distress. They produce a series of publications about dealing with test anxiety, exam prep, and successful exam strategies. Advise your students to familiarize themselves with them.
This site supplements our 1-on-1 teaching consultations.
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