Explore potential strategies.
Students might be in competition with other students for their grades.
In some course, students are graded on a curve. While there are varying definitions of curves and many professors think they grade on a curve, the definition that is relevant in this context is when students are graded by percentile—the top 15% gets an A, the next 35% gets a B, the next 35% gets a C, and the bottom 15% is split between D and F, or any such breakdown. This means that grades are a scarce commodity (e.g., in the previous example, in a class of 100 there would be only 15 As available). In such a class, students MUST compete against each other for the best grades. This system ranks people against each other, regardless of actual learning. The A students have learned more than the B students, but the grade gives no indication that they have met a certain standard. In addition, if students don’t understand the material, they know that they cannot ask their peers for help, which can create more pressures.
Make the standards of learning and performance known in advance and make students’ grades dependent on how well they meet the standards. This eliminates competition as a stressor, which can lead to cheating because all students could get an A if they meet the standards for an A (or, conversely, everybody could fail). Grading rubrics, explicit descriptions of the quality of performance required to achieve a given grade, is one type of tool that can be used to help students identify what they need to do to achieve a desired grade. Here are examples of grading rubrics created by CMU faculty and faculty at other institutions. Creating a grading scheme that provides students with some flexibility in determining how their points get weighed across course assessments can also reduce cheating.
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