• Written by Peter Hurley, Policy Fellow, Mitchell Institute, Victoria University
Sometimes, students and teachers have different ideas about what constitutes as cheating. from shutterstock.com

Students – whether at university or school – can get help from many places. They can go to a tutor, parent, teacher, a friend or consult a textbook.

But at which point does getting help cross the line into cheating?

Sometimes it’s clear. If you use a spy camera or smartwatch in an exam, you’re clearly cheating. And you’re cheating if you get a friend to sit an exam for you or write your assignment.

At other times the line is blurry. When it’s crossed, it constitutes academic misconduct. Academic misconduct is any action or attempted action that may result in creating an unfair academic advantage for yourself or others.

What about getting someone else to read a draft of your essay? What if they do more than proofread and they alter sections of an assignment? Does that constitute academic misconduct?

Learning, teaching or cheating?

There are a wide range of activities that constitute academic misconduct. These can include:

  • fabrication, which is just making things up. I could say “90 % of people admit to fabricating their assignments”, when this is not a fact but a statement I just invented

  • falsification, which is manipulating data to inaccurately portray results. This can occur by taking research results out of context and drawing conclusions not supported by data

  • misrepresentation, which is falsely representing yourself. Did you know I have a master’s degree from the University of Oxford on this topic? (Actually, I don’t)

  • plagiarism, which is when you use other people’s ideas or words without appropriate attribution. For instance, this list came from other people’s research and it is important to reference the source.

Sometimes students and teachers have different ideas of academic misconduct. One study found around 45% of academics thought getting someone else to correct a draft could constitute academic misconduct. But only 32% of students thought the same thing.


Read more: Assessment design won’t stop cheating, but our relationships with students might


In the same survey, most academics and students agreed having someone else like a parent or friend identify errors in a draft assignment, as opposed to correcting them, was fine.

Students and academics agree having someone else identify errors in your assignment is OK. Correcting them is another story. from shutterstock.com

Generally when a lecturer, teacher or another marker is assessing an assignment they need to establish the authenticity of the work. Authenticity means having confidence the work actually relates to the performance of the person being assessed, and not of another person.

The Australian government’s vocational education and training sector’s quality watchdog, for instance, considers authenticity as one of four so-called rules of evidence for an “effective assessment”.

The rules are:

  • validity, which is when the assessor is confident the student has the skills and knowledge required by the module or unit

  • sufficiency, which is when the quality, quantity and relevance of the assessment evidence is enough for the assessor to make a judgement

  • authenticity, where the assessor is confident the evidence presented for assessment is the learner’s own work

  • currency, where the assessor is confident the evidence relates to what the student can do now instead of some time in the past.

Generally speaking, if the assessor is confident the work is the product of a student’s thoughts and where help has been provided there is proper acknowledgement, it should be fine.

Why is cheating a problem?

It’s difficult to get a handle on how big the cheating problem is. Nearly 30% of students who responded to a 2012 UK survey agreed they had “submitted work taken wholly from an internet source” as their own.

In Australia, 6% of students in a survey of 14,000 reported they had engaged in “outsourcing behaviours” such as submitting someone else’s assignment as their own, and 15% of students had bought, sold or traded notes.

Getting someone to help with your assignment might seem harmless but it can hinder the learning process. The teacher needs to understand where the student is at with their learning, and too much help from others can get in the way.


Read more: Children learn from stress and failure: all the more reason you shouldn't do their homework


Some research describes formal education as a type of “signal”. This means educational attainment communicates important information about an individual to a third party such as an employer, a customer, or to an authority like a licensing body or government department. Academic misconduct interferes with that process.

Fewer cheaters are getting away with it. Glenn Carstens-Peters/Unsplash

How to deal with cheating

It appears fewer cheaters are getting away with it than before. Some of the world’s leading academic institutions have reported a 40% increase in academic misconduct cases over a three year period.

Technological advances mean online essay mills and “contract cheating” have become a bigger problem. This type of cheating involves outsourcing work to third parties and is concerning because it is difficult to detect.


Read more: 15% of students admit to buying essays. What can universities do about it?


But while technology has made cheating easier, it has also offered sophisticated systems for educators to verify the work is a person’s own. Software programs such as Turnitin can check if a student has plagiarised their assignment.

Institutions can also verify the evidence they are assessing relates to a student’s actual performance by using a range of assessment methods such as exams, oral presentations, and group assignments.

Academic misconduct can be a learning and cultural issue. Many students, particularly when they are new to higher education, are simply not aware what constitutes academic misconduct. Students can often be under enormous pressure that leads them to make poor decisions.

It is possible to deal with these issues in a constructive manner that help students learn and get the support they need. This can include providing training to students when they first enrol, offering support to assist students who may struggle, and when academic misconduct does occur, taking appropriate steps to ensure it does not happen again.

Peter Hurley is affiliated with the Mitchell Institute for Education and Health Policy at Victoria University.

Authors: Peter Hurley, Policy Fellow, Mitchell Institute, Victoria University

Read more http://theconversation.com/when-does-getting-help-on-an-assignment-turn-into-cheating-120215

No, the extra hygiene precautions we're taking for COVID-19 won't weaken our immune systems

ShutterstockDuring the COVID-19 pandemic we’re constantly being reminded to practise good hygiene by frequently washing our hands and regularly cleaning the spaces where we live and work.These p...

Vasso Apostolopoulos, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research Partnerships, Victoria University - avatar Vasso Apostolopoulos, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research Partnerships, Victoria University

How to keep your contact lenses clean (and what can go wrong if you don't)

ShutterstockYou’re rushing and accidentally drop a contact lens on the bathroom floor. Should you:a) run it under the tap and pop it in?b) spit on it and do the same?c) use the cleaning solution...

Nicole Carnt, Scientia Senior Lecturer,  School of Optometry and Vision Science, UNSW, Sydney, UNSW - avatar Nicole Carnt, Scientia Senior Lecturer, School of Optometry and Vision Science, UNSW, Sydney, UNSW

Should all aged-care residents with COVID-19 be moved to hospital? Probably, but there are drawbacks too

COVID-19 is continuing to devastate Victorian aged-care homes, with 1,435 active cases now linked to the sector, and at least 130 residents having died.The question of whether to automatically move re...

Jed Montayre, Senior Lecturer (Nursing), Western Sydney University - avatar Jed Montayre, Senior Lecturer (Nursing), Western Sydney University

how New Zealand got rid of a virus that keeps spreading across the world

On SundaYour heading here, New Zealand will mark 100 days without community transmission of COVID-19.From the first known case imported into New Zealand on February 26 to the last case of community tr...

Michael Baker, Professor of Public Health, University of Otago - avatar Michael Baker, Professor of Public Health, University of Otago

INDUSTRIAL EQUIPMENT BUILT FOR EFFICIENCY

Delivering project outcomes on time and on budget comes down to two things: efficiency and effectiveness of resources utilised. This could not be more true for the mining & resources sector ...

News Company - avatar News Company

We need to Close the Gap on health. But even official dietary advice disadvantages Indigenous people

ShutterstockRecently announced Closing the Gap targets aim to improve the health and well-being of Indigenous people.But if that’s to happen, we need to provide health advice suitable for First ...

Odette Best, Professor, Nursing, University of Southern Queensland - avatar Odette Best, Professor, Nursing, University of Southern Queensland

How should I clean my cloth mask?

ShutterstockFace coverings, such as cloth masks, are mandatory for all Victorians and are being recommended for public use in some other parts of the country.Wearing a face covering helps prevent the ...

Brett Mitchell, Professor of Nursing, University of Newcastle - avatar Brett Mitchell, Professor of Nursing, University of Newcastle

why are Melbourne's COVID-19 numbers so stubbornly high?

Melburnians have now been wearing mandatory face coverings in public for two weeks. Yet Premier Daniel Andrews yesterday announced another grim milestone in Victoria’s second wave of COVID-19 in...

Erin Smith, Associate Professor in Disaster and Emergency Response, School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University - avatar Erin Smith, Associate Professor in Disaster and Emergency Response, School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University

Tested positive for COVID-19? Here's what happens next – and why day 5 is crucial

With cases of COVID-19 on the rise, many Australians are asking: what happens if I test positive? With no known cure and no vaccine, what are my treatment options?Finding trusted answers amid the wide...

Julian Elliott, Executive Director, National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce, and Associate Professor, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University - avatar Julian Elliott, Executive Director, National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce, and Associate Professor, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion