Social Sundays: Combatting Cheating in the Secondary Classroom

Rampant cheating in high school classrooms is a common discussion in the teacher's lounge.  I've even heard of students who have bought the teachers editions of curriculum.  While we. An debate the reasons for the cheating, and definitely we should, sometimes band aids need to be put in place until the source(s) of the problem are addressed. 

My solution, and you may not like it, is open-ended projects.  Students can literally not find the solution on the internet nor can they cheat off each other's papers.  


Open-ended projects require knowledge and understanding of a topic, analytical thinking and time.  This last one is the hardest.  There never seems to be enough time, and yet I'm seeing curriculum change from emphasizing facts to focusing on the long term value of deeper thinking. If you can Google it...
Projects in my class take anywhere from 2-3 days to multiple weeks.  

When designing or using a project establish:
  1. What are the goals? (student outcome, learning objective, SLR, choose your favorite): what are students demonstrating their learning of? Policy differences between Kennedy and Nixon? Cultural aspects of Ancient Egypt?  The more the specific your goals, the better.
  2. How will you determine mastery? I am a proponent of mastery-based learning.  With projects I'm looking for specific skills and knowledge related to a topic.  Will you use a rubric? 
  3. How will students demonstrate mastery? Is there a written portion, do students include a diagram or visual aid. If the project t is collaborative how will you assess if individual students have mastered the specific outcomes. 
  4. What are the parameters? How long will students have to work in and out of class on the project? Will students work individually, in partners or in small groups. If there are many learning outcomes perhaps, the project covers a unit whereas a focus on a specific event might only take a day or two. 
Once the scope of the project is determined, create the project outline for students.  Included in this document should be:
  • requirements(or parameters)
  • timeline
  • desired outcomes (let students know what they are expected to understand by the end)
  • rubric or grading system you will use 
  • steps (optional but recommended)


Even with open-ended projects I find it helpful to provide scaffolded steps for students to complete. When we do who's who for an era which involves role playing, students research our historical figures and look for specific information related to background, quotes, class, context, etc so that when they show up to the soiree as Benjamin franklin or Jacques Rousseau they can effectively role play the person.  I provide questions that students need to answer in order to be ready for the soiree.  This is all part of the project.  

Projects are a worthwhile investment.  I find students to be engaged in their learning.  Students aren't just trying to cram knowledge in, they are actively connecting with content and developing skills they need for the future.



Social Sundays is a bi-weekly post sharing tips, ideas, resources, and products for teaching social studies.  If you have questions or think there is something I should share, you can leave me a message in the comments below or at the store in the question and answer section.  

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