3 insights for IB Educators to unpack on International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating

Updated: Feb 25

Let's face it-the history of contract cheating is probably as old as the history of homework! While I'm not quite sure if Plato had to double-check and authenticate assignments at his Academy, the steep rise in the popularity of homework-help forums, AI writing software and essay mills really demands that educators play detective and swap their red pens for much more than just run of the mill plagiarism detectors.

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While contract cheatin's been doing the rounds for centuries, the term itself is relatively freshly minted- first by Lancaster and Clarke (2006). Here's a few insights I had while listening to Thomas Lancaster himself yesterday, and other experts like Rowena Harper and Sarah Eaton, during the IDoA Expert Presentation & Panel hosted by the International Center for Academic Integrity:

1) Name It! Students often unwittingly confuse contract cheating with just plain old collusion, or worse- collaboration. Well, what's wrong with wanting to outsource your essay and dole out some $$$ to that second cousin with a dying cat? Quite a lot, it turns out. Australia and New Zealand have already made contract cheating and its advertising illegal, and UK's quite happy classifying contract cheating as fraud. I'm imagining our cute little contract cheaters having to cough up money to lawyers, in addition to their copywriters, just to get their Wednesday's submission done 😶


That's why it's important to have a school culture in which contract cheating is named and shamed for what it is- gross academic misconduct. This is why I think Sarah Eaton was really onto something at IDoA yesterday when she said, 'you can't fight something unless you name it'.

2) Look for Systemic Reasons

Contract cheating is just the tip of one dirty iceberg - one of an unhealthy academic culture. Here are some basic things its obviously symptomatic of at any given school:

  • Student disengagement and disinterest: Chances are that the same students who outsource their IAs are the same ones snoozing their way through your classes. Passionate educators who care enough to find ways to connect with learners and hold their interest, so that the work they produce matters to them in some way. Ask yourself whether there is disconnection- maybe it's undetected barriers to learning, or may be the language of instruction in your classes haven't really catered to the student's language of proficiency. Maybe the course content was too monocultural and lacked diversity.

  • Lack of Rapport: That age old IB adage is true- teachers are the best plagiarism software (move over, Turnitin). Teachers who are disconnected from the minds and thoughts of their learners often can't tell the difference between original student work and downloaded wisdom. Time to dust off those ice-breakers, I say.

  • Pressure: Students are most tempted to take shortcuts when they've procrastinated all-semester long. It can also happen when school leaders don't give enough thought to the balance and distribution of the internal timelines for submissions. At the last minute, teachers are also way less likely to go through student work carefully when the clock's ticking and there's 40 more students waiting to hit the final submit button.

3) Think of Academic Integrity as a Continuum

It's helpful to think of academic integrity as a sliding scale- not a race. Every school has its own journey of progression and recalibration as it works its way through developing a climate of academic integrity. Rowena Harper, one of the panelists interestingly envisioned this as a grid of sorts, with more 'mature' countries and schools horizontally sharing their best practices and reflections with others, and each country/school working 'vertically' in its own unique context to exchange and develop practices over time.


So, where are you in your continuum right now? Let me know in the comments.

#IDoA #defeatthecheat #myownwork #excelwithintegrity #academicintegrity

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