Teaching Tips Turkey: Dealing with Academic Dishonesty

ESL teachers have to understand that cheating is fully expected in Turkey. Students brag openly to their teachers about their exploits and are astonished if teachers expect any kind of honesty when students are given the opportunity to cheat. Students resent strict no-cheating policies and consider “zeros” for cheating draconian. Even Turkish ESL teachers who are frustrated with dishonest students gleefully admit to their own cheating ingenuity when they were students. It is understood that the only way for some people to pass university is to cheat. In their minds, this fully justifies cheating by all means, and refusal to help another student cheat is considered a betrayal.

Giving a Zero for Cheating – Teaching English in Turkey

The first time I administered a quiz at a university in Turkey, I just handed out the papers and let them write. When I marked them later, I could clearly tell who had cheated off whom, and I gave all offenders (about a third of the class) a zero. The students were incredulous at the severity of the punishment, including those not involved in the cheating. The students told me it was my own fault that some had cheated because I had allowed them to remain side by side and that I had condoned cheating by not rearranging their chairs before the quiz, so the blame lay squarely on my head. I refused to change my decision and phone calls started pouring into the director’s office from outraged parents demanding their children be given at least partial marks for the questions they had not been proven to have cheated on.

When you discover some blatant cheaters, consult with your director as to what course of action to take for that specific circumstance, which he/she will understand better than you. If you act alone and hand out zeros you may find yourself against a united front of students, their parents and your director.

Preventing Cheating – Teaching English in Turkey

Turkish students can be much craftier than merely copying answers. If you are serious about preventing cheating (again, consult with your director about how strict you are expected to be), learn the common cheating methods (ask the Turkish teachers for the laundry list) and be alert to anything odd. For instance, students can use any physical contact to transmit signals to each other, especially with multiple choice answers. Also, students have been known to surreptitiously use their smartphones to access web sites, even while the teachers are patrolling the aisles. Confiscating devices beforehand does not always solve the problem because students will bring two or three to the class and leave a “dummy” on your desk. Students have brought answers into exam rooms on the inside of their shirt sleeves, on the interior surface of their water bottles and even on the bottoms of their shoes so their friends sitting behind could read the answers.

Because the students will always be too smart to be caught consistently, a proven pre-emptive defence is to maintain a good rapport with students and let them know clearly and regularly how disappointed you are with cheaters. If you have good rapport, they may even police themselves.