Students are cheating because it is becoming more acceptable. The use of the Internet for course work means students can quickly access hundreds of sites with information on the topic given in the task. They are supposed to acknowledge sources and put the information in their own words but they know that a teacher is never going to go through the hundreds and hundreds of sites on any given topic and check to see if plagiarism is occurring. Cut and paste is easy, quick and gets you higher marks in many cases because teachers cannot spot it.
The chance of higher marks outweighs the small chance of getting caught.
Parents, while not condoning this kind of thing openly, do not oppose it either. I think there is almost an attitude of, ‘ well, if you did not see it coming, it’s not for us to say’.
So much weight is given to academic success that students are pressured to achieve ever higher grades in school and because grades and pass marks are linked to funding, the door is open to those few but significant number who will cheat by copying another person’s work from the Internet.
Subjects are largely modular with regular exams and perhaps a term is spent on a subject before an exam so it is difficult for students to really learn an all round understanding of any subject as it is tested in so piece meal a fashion. All marks count from each piece of course work so the temptation is there to up your grade by copying good material from the Internet or books.
Unless the examiner happens to know the book or site, they are unlikely to spot it. There are now tools for use to try and stop plagiarism and cheating but these only work to a certain extent and largely try to spot changes in writing style or word usage to highlight the possibility of plagiarism. If the whole essay is plagiarized, these do not work.
Cheating has become a kind of game with some students and the fact that so much assessment can be done out of school in the form of projects, assignments and practical subjects does not stop those with parents in the know to ask for their help, putting those with parents less familiar with a field at a disadvantage. The unfairness of this can lead to temptation. For example, a student I knew had a father who was a carpenter. His project for wood work got top marks but the father admitted he had helped him because he could not stand to see the wonky chair his son had made. If that had been my son, wonky chair would have been submitted for assessment!
I do not think students are more dishonest or evil but rather the whole essence of assessment needs to be looked at again and the strong temptation to cheat removed by having more tests and projects in school or college.
Bring back good old exams I say!