If you listen to conversations around support and processes it is surprizing how often the phrase ‘cheat sheet’ is used. What appears to be intended by using the term ‘cheat sheet’ is to represent something that is a quick reference guide or list of shortcuts to make a system, process, or action more streamlined and easier to understand. There are websites devoted to collections of quick reference guides, and one is unfortunately called www.cheat-sheets.org but states that its’ purpose is to provide “All cheat sheets, round-ups, quick reference cards, quick reference guides and quick reference sheets in one page.” However, by using the term ‘cheat sheet’ to refer to a seemingly innocuous list or diagram we are tacitly endorsing the use of the word cheat, and that ‘cheating’ in this instance is acceptable, and ‘cheating’ in other situations is not.

While we are reliant on an individual clearly understanding that there is a vast difference between a ‘quick reference guide’ and cheating in an academic or educational integrity context, this distinction is not as readily apparent to everyone. Children listen to our use of language and would hear the use of ‘cheat sheet’ but not understanding how to separate a reference summary from educational cheating materials promoted by sites selling or sharing academic content.

This understanding is further complicated when companies create games that promote cheating to get ahead. Alarmingly, the Monopoly ‘Cheaters Edition’ rewards cheating where “rules encourage players to express their inner cheater to own it all while they buy, sell, dream, and scheme. Fake a die roll, steal some bills from the bank, and even skip out on rent. Complete a cheat to get a reward, but fail a cheat and pay the consequences” (https://monopoly.hasbro.com/en-gb/product/monopoly-game-cheaters-edition:020C27CB-55DA-442A-B73B-B5C3CED8FCDA ). This promotion of cheating and cheating behaviors to win establishes some dangerous lessons that could impact perceptions and perspectives of what is and is not appropriate in educational and societal situations, particularly when it is promoted as being suitable for ages 8+. Education about integrity needs to occur at every age and stage, and not only in the classroom.

Now I take every opportunity to clarify to my colleagues and friends that I do not endorse or support the use of the term ‘cheat sheet’ in any circumstances. I understand the intent when they are using it, but there are better ways such as using ‘quick reference guide’ that emphasize the usability and avoid the endorsement of the word ‘cheat’. I am striving hard to educate others as to the dangers associated with using the term and interrupt internal meetings to clarify this at every opportunity. So, listen in and see how and when the term is used, and take the opportunity to convert it to another teachable moment about academic integrity and that the fact that cheating is not acceptable.

What steps are you taking to avoid endorsing cheating? Tell us @TweetCAI.