“I do solemnly swear:
“That I, the undersigned, [name and surname]:
Shall not even for a moment look at my classmates’ exams. I shall not copy in any way. If I am caught copying, I agree that my examination paper be confiscated, that I will fail the exam, and that school authorities be informed of my inappropriate conduct.”
This is one of the versions of the oath my students at GEA College had to sign before taking the written part of the exam.
The result of my mini-experiment? Signing the oath actually worked! For at least 20 minutes there wasn’t even a slightest attempt at copying in the classroom.
When I didn’t use the oath, commotion in the classroom quickly started. Of course, students didn’t dare copy in my classes, because I gave a serious warning to every student I would catch copying. Students only copy if they see that they can pull it off, if they see that the teacher is reading a newspaper and has turned a blind eye to them. But when they see that you’re serious, that you mean business, they never even try to cheat.
What can we learn from my mini-experiment? If we want to make people to do something or prevent them from doing something, the chances of achieving this are better if they make a promise in writing. The chance of someone keeping a promise is increased if the promise is given publicly, actively and voluntarily. In my case, by having students sign the oath, I made them promise something actively. The promise was in a way public, because they all had to do it and because we always mentioned the oath at the beginning. The students signed the oath almost voluntarily ( ); otherwise, they could have simply walked away.
It’s interesting what a single signature below some writing can do, isn’t it?