When my students sat down to take their first test today, I handed out a piece of paper for them to sign and use as scratch paper. It said:
I certify that this test represents my own work and thought processes, and that I did not refer to or use answers from another person.
... and it had a line for signature. Why did I make junior-level biochemistry students at a Christian liberal-arts college sign this? One reason is we're 50 students crammed into a classroom elbow-to-elbow. Another reason is I had a particular problem with this last year. But the prime reason is when I read Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely this summer, he gave the results of an experiment that shows that just being reminded of a moral code, whether the Ten Commandments or a non-existent school honor code, brought cheating on a test way down.
So, to my students, I realize it's a silly reminder. I trust you. But I can't watch everyone at every moment, and if I can do something simple that makes my evaluation of you more accurate, it's better in the long run.
At least I'm counting on that fact. I wonder if the fact of handing out a "contract" like that makes my relationship with the students more economic/transactional and may have unintended consequences?
Yes, I do some experiments in the lab, but the experiments in the classroom (like this) are just as important and the outcomes just as unknown.