One Multifaceted Way to Reduce Cheating When Teaching Remotely

No, it’s not by using a lock-down browser.

Let’s Be Real…Cheating Happens

Let’s think about what is going to happen when you combine online students with in-person students in a synchronous classroom. The students online have the advantage of being able to cheat without the teacher being able to see what they are doing, even if the teacher is closely monitoring the virtual meeting.

Yes, you can scramble the questions and answer choices.

Yes, you can create two forms of the test.

They will still figure out how to cheat, especially if you are testing them to death, which many teachers are wont to do. Many of us are trying to give students many opportunities to earn points and earn a good grade, so there are multiple quizzes and tests within a marking period. We have good intentions. We are helping them play the GPA game, maintain their rank, etc. However, if each test is an essay test, most teachers would go crazy trying to grade them all fairly and effectively. Therefore, we use methods that are almost always graded for us: multiple choice, short answer, matching, and so forth. Right?

Human beings learn to be more efficient in many ways; some of them are at the expense of others. Cheating is one. In the business world, managers will try to take credit for the work of their team, even if they had nothing to do with the work product. That’s cheating too. Nothing is more repulsive to me than that behavior. I don’t care if managers also say they have to take full responsibility for team failures too. That reasoning isn’t good enough.

In the programming world, a world from which I came, people have mastered the art of efficiency. It’s what has made open source so popular. Please, take my code! Make it work for you! We allow people to take code snippets and widgets and put them into their programs, all for the sake of convenience and rapid development. Think Bootstrap. Think jQuery. Think of all the queries you’ve done against data. In my opinion, that is ok. People expect you won’t reinvent the wheel with each program. The developers hand out their code willingly, and even produce links to embed style sheets and code into your own code so it will call their site instead of asking you to put their code into yours. If they know and approve, is it still plagiarism?

In the academic world, it sure is. In the programming world, eh, not so much. It’s sharing and no one expects every developer to start from the beginning each time they start a new project. In academics though, especially when sources aren’t cited, it is plagiarism. It’s cheating. In my mind, it’s as repulsive as the manager taking credit for a team’s success without acknowledging the hard work of individuals.

When I catch a plagiarist, I go ballistic.

The More They Create, and the Less You Create, the More Ownership They Will Assume.

Since we already have enough this year to be wary of and upset about, shouldn’t we try to eliminate at least one source of frustration? I’m going to do my best.

Use Multiple Choice, Fill-in-the Blank, and Matching Quizzes for Formative Assessment Only

These type of assessment questions have their place and fit nicely with other forms of formative assessment. Instead of entering a score for the number correct, give the students a handful of completion points. Students can identify their strengths and weakness so that they can focus their studies on personal needs. Teachers can identify class and individual strengths and weaknesses so they can reteach what the students need retaught. This prep work can help everyone be more successful. Teachers and students will feel more confident approaching a more rigorous examination. That extra confidence might curtail cheating, because the students will feel they can do the work on their own since they are prepared.

Use Authentic Assessments That Help Students Express Pride in Their Progress

Authentic assessments, those which ask “the student to ‘do’ the subject”; simulates ways in adults work in the adult world (yes, that includes guidance for future teachers!); are rigorous and require critical thinking and other 21st century skills; and allow “appropriate opportunities to rehearse, practice, consult resources, and get feedback on and refine performances and products.”

For some reason, as I typing the previous paragraph, I was thinking of Hogwarts. What if the wizards had released Harry, Hermione, and Ron into the world with ONLY textbook knowledge or other vicarious experiences? Sure, they tried to protect the young wizards by forbidding magic outside school. Still, they had authentic experiences. But do you think they would have fared well without them? I just remember all those crazy experiments and other activities they sprinkled through the books and in the movies. What if the young wizards only had those experiences through video, passive learning, or reading? I shudder as I think about it, even though it might prove to be great fiction.

Authentic assessments are not just teacher-created. That is what makes them cool. Teachers and students work together on it, so both understand what is expected from the other. How it works in the adult world: a manager sits down with a teammate for a conversation about what is expected, provides resources for the teammate to be successful, and establishes regular check-in meetings with the teammate to support progress. Additionally, a good manager listens to the teammate express concerns and answers questions; a good manager also changes course upon feedback from the teammate. Teachers and students can replicate this process with a conference during which they develop the assessment together, develop the rubric together from a sample, and discuss the challenges the student will face. They can also establish future conferences to discuss emerging challenges and celebrate victories.

But Heather, you might say, I have 150 students! How am I supposed to do this? I would say it could be done this way.

  • Pick a course or section you think will benefit MOST from this type of assessment. You don’t have to do this with each class you have at the same time.
  • Design a general “authentic assessment” that offers choices to students that they can mix for their own project. Hyperdocs are good for this. Use a theme, a concept, or a skill to focus the students. Try to ensure that it can apply to future experiences, so it answers the question, “Why do I have to do this?”
  • Hold a “group” conference for each class, during which you introduce the assessment and the sample rubric for the assessment.
  • Show them a sample project plan, which will help them to organize their time, tasks, and steps. Project planning is a terrific 21st century skill to foster.
  • Explain to them that you want them to come up with an assessment that suits them using the general guidelines you provided.
  • Let them work on project development in a collaborative document they share with you (Google Docs or Google Sheets, for example) and respond to the comments as they come up. Some students will be fine; others will need a bit of help. Set a deadline and be sure to give them credit for their hard work.
  • Evaluate their progress and rubric before they start the project. Once you release them to start working, continue to be open to asynchronous communication about their progress.
  • Let students help each other. Provide class time for them to work with their peers before coming to you with questions. Sometimes, peers can explain things to each other better than teachers can (the same is true with managers and reports).
  • Be generous with deadlines, especially the first time around.
  • Celebrate everyone’s work, especially the first time around.
  • Put their work to use, so it does feel authentic.
    • For example:
      • Infographics: If you are lucky enough to have a poster printer, print them and display them. Ask the students to present their infographic to the class. Many students need help with public speaking. The more we have to social distance, the more we need to collaborate verbally. Students will need these skills to succeed.
      • Presentations: Ask the students to walk through the presentation with the class. Perhaps the students could even create a short quiz for the students to take after the presentation. Future teachers will appreciate the practice!
      • Podcasts and Videos: Assign the media to the other students and have them complete discussion postings in which they offer constructive, respectful feedback. Discussion forums are still a thing; learning how to create posts that don’t “flame” other people is a critical skill.
      • Portfolios: Help the students create a virtual gallery walk with their portfolios. Tools like Wakelet, Padlet, and others can help with this. Let the other students evaluate the portfolios, like aspects of them, and make constructive comments about portfolio elements.
      • Reports: Compile reports into an e-book that students can share with friends, family, and others in school.

If you have more ideas, I would love to read them!

Final Words

Once we acknowledge humans are efficient creatures, but we also want to be proud of ourselves and our work, I think we can see possibilities for assessment that go beyond our comfort zone. Authentic and open-ended assessments bolstered by formative assessments are one way to help students build the confidence they need to put the urge to cheat aside and produce work of which they can be proud.

2 Comments

  1. Absolutely wonderful suggestions! I love the analogy of authentic assessment and Harry, Hermione and Ron. Give the students chances to create wonderful things.

    Liked by 1 person

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