Docsplainin' -- it's what I do

Docsplainin'--it's what I do.
After all, I'm a doc, aren't I?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Academic Integrity

Or, Are We Having Fun Yet?

I have always prided myself on my relationship with my students. I treat them like, if not colleagues, then junior associates--like the young professionals that they are becoming. And I thought I was getting equal respect in return. I trust them, and I thought that they were living up to the expectation that they would behave in a trustworthy manner. As a result, I have never thought I had much trouble in my classes with cheating.

I also thought we were on the same side here: They are in school to learn, and I am in school to teach.

But then I read a novel in which (have I told you this story already?) two high school kids were texting answers back and forth during an exam, and dissing the professor as naïve because he didn't walk the aisles during the test. Walk the aisles!? Are you kidding me?

But I did watch my class a little closer during the first test this semester, and lo and behold, I think I did see one pair of wandering eyeballs. But I couldn't be sure.

Then, last week I went to a workshop presented by Beth Kirsner, Ph.D., who is doing some research in the area of academic integrity. According to some very preliminary data she has, there's a lot more cheating going on than I had ever suspected. By extrapolation, there's a lot going on in my classes that I'm not catching. In fact, if I'm reading Dr. Kirsner's survey results correctly, every semester at least a few students are copying another student's test paper, letting other students copy their test papers, copying passages from the internet and not citing them, and the like. The only good news in her data so far is that nobody seems to be buying term papers on the net.

So what's really going on, apparently, is that my students and I are on opposite sides in a tug of war. I have the grade, and they wish to take it from me.

In sum, it seems that I have been terribly naïve.


Tanya Derbowka said...

Maybe we should just ditch the marking and grading system altogether. After all, they want a high rank, and they know how to play the game to get it. Why do we blame the students for cheating, when we make it so rewarding and worthwhile?

Virginia S. Wood, PsyD said...

Unfortunately, they have to learn the stuff in order to eventually practice competently, and without grades there's no way to establish whether they've learned anything. Last semester, however, everything was open book, open note, and collaborative--even the final--and that seemed to work pretty well.