Repair Kit Study Guide: bonus points and cheating

Ok on to the next two questions about awarding bonus/extra credit points and zeroes for cheating.

3) I give bonus points for extra credit.

For frequency of this one I chose sometimes because yes I have done this but never enough for it to make a difference in the grade, well at least not anymore.  In my first few years of teaching I gave out reward coupons that included one free answer on a test (no more than 5 points), extra point on a test (1 per coupon, no more than 5 per test), free homework pass, extra points on homework, and I think there might have been more.  I got over that idea pretty quickly for the precise reason that I wanted my students scores to reflect their learning not their behavior which was usually how they earned the coupons.

One of the only extra credit opportunities I have offered in the past several years was five points for attending and leading conferences with their parents.  Student-led conferences were not the norm in my building but I found it to be a valuable experience for all sides.  However 5 points for was virtually nothing when students had the possibility of several hundred to one thousand points total for a quarter (yep sorry guys if any of you are reading this) but as they didn’t know that at the time it was a great incentive to get them to conferences.  This then raises a question of morality in some I’m sure, feeling that I lied to students, however I never stated that those 5 points would help their grades.  At progress report time I handed out a report to each student with all assignments listed, all points earned including those 5, and total points possible.  I might continue this when I get another classroom if I am in a building that does not use student-led conferences or I might offer another non-grade related reward.

4) I reduce marks/grades for cheating.

Always, that was a simple one to answer.  I have always reduced grades or given zeroes for cheating.  I have never had to make a decision to do otherwise.  Academic Dishonesty and it’s consequences have always been clearly spelled out in school handbooks.  To my surprise the first year I taught I read what I had never realized was part of that standard policy, talking during a quiz or test was considered cheating as the teacher can not hear what is being said.  It bothered me to assume students were guilty rather than give them the benefit of the doubt but as it was district/school policy I instituted it.  I made it a practice though to read that section of the handbook immediately before handing out the first test of the year and repeating that information each test day.  I do believe there need to be consequences for cheating/plagiarism however I also feel it is important to know why the student cheated.  Whenever this happened I tried to find out the reason.  I wanted to know if the student didn’t have time to study, didn’t understand the material, or if there was some other reason.  This made a difference to me in my approach to the principal and parents. If a student didn’t have time to study I offered for them to come in before or after school.  I issued the same offer for students who didn’t understand the material.  Teachers and administrators need to be sure they look beyond the behavior to the student and their thoughts rather than blindly assigning consequences.  I think most do, unfortunately there are those out there that don’t

So opinions on these two questions?

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