Repair Kit Fix 4: academic dishonesty

Don’t punish academic dishonesty with reduced grades; apply other consequences and reassess to determine actual level of achievement.

Initial Thoughts: This is a big big controversy.  I think it is this fix more than any other that has people so up in arms about lowering standards.  While the last fix was a very short post this one will not be.  The idea of 0s for cheating I believe was probably not only intended as a punitive measure but also as a deterrent.  The thinking being if we tell students “If you cheat you will fail.” they won’t cheat and yet it still happens be that because of kids thinking they won’t get caught, desperation due to lack of studying, test anxiety (there’s that term again) ironically fear of failure, or any number of other reasons.  I have tried in the past to determine why a student cheated/plagiarised though I have not been allowed the flexibility to give them a second chance, or at least due to student handbooks I didn’t feel I had the flexibility to allow a second chance.  I wonder if flexible deadline discussed in fix 2, would lead to less plagiarism.  I imagine behavioral consequences might include the same before/after school work time as late work, separate testing place during the same time, phone call home, contract with teacher, wtc.  Guess I might find out as I read.

On page 39 I found this: “They believe that teachers must make their expectations clear and explicit and should talk about academic integrity with their students to help them understand why it is so important.  They also believe that teachers should not assume that students understand exactly what they mean by the terms plagiarism or cheating.”

This thinking is why at the beginning of each year I read through the academic dishonesty section of the school handbook with my classes.  I reviewed this again immediately before the first exam.  When we did research projects reviewed plagiarism.  With that said I really like the definition in the book that came directly out of a school handbook.  They are very clear and easy to understand.  The list of tips for teachers to help prevent cheating and plagiarism are definitely helpful, I’ll be keeping a copy with my plan book.

“ Effective policies first and foremost recognize that academic dishonesty is very serious inappropriate behavior equivalent to theft and as such require primarily behavioral consequences.” (page 40)

I’ve never thought about it this way before but it certainly does put it into perspective.  If we give automatic zeroes we’re not getting an accurate view of student learning and much like point penalties for late work it doesn’t prevent it from happening.  I wonder if making the student retake the assessment or redo the work would be more effective.

A policy example is provided on page 41 and on page 42 the author points out that the consequence of suspension from all extracurricular activities would not work for non-participators.  This is true maybe broadening the definition of extracurricular activities would help.  If it includes all before and after school activities  other than tutoring – dances, attending games, all clubs, etc. this would reach more students.

I agree that an appeals process be a part of any policy.  What a great way to teach students to take responsibility and state their case clearly and with support.

Student Involvement: “Frequent discussions about academic dishonesty…honor code that requires students to attach a statement to all assessments that they have not cheated or plagiarised..Obviously this would not prevent academic dishonesty, but students  who reflect on this issue for each assessment are likely to develop a clearer understanding of what academic dishonesty requires.”

This sentence ends oddly for me, the word requires just seems strange in this instance.  I expected the sentence to end with a better understanding of academic dishonesty but requires as in we’re asking students to think about what it takes to be academically dishonest.  I do like that idea; I like the idea that children have to be honest with themselves and recognize that to cheat or plagiarize they have to lie, that maybe they will realize that they are cheating themselves.

Summary: “When a teacher uses grades as punishment for student behaviors, the teacher establishes an adversarial relationship in which grades are no longer meaningful to students as indicators of their accomplishment.”

It can be hard enough for teachers to connect with students these days.  Some children are brought up in houses where they are taught everyone in authority is out to get them.  Other students struggle to learn  to read and write.  When we use grades as a punishment we absolutely do create an adversarial position.  We push students away, break connections we have made, teach or prove to them that we ARE out to get them.  Rather if we give behavioral consequences and explain to both students and parents alike that it is to be sure that they are showing what they really know because we know they are capable of doing the work we are building relationships.

We are raising standards and expectations for students NOT lowering them.


So I think it’s obvious this chapter changed my thinking.  How about yours?




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