Cheating is Natural
How’s that for a sensationalist title?
This post is spurred on by a trend resulting from remote teaching. Students and faculty that are not familiar with remote teaching can fall into some common issues not seen with face-to-face instruction. Many of these issues are salient in our student’s (lack of) understanding material, and we have taken great pains to facilitate learning on their terms.
Yes, you can make an argument for a change in academic rigor, but being flexible can mean the difference between a graduate and a dropout.
But this isn’t my primary point. Incidence rates of academic misconduct have been on the rise. But before we leap to conclusion about the crumbling moral infrastructure of society, I’d like to point some things out.
First, from an exercise perspective (Sorry, when you’re a hammer, every problem is a nail), people naturally want to cheat. “Bad form” in lifting results from your brain just trying to get the work done however it can. It doesn’t know the difference between proper and improper form. It’s required that we learn proper form to limit injury and increase performance in the long run.
The cognitive domain can be similar. The natural tendency is to use whatever resources you have to do the work. And just like lifting weights, the first thought of a brain is to “change your mechanics to get the work done, sans moral or ethical values.
Thus, we train our children to “use proper form” in school to help them develop their skills. But here comes technology to screw all that up. I know I was told in elementary school that ‘you aren’t going to have a calculator on you all the time, so memorize X, Y and Z.’ Well, now we have most of societies acquired knowledge in our pockets.
To stem the use of this ever-so-tempting resource we have closed note and closed book tests. And in the remote realm, we have programs and services that act as proctors (like Proctorio). These are great resources to keep students from slipping into an easy way out.
Occam’s Razor: Less tech options
A better way to leverage this change is to understand how questions are being asked. Here are some strategies that can be implemented to limit the urge or ability of students to do a little googling mid-exam:
- Use Bloom’s Taxonomy to apply higher order thinking with the material. Analyzing and synthesizing are much more difficult to find clear cut answers for.
- Create your own questions/reword questions. While it’s easy to say “these questions are shown to be effective so I’m not going to change them”, the internet age makes specific information more and more available as time passes. Your exact questions may be posted somewhere, particularly if it is from a commonly used question bank.
- Lastly, ask for justification or the reasoning involved in their answer. This can indicate quite clearly if the student doesn’t know the material.
For more information on this check out the Center for Teaching and Learning’s (CTL) recent blog post, and a simple document outlining these strategies as well as some others.
Take care, and enjoy our winter wonderland.
Instructor of Kinesiology