Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Day 55 (Round IV) "In the trenches": bootlegged edition

Another day with too many events and too little time, so here's a comment bootlegged from over at Dean Dad, again: one more once on ethics:

I have the good fortune to teach in an academic discipline (music history) in which cheating is comparatively irrelevant to issues of student assessment. On the studio-performance side of things, it's not possible for a student to "cheat" his/her way into having the musical/instrumental/vocal skills required to pass a weekly music lesson. On the academic/history/music-theory side, it is still comparatively impossible for a student to "fake" or cheat his/her way into a passing grade. Here are some ways we cope:

1) we use multiple iterations of assessment: 3 exams, 5 quizzes, 6-10 online assignments, a writing project in 6 assessed stages, plus in-class attendance and participation. We do this with sections of 80-100 students and 2 TA's in addition to the instructor of record. It is not much possible for a student to "cheat" his/her way through so many separate assessments.

2) we of course take all the appropriate stages to "control test security" in the classroom and in online testing.

3) we require students themselves to "maintain their own test security"--telling students during a quiz or test that if they observe someone else cheating, they are enjoined to report that behavior in order to protect their own academic ethics.

4) we talk about ethics and right-conduct. In fact, I use the analogy of music lessons and ensemble rehearsals, saying "well, you couldn't cheat your way through a rehearsal, could you? If you did, you'd get cut and somebody else would take your place." We also articulate, early and often, that "cheating" is a fast track to failure in acquiring the skills for success in the professional world of music.

5) we frame ethics versus cheating as an issue of peer respect and peer pressure, saying that "somebody who is cheating, or talking, or texting, or otherwise misbehaving during a class or lecture is taking something from you; don't let them do it!" We find that, often, students who either passively accept cheating, or even engage in it themselves, would actually prefer not to, if they feel empowered by their teachers and by their learning situations to resist unethical behavior.

6) finally, we model these behaviors. Young people, as the above article makes clear, are not given clear messages about the social, community, and personal damage wrought by unethical behavior. But we operate from a presumption that, at some level, even students who have been given bad or no messages about ethical behavior actually will respond favorably and constructively to more positive role modeling.

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