Day 28: Cheating(?)


Today was Quiz Day again. I use Standards-Based Grading. Students may initiate their own assessments to show me they have mastered concepts they missed on an in class quiz. There is no limit to how many times they can reassess, though for my sanity I limit reassessments to certain days with no more than 3 concepts per reassessment. With this kind of low-stress system, there is no incentive to cheat.

I also give students the opportunity to check their work and give themselves feedback using orange pens as soon as they complete a quiz. I feel that kind of immediate feedback is more helpful than waiting for me to grade and hand back quizzes. They also get to see my worked out examples as exemplary work (something they didn’t see when I graded quizzes).

It’s a win-win situation, right? Students can learn at their own pace, they get immediate and meaningful feedback, and my grading load is a bit easier when students have already given themselves the feedback they need. But then I saw the quiz pictured above. While I didn’t actually witness any cheating (I was helping some students at other answers stations with questions and talking about capstone projects with other students), I have a sinking feeling the work displayed wasn’t honest. Particularly the work for the problem on the second page:

xstart + 40 m = 10 m
xstart = -30 m

The xstart notation is something I’ve never used in class before. We’ve been relying on reasoning, rather than formal equations, so they wouldn’t understand traditional notation like xi and x0. Add to that the scratched out work on the front, and the similar wording/phrasing in the answers, I know beyond a reasonable doubt that this student made a poor choice.

But why? The stakes are low. Reassessment opportunities abound. My guess is that this is a case of laziness-induced cheating.

Since I didn’t see the student copying off the key in black pen, I have little recourse for disciplinary action. (Trust me, I’ve tried. In my district, teacher hunches don’t go very far without hard evidence.)

So now what?


About Frank Noschese

HS Physics Teacher constantly questioning my teaching.

5 responses to “Day 28: Cheating(?)”

  1. Anonymous says :

    I agree there’s little you can probably do, but it might be good for the student to know you are suspicious of the behavior. Maybe it iss just laziness and maybe it won’t make a difference, but then again, maybe the student will reconsider his actions or perhaps even confess and learn from the mistake.

  2. Jason Buell says :

    One thing I’d add to the low-stress issue is that I try to emphasize that the test != their standard score. It’s just one of many ways I get information about what they know. I’m also looking for a sustained level of performance. Combine the two and this applies well for situations like this, where I can’t really be sure that Student A made this huge leap. I just tell them that even though they did well on the last quiz, they haven’t shown the same mastery in (labs/discussions/whiteboarding/classwork/etc) and will need to continue to demonstrate mastery in all areas, including another quiz.

  3. Geoff Schmit says :

    For the next quiz, ensure that this student sees a key with incorrect answers. (I realize that this may be difficult with your setup.) While a conversation with a student or parent is challenging when all you have is that the student did better than you think they should, a conversation is much more effective when their blatantly incorrect answers match the key that they shouldn’t have seen yet.

  4. Brent Olyowski says :

    My first reaction to your post is who is the student cheating? I think they are cheating themselves. I definitely would be having a chat about integrity or pride to this student. I teach at a school where everyone has to get an A to get into college and get a scholarship. I feel your pain when you try to make the stakes less to get an honest assessment of what they know or do not know. I don’t think I would lose any sleep over this. In the long run this student is probably going to do things the heard way and it will catch up to them.

  5. Tom Nelson says :

    A corollary to standards based grading could be that students must be able to verbally defend their demonstration of mastery or they must reprove it on a new quiz — or the same one with slight tweaks. It’s quick & easy for the teacher and it addresses the effect of laziness immediately and viscerally. (Humiliation is horrible for learning, so one has to make sure the process preserves dignity.)

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