Who’s to Blame?

Mr. Jefferey Frieden* recently posed an interesting question to twitter and I would like to take a moment to give my take. Here’s the question:

The answer is A and B. They cheated. There is absolutely nothing wrong with creating an assignment that can be airdropped and copied. Answering questions and prompts on a piece of paper (and many other types of written assignments) can be a great way to assess student learning and provide feedback to students about their learning. Not providing an assignment simply because it could be copied is quite silly. What is asinine is not dealing with the problem behaviors exhibited by the students. There should be a conversation about cheating with the students. There should be a discussion about the ramifications of academic dishonesty at the college level and as a professional. 

For me, this is quite simple to answer. The teacher did nothing wrong. The students did. Ignoring those facts and placing the blame on the teacher is misleading and definitely sends the wrong message to both the teacher and the students. I’m not saying these copyable assignments need to be the end of the learning experience, but they are wonderful for nailing down the knowledge necessary to create the diorama that cannot be copied but will assuredly either collect dust sitting in the teacher’s classroom until the end of the term or be thrown out as soon as the student can get rid of it. 

Let’s not make this any more complicated than it very clearly is…the students cheated. They are in the wrong. Fix that problem behavior. 

Do you agree or disagree?

*I don’t want anyone to read into this post as an indictment of Mr. Frieden. I only know him to be a teacher who works very hard to provide a great environment for learning in his classroom. I am simply answering the question he posed. 

4 comments

  1. The students cheated. They need to be given fails for the assignment and 2 days in school suspension. Cheating is a huge issue. Hit it hard, hit it now and expel repeat offenders

  2. There seems to be an ideology that nothing can possibly be wrong with students, only with teachers. So bad behavior is due to “unmet needs” and cheating on homework is the teacher’s fault for failing to create uncheatable homework. Perhaps the arsonist is blameless and the fault lies with the builder for failing to create untorchable structures.

  3. I both agree and disagree with this. I agree with you that (1) this is cheating and we need to prevent it by punishing the behavior, but also reteaching, and (2) we should correct students when they cheat or make other poor academic decisions. But I also believe that we have to limit easy opportunities for kids to cheat with innovative design and deeper questioning which I think is what Mr. Frieden is suggesting.

    I have done some “field research” on this kind of thing and cheating occurs as a function of opportunity and/or necessity.

    My school used to have a rigorous expectation that 8th graders write super long research papers. Other than research days kids were expected to take care of this as homework. This was happening just as the internet as a research tool really took off even for middle schoolers. Result? Rampant cheating. Over half of kids or more turned in a paper with obvious signs of cheating, and since they’re kids and don’t think things through, they would make it obvious they didn’t do the work (too much academic language and wording no middle schooler uses, lazy copying and pasting where they didn’t even change fonts, etc.). Eventually I/we realized that they viewed the assignment as too high a mountain to climb. So they got a lift–cheating. Once we agreed to shorted the assignment the cheating disappeared.

    Psychology research on this kind of thing (i.e. being bad is more about opportunity than it is about actually being bad) also suggests that If we institute procedures (study carrels and physical separation of students–especially for tests–especially MC tests) and providing models of what to do can reduce this kind of problem.

    On a related note: I have noticed over the years that the kids who did this the most were the busiest kids with the most pressure on them to succeed. When a kid is pushed to be in honor’s everything, orchestra,choir, or band, and in every activity that the school offers, and club/competitive sports outside of school, they never have the time to be able to do all the work from all of those honor’s classes…so they cheat to be able to “do it all”, “have it all”…and then they have terrible academic work habits and their parents are shocked when they become average to below average high school or college students and either don’t finish or barely finish. Ultimately the world is the most consistent teacher with discipline.

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