In my Standards-Based Grading post this weekend, Anon Y. Mous asked that I explain the rationale behind each of the core guidelines involved in the S.B.G. system. I think it’s a good suggestion and here is the fourth core guideline. Please comment with any corrections as I am still learning this new system. 🙂
If a student cheats on a test or plagiarizes a paper, his/her grade should not be affected; afterall, cheating is a behavior and not a measure of achievement. Deducting points or giving a zero for academic dishonesty would skew the meaning of a grade and would not be a reflection of what a student can do.
This does not mean, however, that the student goes unpunished. School policies normally dictate that a referral be sent to an administrator (for tracking and penalty). In addition, the student’s parents should be called.
Most importantly though, the real penalty for academic dishonesty should be redoing the work. The student should be forced to complete the assignment and show mastery. Simply giving the student a zero on the assignment does not measure what a student can do or where his/her achievement level lies.
I had a situation this year where a student who had finished a test was helping a student still finishing a test. I asked both to see me after class. I instructed each to have his parents call me that night. That night I received calls from each parent and I had the students do the following:
- compose a letter of apology to me for the dishonesty and detailing how each would regain my trust,
- sign a referral I sent down to the administrator for informational purposes, and
- the student who had not finished the exam had to take a different version.
The parents of each student told me how happy they were that I called, and each was further punished at home. I created a better bond with the parents and–believe it or not–with the students. I sat and chatted with each of the students one on one, and I explained how a betrayal of trust hurts and how they must earn back my trust. Both were contrite and have since been model students. Relationships were strengthened and parent involvement was increased.
Simply giving each a zero and moving on would not have nearly had as much of an effect in my opinion. The incident would’ve passed and a school consequence given, but I doubt I would’ve seen any change in behavior (except that any future cheating would have been better planned). I now know exactly where each student’s mastery level lies, and I sincerely doubt a repeat of this behavior will occur.
Again, a citizenship grade in addition to an academic grade would be practical and appropriate on a report card.
On another level, creating assignments where cheating is very difficult or impossible would greatly reduce the need to monitor students as closely. Carefully crafting writing prompts and performance pieces can be an a possible fix.