Category Archives: Plagiarism

4. Academic Dishonesty Should Not Result in a Lower Grade.

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.

Creating Relevance in the Classroom

One aspect of teaching, which can be quite difficult, is how to make what we teach relevant to students today. Kids seem to think they cannot possibly connect the writings of yesteryear with the hectic, technological, global lives led today; however, creating relevance need not be too difficult.

I teach English and one of my favorite pieces to read (an excerpt anyway) with the kids is Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Not only do the students love the ideas of independence and questioning authority, but they also can quickly apply the principles to their daily lives or to pop culture.

One example right now which fits in quite nicely with Emerson’s teachings is the sports story centering on Brett Favre. I might give a quick rundown about how Brett Favre has decided he does not now want to remain retired and how he would like to return to the NFL as a starting quarterback. I could give a short article from a sports page as well, which wouldn’t be a bad idea, and then give the students this question: “How would Ralph Waldo Emerson feel about Brett Favre’s decision? Use lines from Self-Reliance to support your answer.” Continue reading

Do Kids Possess Honesty and Integrity?

Here is a list of shocking statistics (at least I hope they are shocking) about high school students from the author Betsy Hart:

  • “more than a quarter admitted stealing from a store,”
  • “almost as many [a quarter of the students surveyed] admitted stealing from a relative in the previous year,”
  • “82 percent said they ‘lied to a parent about something significant,'”
  • “60 percent admitted to cheating on a test in school during the previous year,”
  • “one-third of the kids reported that they ‘used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment,'”
  • 92 “percent said they were ‘satisfied with my own ethics and character,'” and
  • “74 percent said ‘when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know.'” Continue reading