I have always thought that students that cut corners and “cheat” do so out of desperation. I thought that if I can just support student’s learning then they won’t feel the need to cut corners. My recent awareness that there are hundreds of homework sites that essentially provide students with answers to assignments and tests was disappointing. I think that it was disappointing because is seemed to perpetuate the antagonistic relationship of teacher and student which seems counterintuitive to the supportive teacher that I aim to be. When I saw Dave Cormier’s invitation on Twitter to hear his CoOp students talk about their experiences with homework sites and how Open pedagogy could provide part of a solution…. well, I was in. The following reflection is my contribution to Conestoga College’s share-back session for #OEWeek 2021.
Themes from the Presentation
Student’s perceive that the faculty response to “homework sites” like Chegg has been to create assignments and tests that are more difficult, intensive, and time restricted. The thought being there will be no time to search out answers. This has resulted in a greater number of students going direct to Chegg for the answer than before. On the surface homework sites appear to provide help with homework by allowing students to verify their answers once they have completed their work. As one student presenter commented “co-students have completed their work but they want to make sure they got the answer correct so that their grades do not suffer”.
Chegg is expensive with multiple layers ranging from some limited free options to an expensive subscription. Subsequently, disadvantaging students without the means to pay for subscriptions. That being said there is nothing stopping someone with a subscription from sharing the answers with others and I learned today that there are hundreds of companies that do just that with varying fee structures.
Is Cheating a Faculty Construct?
Since information is readily available on the internet no longer does the faculty or the textbook hold all the answers exclusively. So, faculty respond by making the assessments harder and/or restricted by time. Dave Cormier posed the notion that cheating may be a faculty construct because cheating only happens when faculty withhold the answer. Faculty may construct the notion of cheating by telling students that they can’t see the answer that they must memorize the answer to be regurgitated on a test and then be judged competent or not. By the time a student reaches Higher Ed they believe that this is how “school” works.
In this current way of responding to homework sites faculty are punishing all students even those students who do not want to rely on these types of sites, students who want to engage in their own learning and complete their own work. The term used in today’s presentation was The Assessment Stick. Meaning using the assessment as an extrinsic motivator or worse as a type of punishment.
How Do We Stop Cheating Behaviours?
So the question turned to how than can we stop cheating? The response was faculty need to treat students like the professionals that they are training to be. Faculty need to show students the how and why we choose to layout the course the way that we do. So, that we can prepare students for the occupation that they are training and educating for. We need to inspire intrinsic motivation for completing course work.
Deconstruct our goals for the course, consider why we give students assignments and for what purpose? This requires a degree of self-reflection to really unpack the why and what for in how we prepare courses and assessments. Prepare assignments that introduce students to the work field, habits expected in the work field, and practical context for learning. .
Deconstruct with students their motivations and expectations and re-establish the social contract with students at the beginning of the course. Talk with the student about goals for learning and expectations, agree to those goals and then hold for accountability.
Provide iterative assignments with formative feedback check-ins. Avoid well structured problems and instead provide ill-structured problems. Ill-structured problems are those that are not directly measurable, do not have a solution or clear definition and/or only work on part of the problem. The pushback is that this is difficult in classes with large numbers and will be difficult to manage. The question posed back was do you think what we do know works? Isn’t it always difficult in classes with large numbers?
How Can OPEN Pedagogy Help?
Open Authored Textbooks introduce students to someone doing the work in the field. The Open texts are often networked so opportunities exist for students to make connections in the field of knowledge with a variety of perspectives. Cormier (2021) suggested that we allow students the space to “go down the rabbit holes” with their curiosity subsequently building intrinsic motivation . Click here to learn how to use Wikipedia games for intrinsic motivation.
Open Pedagogy allows for student choice in assignments, be open to how students choose to learn and pick what they want to explore. This doesn’t mean they can just study whatever they want. It requires a collaborative discussion between faculty and student to ensure alignment with the outcomes and goals for the course.
Build Trust with students by deconstructing the power relationships between faculty and student and change from a combative and antagonistic relationship to a trust relationship. Expect pushback, remember students have been doing “school” for many years and have been conditioned to expect “school” experiences in a particular way.
A concern I heard today and one I hear often within my own teaching environment. What do we do about students who are not motivated by a desire to work in this field. A student presenter responded with but many students do care and are invested in their learning what about us? Cormier, suggested that a core value is to design courses and assessments for the student who does care. This is a core value that I share and another reason that I believe open educational practices is the way forward.