This week’s texts seemed to be more concerned with placing blame for acts of academic misconduct that with the possible positive outcomes of intervention, and I’m not convinced that this is the best approach to discourage the practice or to teach graduate students about their role in the system.
For example, in Jason Stephens’ presentation for Turnitin.com, he calls on teachers to take steps to reduce the temptation for students to cheat. Much of his talk concerns the motivations for students, which I would agree is somewhat informative for our practices as instructors, but the only component of his presentation that I felt was particularly useful was his discussion of goals based on performance versus mastery. Addressing this in our classrooms as instructors is not about removing the temptation to cheat. Making sure that we are assessing students in a way that conveys the importance of mastery instead of meeting temporal performance goals should be a pedagogical concern that informs every decision we make about teaching. It was this disconnect that seemed problematic for me in Stephens’ talk. While he talked a little about approaches from a K-12 perspective, he didn’t really offer anything for high education instructors except a generalized view of why students cheat so that we can place the blame in the right place.
Furthermore, I found “The Lab” frustrating as an instructional tool. It didn’t really create a positive perception of standing by your principles and, ultimately, showed that the graduate student who raised the issue was the only one negatively impacted by her supposedly “right” action. By not showing the offending postdoc (in the graduate student version) being penalized and just showing the complainant being displaced and inconvenience, “The Lab” may be further discouraging students from coming forward. “The Lab” did force me to consider the policies at VT has in place for whistle-blower protection. In the workplace, a supervisor reacting the way the PI did in this example would be grounds for further investigation and possibly sanctions. Not seeing any negative outcomes for the “bad actors” in this examples does not do much to support the idea that it is our job to speak up so that things can be set right.
From my perspective and in my field, the best ways to discourage academic dishonesty are to:
1) Create a classroom community that values individuals and growth.
2) Use an assessment system that encourages incremental assessment and indivicual improvements.
3) Ask students to complete assignments that require kairotic critical-thinking instead of asking them to complete the same assignments students have been writing for decades.
4) Set clear boundaries and expectations for students and student work.
These strategies are not directly transferable to all disciplines, but I think that they would be a good place for anyone to start thinking about their own pedagogy.