Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Cheating...I mean on tests. Why bother?

The situation was this; I gave a test in both of my Communication classes yesterday. The test is in two parts, one on paper, the other spoken. Students begin to write their paper test, and then I start calling pairs of students up so that they can do the spoken portion of the exam. In both classes students used this a signal to break out their textbooks and start looking up answers to the test or to practice for the speaking test. I took the offender's test papers away and sent them packing. They will have the opportunity to take it again.

My quandry is why they did it. It is a low-stakes test. They can retake the test as many times as they would like until they are satisfied, assuming they have taken the test the day it is first given. They had copies of the actual test one week before the actual test. I gave copies to them and went over the whole thing in class. I am in my office and online every day except Saturdays and Sundays, and sometimes even then.

My conclusion is that they do not understand low-stakes tests. They have only ever had high-stakes, low predictability, timed and tricky tests. When given one that is perfectly transparent, they may not know how to prepare or behave during administration of the test. They probably are not used to taking responsibility for themselves. If they don't know an answer or answers, they can simply let it go, and take responsiblity for not knowing. They can also choose to break out their text, and be held responsible for cheating.

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