To banish cheating in school, we must change the culture of school. To change the culture, we have to measure what matters.
Students don’t cheat when the culture values speaking up, asking questions, and making a difference to others, because cheating serves no purpose. When students are on a mission, pursuing meaningful goals, solving problems, and learning from mistakes, cheating doesn’t make much sense.
The behavior of students in a school is mostly determined by the culture of the school. The school culture is manifest in every aspect, including how students are greeted and welcomed, how teachers spend their time and treat one another, the language people use, the symbols on the walls, the art in the halls, our rituals, etc.
Award ceremonies and other systems of rewards and punishments, in particular how students are graded are important examples of culture. What’s on their grading list and certificate? What do we really expect of them? The learning outcomes and the certificate is, after all, literally the ‘bottom line’.
measuring what matters
Their is a big difference between ‘learning’ and ‘mastery’. When it comes to grading most often only mastery is valued. At the same time we know the limited impact of mastering and the great potential of learning. So why don’t value learning? Yes you can measure learning. To be rigorous I picked ten observable behaviours:
1. Asks questions;
2. Builds on other people’s ideas;
3. Uses mistakes as learning opportunities;
4. Takes criticism constructively;
5. Speaks up;
6. Welcomes a challenge;
7. Takes risks;
8. Listens with an openness to change;
9. Perseveres in tasks;
10. Decides when to lead and when to follow.
Graded on a four point scale of 4=consistently, 3=often, 2=sometimes, 1=rarely, students could set goals to improve their learning. When students feel they can control their own progress toward success, the whole school takes another step toward being a true learning community.
relationship between cheating and learning
If there are only a few narrow measures of success, then winning in school looks hopeless for some. Cheating becomes a good strategy for winning at school. The fact that cheating is an epidemic in many schools across the country is evidence of what we already know. Schooling is to often not an education because the emphasis is on measuring mastery.
To eliminate cheating, we must refocus all elements of school culture so that achievement is not an end in itself, but a function of learning.
We can teach values till our faces get red, but students are mainly focused on learning how to play the game. Therefore, we must redesign the game to get better results. Aligning elements of culture to support learning produces not just higher academic achievement, but the kind of workers, citizens and neighbours our world needs. When learning comes first, cheating doesn’t make sense.