Grade the work, not the behavior

Grade the Work, Not the Behavior, writes Cindi Rigsbee on Education Week Teacher, hitting a topic that Cal has raised in the comments. A middle-school English teacher, Rigsbee no longer gives a zero for cheating, she explains.

I now respond by reassigning the work or re-administering the test by making it different and, if possible, more rigorous. For example, what was at first a multiple-choice quiz may become an essay when I retest the student. Yes, it’s more time-consuming than ripping up the original work and giving a zero — but it’s worth it to me to actually be able to assess whether or not my students have met my learning goals. I can’t determine that if they never do the work.

When students aren’t doing homework, she calls them to her desk for a “grade conference,” and lets them make up late assignments — up to a point.

My mantra of “I just want them to do the work” has to be balanced with “I can’t grade 97 late assignments, some from the first week of the grading period, the night before my grades are due.” Determining how much late work to accept is, of course, a personal choice driven by individual teaching philosophies (and in some cases, schoolwide policies). But it is important that makeup work requirements are communicated early and often to students and parents.

She also takes away privileges, such as eating lunch with friends, if students fail to complete their work. “After all, who wants to sit with me, completing work that should’ve been done three days ago, when they could be solving middle school dramas with their friends?”  Her philosophy is “harass till they pass.”

Rigsbee also warns students that other teachers may not give  them a second chance and that cheating in college or work will have dire consequences.

This sounds like more work for the teacher. Is it worth it?

 

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Comments

  1. “Rigsbee also warns students that other teachers may not give them a second chance and that cheating in college or work will have dire consequences.”

    The funny thing is, they arrive at the college level, continue cheating and plagiarizing, and when caught they say, “But I didn’t know that was cheating!” And at that level, the consequences can be nasty. Do them a favor, give them a zero when it doesn’t really count, and move on. The severity of the penalty needs to reflect that 4 times out of 5 when they are cheating, you don’t catch them.

  2. “I now respond by reassigning the work or re-administering the test by making it different and, if possible, more rigorous. For example, what was at first a multiple-choice quiz may become an essay when I retest the student.”

    If the grades are supposed to reflect student learning, and the teacher makes the retake harder then the grades on the retake do not reflect the same thing as the other students grades who did not have to take the retake.

    I’m more apt to just say they get a zero for cheating. Sure, it doesn’t reflect their knowledge but I can’t assess a student’s knowledge unless they accurately put down their knowledge on paper. If they chose not to, then that is too bad. This doesn’t just apply to cheating, but also to a student who may be brilliant but doesn’t really feel like taking the time to answer the whole problem.

  3. Whenever this topic comes up, I merely reply that part of what I am assessing is the ability to do the assignment without cheating.

  4. I use “null grade” a lot. A kid doesn’t do homework, it’s not a zero. There’s just no grade. It doesn’t help them, but it doesn’t hurt them.

    On cheating, I give them a zero until the next test that they pass without cheating. After that, it’s a null grade.

    However, I should say that I work with kids for whom cheating is simply a strategy for passing math–that is, they are feeling hopeless and are just trying to get a D. After I explain that they are better off working in class and doing their best on tests, since I guarantee that they will pass.

    If I had kids who were actively cheating to get a high grade–that is, their C knowledge bumped to an A, I’m not sure what I would do. Kids can be stupid.

  5. Honestly, though, if the penalty for cheating is ‘redo’, what dissuades people from trying it?

    If the only penalty for speeding were getting pulled over and yelled at by a cop and then driving on your merry way a bit slower, I’d be at 70 on the rural roads and 90 on the expressway. I don’t do that because I don’t like paying tickets.

  6. Hainish says:

    Kiana – Maybe they lose a field trip, or lunchroom privileges, or get benched in sports. There are many consequences apart from grades.

  7. Well,

    As someone who holds IT certifications, the way the exams are given, it’s very difficult to cheat, since the exams are proctored, and the questions for each test taker is in a different order, so what is on one person’s screen is a different question on a different one. The exam also gives you the pass/fail grade which results on each section of the exam.

    When I attended high school and college, the penalty for cheating on a examination was a zero, and being caught a second time usually meant (in college) being administratively dropped from the course in question. If students want to cheat, it will catch up with them later in life (real world examples of this are the former CEO of Yahoo (claimed a degree he didn’t earn), Blair Hornstein, who had her admission to Harvard withdrawn due to plagarism, and Laura Callahan, who used to work in the white house, and later for DHS, claiming three degrees from a diploma mill (she eventually left the agency under fire).