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Teng Ai Hui

The Education Thread

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Watching the results of the automated online testing of my students come in... On the one hand it's somewhat beautiful how you can test hundreds of students without grading a single paper. On the other hand, part of me wonders what this means for the future of my job...

Well, for better or worse, there's still a bazillion issues (many of them technical, but not all: among other things there's no way you can know who is taking the test) with the system.

It's funny, I'd accepted to spearhead efforts of my department to switch to part-online-teaching the day before confinement began... And now there's no choice but to do it. Again, not sure what that says for the future of my job.

Edited by Rippounet

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Necroing this thread to complain about my highschoolers.

Today was the day of the first test I had to oversee as a high school teacher. At least three of the students were cheating. :angry: I noticed one during class and had a talking to her afterwards - she basically admitted she had a cheat sheet (is that the word for it?) and I said that this time I will grade her, but the next time she shouldn't do it ... etc.

There were also these two students sitting one beside the other (there were sadly not enough desks for everybody to sit apart) and I just saw that one (the best in class in this subject) suggested answers to the other on her tests. I already told them to stop communicating while they were working on their test. While correcting and grading, I noticed the answers for her neighbour's test on her sheet, and the neighbour obviously copied them. (I don't know for how stupid they take me - like I won't notice that you wrote answers to the questions that weren't even on your test and your neighbour had the exact same answers then?)

I think I will have to give them all a negative grade. I am sorry to go back on my word for the first girl - I already told her I would grade her normally (yes, I am way too soft for this job), but I cannot let cheating slide for her and punish the other two - which I obviously have to do cause I have written proof of cheating and they will just repeat this they don't feel some consequence of it.

A coworker has already told me before that this particular group is prone to cheating. I hope the other groups (who get their tests next week, yay) are better than that.

Sigh.

Edited by Buckwheat

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Are you allowed to take video of your class? Or just set up an ostentatious camera, telling them that the cheating has changed your policy. It doesn’t have to be on, but some little recording lights should go on. I would get you fired, I guess?

Plagiarism and cheating are no joke. I knew a very bright guy who later was expelled from second year engineering because of that. You can repeat this. Sad story.

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6 hours ago, Buckwheat said:

Necroing this thread to complain about my highschoolers.

Today was the day of the first test I had to oversee as a high school teacher. At least three of the students were cheating. :angry: I noticed one during class and had a talking to her afterwards - she basically admitted she had a cheat sheet (is that the word for it?) and I said that this time I will grade her, but the next time she shouldn't do it ... etc.

There were also these two students sitting one beside the other (there were sadly not enough desks for everybody to sit apart) and I just saw that one (the best in class in this subject) suggested answers to the other on her tests. I already told them to stop communicating while they were working on their test. While correcting and grading, I noticed the answers for her neighbour's test on her sheet, and the neighbour obviously copied them. (I don't know for how stupid they take me - like I won't notice that you wrote answers to the questions that weren't even on your test and your neighbour had the exact same answers then?)

I think I will have to give them all a negative grade. I am sorry to go back on my word for the first girl - I already told her I would grade her normally (yes, I am way too soft for this job), but I cannot let cheating slide for her and punish the other two - which I obviously have to do cause I have written proof of cheating and they will just repeat this they don't feel some consequence of it.

A coworker has already told me before that this particular group is prone to cheating. I hope the other groups (who get their tests next week, yay) are better than that.

Sigh.

Does your school have an established academic integrity policy or something similar, that clearly spells out what constitutes an integrity infraction and what consequences are (eg: escalating ), and can be used to formally record these incidents? 

As well, having three cases of cheating on the first test you administered as a teacher is indeed a rough beginning and you deserve advice and/or support on how to handle it.  I don't think it reflects badly on you if you were to approach your department head or relevant vice-principal to a) make them aware the class does have repeat offenders in it and b) obtain clearer guidance on how to proceed.

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1 hour ago, Tongue Stuck to Wall said:

Does your school have an established academic integrity policy or something similar, that clearly spells out what constitutes an integrity infraction and what consequences are (eg: escalating ), and can be used to formally record these incidents? 

As well, having three cases of cheating on the first test you administered as a teacher is indeed a rough beginning and you deserve advice and/or support on how to handle it.  I don't think it reflects badly on you if you were to approach your department head or relevant vice-principal to a) make them aware the class does have repeat offenders in it and b) obtain clearer guidance on how to proceed.

Well, the school has rules that are pretty clear - you cheat, you get your test taken away and automatically get a 1 (lowest grade, not enough for passing), so you need to take it again, obviously. I didn't want to do it on my first test because establishing good relations to the students and not being too strict and all, but looks like I will have to follow that.

I have already reached out to two coworkers that will know what to do. I expect them to tell me the same, they have experience with this class too. I know at least one other teacher suspects one of these students of cheating, but hasn't been able to prove it. I am just wondering about if/how to communicate with their class teacher (not sure how you call this position in English? The one teacher who is responsible for behaviour in one class, handling any issues with the students) because she thinks her group can do no wrong and I am afraid she will protect them at all costs.

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Ah, yes, cheating in tests... unfortunately I also had to make my experiences with this and also had the impression that I might be too soft. But I do have to tell you that you should not show mercy when it comes to cheat sheets. That's such a clear violation of trust (and so stupid to boot) that you should not feel bad about ending their exam right then and there. Last year I had indeed such a case where a student put a cheat sheet into her pencil case and placed it prominently right in front of her, which caught my attention immediately. I think it was a useful lesson when looking at how eager she was afterwards to put in a good performance to undo that failed grade. For me it's the talking/copying that gives me some trouble because it's difficult to judge.

In the very first exam I ever wrote I had two girls who sat next to each other during the exam write the exact same absolute nonsense. I didn't know who to punish because I absolutely didn't noticed it (it was a class of 33 students and they were in the corner of the last row), so then I let it go knowing that their grades were bad enough as it is anyway. Now at my current school I have students who have the tendency to dramatically complain when they read the tasks, which always annoys me to hell as I can never be sure that some students aren't using the outrage to give each other some hints. I know colleagues who make a warning example out of the first one to speak during an exam, but from my perspective that's a bit too harsh. I usually try to assert that if they have a question, they can raise their hand and ask it silently without notifying the whole class and that I won't be as merciful when they are still making a ruckus after the first few minutes. There are also a few cases where I overhear students after an exam and learn that someone must have been cheating with one girl complaining that a guy had his phone hidden behind the computer in a computer science exam or one case where I found a cheat sheet stashed in a corner of the room, but couldn't find out who it belonged to. I'm still not sure whether I should have persecuted the guy in the first case, but given that I didn't see it personally, I let it go. There has to be a line where you need to accept that you can only punish the things you have evidence for.

Then again, some students are just plain stupid. I remember vividly one exam during my teacher training where I was still in the process of handing out the exams, turned around and saw how a girl who already had her paper blissfully plugged the headphones of her smartphone into her ears. I think that was the only time where I was genuinely angry about so much stupidity, even feeling hot blood boiling into my face and ears, and couldn't help shouting her down, especially when her response was that she just wanted to hear music during the exam. Weirdly enough, that was so dumb that I knew that it just had to be true, so I just pocketed her phone and let her write the exam without further punishment. I guess it helps that she hadn't written a single sentence at that point.

Ironically last year there was a somewhat similar case where I was not as merciful. That one was in the middle of the exam though, where I noticed one girl wrapping her jacket around her waist, but had both hands in it, was highly focused looking down and made obvious typing movements with her arms. I approached her and thought I give her the benefit of the doubt and just ordered her to put away her jacket. Her startled knee-jerk reaction however was to frantically throw her phone into her neighbors bag right in my line of sight. That was so stupid it left me no choice but to say that her exam is finished, but unfortunately she decided to fight that decision, vehemently refusing to give me her paper and leave, shouting that I was a liar and claiming I have no evidence that this is her phone. Since at that point the whole class was watching the ruckus, I decided to just shrug and have her finish the exam, because I would still be the one to grade it afterwards and still gave it a 6 (the worst mark) anyway. She made a fuzz later on, complaining at the headmaster about me, but nobody questioned what I saw, so nothing ever came of it. It's just vexing that it caused such a conflict, though admittedly it never happened again with her (the cheating that is, she had always been absurdly adversary when it comes to grades).

Edited by Toth

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Arranging kids by alphabetical order or some other imposed order can scuttle plans. But talk up policy about cheating, sternly, before each test or exam. Talk to other teachers about the cheating, as they may have tips:) Cheating gets more serious and costly for students later on if that behavior is ignored. You punish them “ for their own good” but also in fairness to other students.

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7 hours ago, Toth said:

Ah, yes, cheating in tests... unfortunately I also had to make my experiences with this and also had the impression that I might be too soft. But I do have to tell you that you should not show mercy when it comes to cheat sheets. That's such a clear violation of trust (and so stupid to boot) that you should not feel bad about ending their exam right then and there.

Thank you for this words, I need to tell myself that more.

7 hours ago, Toth said:

I usually try to assert that if they have a question, they can raise their hand and ask it silently without notifying the whole class and that I won't be as merciful when they are still making a ruckus after the first few minutes.

Actually my colleagues advised me to ask them to say their question loudly and I answer so that everybody can hear. I think that is fair because then everybody has the same information. Also, in time I come to one particular student and concentrate on them, the rest of them behind my back can communicate to each other.

7 hours ago, Toth said:

There are also a few cases where I overhear students after an exam and learn that someone must have been cheating with one girl complaining that a guy had his phone hidden behind the computer in a computer science exam or one case where I found a cheat sheet stashed in a corner of the room, but couldn't find out who it belonged to. I'm still not sure whether I should have persecuted the guy in the first case, but given that I didn't see it personally, I let it go. There has to be a line where you need to accept that you can only punish the things you have evidence for.

I agree here, you cannot accuse them of something you have no proof for.

Regarding electronics, I simply brought a box with me to the class and told them all phones belong into the box. Nobody complained and everybody calmly put their phones into it before they got their sheets, as they know the same procedure from other teachers.

Apparently people who decide to cheat and get caught are not particularly smart? In my case, I am even suspecting that one of the girls (the one who helped her neighbour) deliberately left the answers on her sheet for me to see in the hope that I would only punish the neighbour who cheated, but not her who helped. :dunno: I simply cannot imagine why else or how else you would be so stupid to leave obviously not your answers on your paper.

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Good luck:) If you are allowed to walk the rows, it may make them hesitate! I used to write with messy cramped writing( cursive) , intelligible if you are directly reading it, but not very good for cheaters. I didn’t cheat, because I studied. Why copy mistakes? People would only ask to borrow my notes once. Usually the borrowers were not reliable enough to return them, without badgering.What they also didn’t know was that I would take notes just trying to write down every word and example. Later, I would organize, parse, and try to figure out from the teacher or logic( what questions had tidy answers with 3-8 points?) I would study differently for recognition or for recall. One requires read, write and review. Recognition can be done with less work. Repetition of read, write and review is slower but superior to cheating,( I still remember material from decades ago, with a few mistakes) however I haven’t developed cheating skills. Studying for multiple choice is different from essay answers. Multiple choice is an art in itself, but they are easier to grade. Yes, I got asked several times to move my tests so that someone could see. ( lol)  I was rejected as someone’s proctor because they caught on that I wasn’t going to let them cheat. 
I think a class in how to study and do legitimately well on tests could make a great class. If anyone wants to do this, I have a lot of proven strategies. It’s old fashioned! I am a sucker for learning.

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29 minutes ago, Buckwheat said:

Thank you for this words, I need to tell myself that more.

Glad I can help. And in addition to your "walking back on your words" problem: I think I had a similar issue before during teacher training and I think to remember that when I said to them that I changed my decision, I explained it by saying that I had discussed it with my colleagues and was reminded that the rules are clear, so I have to do this and that. Admittedly, it wasn't about handing out a fail (and honestly I have forgotten what it was) and yes it was just shifting blame, but it certainly is better than looking like an arbitrary tyrant. But in the end you must know whether you truly want to walk back or not, depending on the situation.

33 minutes ago, Buckwheat said:

Actually my colleagues advised me to ask them to say their question loudly and I answer so that everybody can hear. I think that is fair because then everybody has the same information. Also, in time I come to one particular student and concentrate on them, the rest of them behind my back can communicate to each other.

I tend to do that during big exams where the students are expected to have a few minutes to read the tasks and ask questions, yes. In my responses I was thinking mostly  only of small tests where that is usually not included in my above reply. That also explains the phone problem. Phones are collected during big exams, but not usually during small tests as well.

When the students are in the middle of writing however you can't exactly pull them out of their train of thought to listen to a question. Therefore I opt to the whispering variant and then decide on a case-by-case basis whether the question warrants an answer that everyone needs. Then I take a step back and address all of them, usually framing it as giving a small hint. Otherwise I just quietly give my answer and move along.

That they communicate behind your back is strange though. Is it really so bad? I know I have a rather rough crowd and I myself am far away from having any shred of natural authority and yet it is usually sufficient to show you are still aware of your surroundings. Be conscious of where you stand when receiving a question and keep an eye on people. As long as they feel watched, there is little incentive to push their luck. While I am at it: Placement even when nothing is happening is interesting as well. When they are at scattered workplaces I tend to move to a central position, when the room has an old-fashioned frontal layout I tend to go behind the students, leaning on the wall or patrol between the edges of the room. Students always have to expect to be watched when their teacher is playing Schroedinger's supervision.^^

47 minutes ago, Buckwheat said:

Apparently people who decide to cheat and get caught are not particularly smart? In my case, I am even suspecting that one of the girls (the one who helped her neighbour) deliberately left the answers on her sheet for me to see in the hope that I would only punish the neighbour who cheated, but not her who helped. :dunno: I simply cannot imagine why else or how else you would be so stupid to leave obviously not your answers on your paper.

You know, before big exams I usually recommend my students to write cheat sheets as part of their preparation. Not to actually use them, but to get more aware of what they know and what they have trouble with. Writing that down is a good exercise  in itself that makes them unnecessary. Students who actually use cheat sheets for cheating are usually making them at the last minute because they did fuck all for preparation, the same goes for copying and so on. That's why it usually ends up so incompetently.

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5 minutes ago, Toth said:

Glad I can help. And in addition to your "walking back on your words" problem: I think I had a similar issue before during teacher training and I think to remember that when I said to them that I changed my decision, I explained it by saying that I had discussed it with my colleagues and was reminded that the rules are clear, so I have to do this and that. Admittedly, it wasn't about handing out a fail (and honestly I have forgotten what it was) and yes it was just shifting blame, but it certainly is better than looking like an arbitrary tyrant. But in the end you must know whether you truly want to walk back or not, depending on the situation.

Yes, I do think I am going to do something like that too. That is why I want to talk to my colleagues before giving the results to the students.

5 minutes ago, Toth said:

That they communicate behind your back is strange though. Is it really so bad?

This class seems to be, yes. I assume others aren't. It is a good school otherwise, this is just a group that was clearly given to me as a beginner because nobody else wants to bother with them. And yes, they communicated among each other, these pairs that had to sit together. I would prefer to have them in a room with enough desks for everybody to sit apart, but I am glad most of them could at least (there are 15 desks for two, but there were 17 students to take this test). I suppose I let the wrong ones sit together.

I mostly watched them from the front and walked up and down their rows.

5 minutes ago, Toth said:

You know, before big exams I usually recommend my students to write cheat sheets as part of their preparation. Not to actually use them, but to get more aware of what they know and what they have trouble with. Writing that down is a good exercise  in itself that makes them unnecessary. Students who actually use cheat sheets for cheating are usually making them at the last minute because they did fuck all for preparation, the same goes for copying and so on. That's why it usually ends up so incompetently.

That is a good strategy. I am still trying to make my first class (14/15-year-olds, directly from primary school where they are used to just copy everything from the board/PPT) understand that they need to learn to take notes as I speak and that not everything is written on my PPT. Last week I was explaining something and skipped something on PPT accidentally, so they already saw the next slide, which only had questions about the next poem we were going to read later. One of the students started copying these into his notebook without thinking and without realising there was no connection between what he was writing and what I was explaining. I need to emphasise a lot that they need to write down more than is written on the PPT and that if I only put questions on the slide, they don't need to copy them, they need to write answers.

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47 minutes ago, Tywin et al. said:

Can't you just hit them? 

:P

This isn't America, we don't equip teachers with weapons here.

:P

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14 minutes ago, Buckwheat said:

This isn't America, we don't equip teachers with weapons here.

:P

One man's baseball bat is another woman's yard stick....

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Epilogue to the cheating story, in case anybody is interested:

I was informed by other teachers that I cannot retroactively punish the students for something I only noticed later, so I had to grade them according to what they had written on their tests as was. They all got relatively good grades. I am much more cautious with other groups when I oversee test-taking now, and in case I notice anything problematic again, I am going to punish them (give them a negative grade) on the spot. The rest of the groups don't seem so problematic in this regard, though. (I was also told by other teachers that this particular group tries to cheat in other subjects too, and nobody is blaming me because they know the students.)

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The grading system for School Diplomas (What would be A-Level or GCSE in the UK), and later at University level really bugs me, because there is a measurable grade inflation going on. Add to that our federal education system and we clearly have a qualitative difference between a top grade from Bremen and the same grade from Saxony.

And IMO there is a very easy solution to this, that would make grades comparable: just introduce a ranking system where you rank the grade with all other students who took the same exam and indicate this on the school report. So without having to look at the grade, I can immediately see for example wether a student finished top 2% or bottom 30%. Obviously this will not work with small batches, so it is only useful when big groups of students take centralized exams, so that you can assume a uniform distribution of academic skill and preparation.

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On 10/19/2020 at 8:49 AM, Alarich II said:

The grading system for School Diplomas (What would be A-Level or GCSE in the UK), and later at University level really bugs me, because there is a measurable grade inflation going on. Add to that our federal education system and we clearly have a qualitative difference between a top grade from Bremen and the same grade from Saxony.

And IMO there is a very easy solution to this, that would make grades comparable: just introduce a ranking system where you rank the grade with all other students who took the same exam and indicate this on the school report. So without having to look at the grade, I can immediately see for example wether a student finished top 2% or bottom 30%. Obviously this will not work with small batches, so it is only useful when big groups of students take centralized exams, so that you can assume a uniform distribution of academic skill and preparation.

I don't really understand why the school system is different in different states in Germany. Could there not at least be a centralised final exam that would be the same for the whole country, so you could compare schools at that level? I realise that this is way easier to organise in my small country than Germany, but it should be doable, right?

 

My question: Is it too much to demand of 14-/15-year-olds if I expect them to figure out how to 1) turn a picture/scan by 90° so they don't submit the writing lopsided, and 2) paste a picture into a Word document (or alternatively convert it into a PDF) after I explain them that I will allow for assignments to be submitted in Word or PDF? One group of my students clearly has no problems with that. The other one, same level of education, same age, is experiencing terrible problems with it and keep sending me emails about how they cannot submit the assignments into the e-classroom ... yeah, no, I told you jpg-s aren't supported and told you what to do ... :bang: 

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11 hours ago, Buckwheat said:

I don't really understand why the school system is different in different states in Germany. Could there not at least be a centralised final exam that would be the same for the whole country, so you could compare schools at that level? I realise that this is way easier to organise in my small country than Germany, but it should be doable, right?

No, our constitution explicitly states that education (everyting from kindergarten to university) is in the hands of the Länder (states) to organise and they guard it against federal intrusions like a dragon his hoard.

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Okay, well, shit... so it seems I have been put on the spot. Several classes of mine got it into their heads that me not doing video conferences means I'm not teaching properly. So I have either classes that drown me in a barrage of accusations of not doing my job and other classes that just... disappear; with a low single digit number of students still taking part in my lessons. Unfortunately I really CAN'T do video conferences for personal reasons because at home I'm essentially always just one step away from a massive anxiety attack...

I guess I have to rethink how I approach my homeschooling lessons, but I'm honestly stumped because I don't have all that much room to maneuver. My current strategy is developing long-winded illustrated explanations with links to learning videos for the current topic and then have a couple of tasks about them, with me having created a chat group for each class where questions can be asked 24/7 (pretty much nobody ever does). For the tasks they always have the entire day where our lesson would be and the next day I write each student back a personalized feedback, which is frustratingly time consuming and I'm really unsure whether anyone ever reads those anyway. I asked several times over the course of the last weeks, but never got a reply.

The thing is at the beginning I really did want to spice up my lessons with cooperative projects working on shared documents or a digital school trip through 360° photos, but these always went horribly wrong because of the crippling lack of response, so I had to fall back upon dull worksheets so that those doing them won't suffer from vast swathes of each class not doing shit.

Well, one thing that I could still do would be to always give the students the solutions for the worksheets so that they can test themselves and I can save up the time of writing them feedback, but this only further decreases my contact with them and reinforces the impression that they have to teach themselves.

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On 10/15/2020 at 11:41 AM, Buckwheat said:

Epilogue to the cheating story, in case anybody is interested:

I was informed by other teachers that I cannot retroactively punish the students for something I only noticed later, so I had to grade them according to what they had written on their tests as was. They all got relatively good grades. I am much more cautious with other groups when I oversee test-taking now, and in case I notice anything problematic again, I am going to punish them (give them a negative grade) on the spot. The rest of the groups don't seem so problematic in this regard, though. (I was also told by other teachers that this particular group tries to cheat in other subjects too, and nobody is blaming me because they know the students.)

That sounds like a bad policy.  Surely lots of cheating is only revealed by suspiciously identical answers?  In your post above, you had pretty clear evidence of three cheaters.  That’s not the same as hearsay after the fact that cannot be substantiated.

I’m not a teacher but I think a good practice is to have everyone read and sign an honor code or integrity statement before they begin any test.  And then any cheating must receive the absolute punishment.  Soft pedaling to avoid conflict isn’t helping anyone here.  Students are learning about integrity and consequences as much as they are learning the literal subject matter.

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