Saturday, November 10, 2012

Cheating in School

The Washington Post has an article on Valerie Strauss' education blog, The Answer Sheet, entitled "An Easy Trick to Reduce Cheating." It reports on a research study distinguishing the difference between labeling the behavior cheating, or the person a cheater. I doubt this will have much application in educational practice.

I think a more significant issue fostering cheating is homework policy. Parents are encouraged to help their children with the homework. When I was a child, I did not get help, except on rare occasions when I might have really needed it. I just did it on my own. Today, children are getting increasingly large homework loads, and parents are realizing that the most help they can give them is through homework relief. Unfortunately, our society strips parents of the authority to make forceful decisions about homework in their own homes.

In effect, 30 to 40 different people, well meaning but with different personalities and points of view, have the power through the course of a child's school career, to make binding decisions about what happens in the home. Despite their good intentions, these teachers have rarely been taught the theory, research and practice of homework (I've never seen a course called homework in the catalog of a school of education).

Parents do different things in response to this unacceptable bind, and that sometimes includes, doing the work for the child. It's not right and it teaches a bad lesson, but it is understandable behavior in the face of  being powerless to do something else.

So, here's my "Better Tricks to Reduce Cheating."

1. Vest parents with full authority regarding behavior in their home.
2. Make homework a time-based rather than a content based requirement.
3. Modify penalties so that incomplete homework has only a limited negative effect.
4. Expect teachers to include homework as a required piece of continuing professional education.


Dr. Kenneth Goldberg, is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Teachers, and Students, published by Wyndmoor Press.

I recommend giving copies of the book to the teachers at your child's school. Discount purchases are available through Wyndmoor Press. Single copies can be purchased at Amazon.

No comments: