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Cheating ourselves

Posted on: August 19, 2016

When students cheat on exams it's because our school system values grades more than students value learning. -- Neil deGrasse Tyson

I created this image quote several months ago from Neil deGrasse Tyson’s original tweet.

This week I stumbled upon this video about exam “techniques”.

Video source

There is so much value placed in exams that some students resort to cheating and some examiners resort to extremes.

If you are assessment literate, you might realise that paper-based exams are a practice inherited from the industrial age. They have become a mainstay because we have forgotten to question and critique them. One big question is WHY we still have them. One big critique is the narrow academic-only ability they measure.

Despite viable alternatives like performance assessment and e-portfolios, there are groups that keep fanning into the embers of exams, e.g., the TES crowdsourcing A-Level exam questions.

Recently, Manu Kapur wrote an excellent opinion piece on why we should not over-rely on exams as we know today.

I paraphrase his main points. Test and exams:

  • May measure what we know, but not what we can apply with that knowledge or to create new information.
  • Do not guarantee transfer. The acquisition of information does not guarantee conversion to knowledge, and this in turn does not guarantee usage in real contexts.
  • Prevent students from using resources they would otherwise use in the wider world, e.g., their mobile phones.
  • Limit problem-solving to minutes at a time, and do not encourage persistence or perseverance.
  • Mould students to think and act under test conditions. They do not encourage deep learning and mastery.
  • May not match the cognitive developmental stage of the learner.

Tests are not authentic, they encourage superficial learning, and they are not forgiving.

Tests are outdated and it is not surprising why some students opt to cheat. They have so much stacked against them cognitively, ethically, and holistically.

I am not suggesting that students cheat. I am saying we must start operating outside the the test and exam paradigm.

How? Kapur’s article briefly outlines the approaches involving policies, people, and practices. It is well worth the read. It is even better to take action.

2 Responses to "Cheating ourselves"

Athena Tumambing: RT @ashley: Cheating ourselves… via


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