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Posts Tagged ‘integrity

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The boys in the video were honest. Kudos to them and their upbringing. But it might be hard to tell if their actions were internally-driven or due to the security camera. I wager the latter given how the older child tried to shutter the store as he left.

I like this distinction between honesty and integrity: Honesty is what you do when someone else is watching; integrity is what you do when no one is.

There is a reason why we call an attribute academic integrity instead of honesty. This trait is obvious only in the privacy of your dorm room or faculty office as you write an essay or draft a research grant.

Universities seem to address cases of academic cheating with reactive measures like PowerPoint slides and quizzes housed in institutional LMS. These check an administrative box, but are not necessarily long term measures.

Why is this the case? Students and faculty take these measures as inconvenient hurdles to clear instead of lifelong skills and attitudes to internalise.

I recall one student a while ago who took one of my Masters courses. He did not do well and was given the opportunity to resubmit the same final assignment the next time my course ran.

His work was riddled with plagiarised text and he was told by administrators to retake the academic integrity module. The value of academic integrity was not internalised before and I still do not know if he learnt anything after. I could not see revised work (if there was any) nor did I have the opportunity to counsel him.

So how might academic integrity be nurtured?

One way is supervisors and instructors who model behaviours when co-writing/editing papers or sharing learning material.

Another way is projecting with students the impact of poor academic integrity. These include, but are not limited to, a lack of trust of academics, not giving credit where it it due, and an erosion of academic culture.

Honesty is easy to see and measure. Integrity is less so but more important because it is about self-regulation.

I heard a few questions from new faculty at a recent pre-semester meeting. The questions revealed how much I take for granted and how much the new folk need to level up.

One person confused academic integrity with general integrity. Academic integrity is normally about how one writes essays and reports research. We want individuals who are models of overall integrity, of course. But when we focus on assignments and reports, we zoom in on specific aspects of academic integrity like citing, attributing, and not plagiarising.

Another person brought up how students might be confused as to why they had to cooperate in class activities (e.g., co-editing Google Docs) but could not do the same with most summative assignments. While such students bring up a valid argument, we should counter that with accountability. We focus on group accountability with shared documents, but we determine individual accountability with end-of-course essays.

I was glad to hear how a few faculty had started using mobile apps to quiz their students. However, I was dismayed that they focused on the bells and whistles instead of the praxis of feedback or assessment. Such application of educational theory could be the need to monitor learning and/or to provide formative feedback. It should not be about a timer counting down or background music adding tension.

All three examples bring up the importance of being an academic who is literate in pedagogical theory and research. Being a good instructor and facilitator is not just about knowing what works. It is also about knowing why it works.

Integrity is not completely synonymous with honesty.

Honesty is what you have in the presence of others or when you are confronted to tell the truth. You are asked to be honest when you make a statement or if you take the stand in court.

Integrity is what you have (or lack) when you are alone. Take academic integrity, for instance. It is when you are trying to write a paper that you decide whether or not to plagiarise or to attribute. You might think of integrity as confronting yourself.

However you define honesty and integrity, they share some similarities, but they are also different. They are not entirely synonymous and that is why we have different words.

The same could be said about the flipped classroom and flipped learning. After years of combining reflective practice and critical research, I distilled two big differences between the two.

The flipped classroom swaps WHAT happens WHERE. Flipped learning changes WHO does WHAT.

  1. The flipped classroom swaps WHAT happens WHERE. Flipped learning changes WHO does WHAT.
  2. The flipped classroom focuses on engagement. Flipped learning is more about learner empowerment.

The flipped classroom focuses on engagement. Flipped learning is about learner empowerment.

The flipped classroom is still defined by what happens conventionally in a classroom. The delivery and exploration of information still needs to happen, but in a different place and manner — for example, at home. The use or practice of that information happens in the classroom where peer and expert help is, instead of outside it.

To those ends, there is nothing wrong with the flipping the classroom. However, that is to “innovate” by iteration. Teachers are still doing much of the teaching, and subsequently, the learning.

To flip learning is to focus on the learner and processes of deep learning. This means empowering students to problem-seek and problem-solve. It also means that learners create content and teach it. The teacher learns to guide from the side and to meddle from the middle.

The flipped classroom and flipped learning might share some roots and tools, e.g., the nurturing of self-directed learners and online videos. But these do not make the terms interchangeable.

Chimpanzees and man share a distant evolutionary ancestor (shared roots), but they are different animals because they diverged over millennia to where they are now. The flipped classroom and flipped learning are different animals because their practices stem from different mindsets, expectations, and educational philosophies. It is not about semantics; it is about different foundations upon which we build teaching practices.

I think the press tried to litter their pages with click bait in the form of the “new” cleaning programme in Singapore schools.

The programme is not entirely new. It is just more official and part of the Character and Citizenship Education programme according to MOE’s press release.

There was no major kickback by adults on why kids should sweep floors and pick up after themselves. The lack of a reaction is a good thing this way.

It is not if, like me, you think the programme has not gone far enough.

The cleaning of toilets is outside the limits according to this news article. I am not the only one to wonder why this is the case.

I know of kids who refuse to use the school toilets because they are disgusting. My son is one of them and he paints a vivid picture of what they are like at his school. You can almost smell the pong from the descriptions.

I hope the aunties and uncles who clean them get biohazard pay. If not, they should be given hazmat suits.

The cleaning of classrooms and shared areas is easy. It is also very public. The cleaning of toilets is more personal and private.

This is like the difference between honesty and integrity. Someone once described honesty as something you display in public while integrity is something you had in private.

I look at it this way. If you are not honest, you cheat others; if you lack integrity, you cheat yourself.

Someone might say this is a semantic game, but I take the terms seriously. Do we want kids to learn that you can behave one way in front of others and another way when no one is looking?

Kids pick up these lessons more quickly than we give them credit. Take for example how most schools have tray return policies. These are monitored and enforced, so kids do this in school. But after school they have a meal at a fast food joint and leave the trays and litter at the table and walk away.

There are things kids do when someone is watching and making sure. The motivation to do good is extrinsic because they will be punished if they do not toe the line or they might be rewarded if they do. However, when someone is not watching, they learn that they can ignore the task. There is no intrinsic motivation to do the right thing simply because it is right.

Can we call it an education when only half a value system is taught and caught?

Being honest is how you behave when you with others; practising integrity is how you behave when you are alone. I can’t remember where I read that and I’m paraphrasing what I remember, but I think I’ve got the gist of it.

I had a chance to discuss the nuances of honesty and integrity with my son as we made our way to his school today.

We spotted a car that was parked illegally. The driver justified his or her actions by opening the bonnet of the car to indicate engine failure. That’s honest enough, right? No, not if that you know that there is a coffee shop nearby and the same car seems to “breakdown” at that same spot regularly.

I told my son that the driver was dishonest, but I changed my mind because it really was a matter of integrity. So I tried to explain with examples.

I reminded him how a canteen stall operator at his school was dishonest on at least one occasion by not giving my son the correct change and on another occasion overcharging him by making him pay twice for an item. That matter has been dealt with, but it was a painful lesson in life that he will remember because he was a victim of dishonesty.

On the flipside, I told him that “honesty is the best policy” was only a guideline and not a rule in life. If my wife ever asked her boys if her butt looked big, we would have to a) run away, b) change the topic, c) be diplomatic, or d) lie through our teeth. My son said that D is not an option because he thought that all of us had nice butts. Looks like he already knows how to use option C.

As for integrity, I reminded him of how he had to set a timer to regulate the amount of gaming time he enjoys. He does this without us having to remind or monitor him. He has to be honest with himself. He has to practice integrity.

After I dropped him off at school, I reflected on what I tried to teach my son. I had relied on serendipitous and contextual learning. The illegally parked car was a chance event and it served as the initial context. The meaningful contexts were my son’s own experiences.

As I head into the last week of my teaching semester, I resolve to design more serendipity (purposeful accidents) and meaningful contexts in courses to come.

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