Students Gaming the Classroom

Posted by Emily Guthrie on Jan 14, 2015 11:20:47 AM

Recently, I have been feeling the frustration that bubbles up every once in a while when I find students trying to subvert their own education through trickery.  Sure, teachers will always battle the homework copiers, cheat sheet creators, plagiarizers, and last minute project workers, but the students that really get to me are the ones who spend so much time finding ways to trick the system when they could spend the same amount of time studying and legitimately learn! I try really, really hard to inspire students to care about their own education over and above a pursuit of the almighty grade.  Sometimes I fail miserably.  Here are a couple of struggles I've faced lately and what I am trying to do about them.  I'd love to hear how you handle students when they try to game your systems.

1. The  serial, strategic absentee: I've had a few of these over the years.  They are almost always absent on the day of a test or when a paper is due.  They ask their friends about the questions and prepare accordingly; they take the extra weekend to write their papers. They always come back to class with an excused re-admit so I can never be 100% sure.  This has bothered me so much that I have actually spent countless hours creating alternative, but equitable assessments.  I'm ashamed that I've let this get under my skin and take time away from  creating meaningful content for all of my students, but I hope that it has taught a valuable lesson to the few.  I have also enacted a strict rule about emailing me papers on the due date regardless of the reason for absence.  The policy is posted on my syllabus and on every essay prompt I hand out.

2. The tech-saavy: I usually have students put their phones in a basket or in the front of the class during major assessments, but I recently caught a student cheating with a pebble watch that receives texts and other phone notifications.  He had somehow prescheduled to text his notes to himself that would show up on his watch during an in-class essay.  Technology moves so fast  that it is almost impossible to head off tech-savvy cheating at the pass, but we can always strive to be vigilant and work toward assessment that embraces technology instead of shunning it.

3. The advantage taker: My students use quizlet to study for weekly SAT/ACT vocabulary word quizzes (here is the post about how it works).  I give a couple extra credit points each week for the student who has the best score in space race and scatter.  I also use the data that quizlet collects on flashcard study time and practice test results when I conference with parents.  More importantly, I have seen an improvement in vocabulary scores for students who use quizlet regularly.  With all of the great results, you can understand why I was saddened to learn that a couple of students have found ways to cheat the games to get a high score for the extra credit without actually studying.  All I could manage to say to the students when I caught them was, "this is why we can't have nice things."  I'm not sure where I go from here with this one since I want to encourage use of the service still.

How do you deal with tricky students?  What do you face head on and what do you let go?  I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!

Topics: Assessments, cheating, Classroom Management, tips

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