Academic Authenticity and Integrity

September 8th, 2013 Comments

One of my biggest realizations recently is that I probably have higher expectations for my students than they do for themselves. I’m not saying this about all my students, but generally speaking, I know they could really do some great things if they were more invested in the process of education. For me, this is neither good or bad – it’s just an quiz

Last week I gave my students a take-home exam and they did really well on it. The real benefit however was in how it affected our real-time, in-class discussion. I was quite impressed by how much they were better equipped to discuss various thoughts, ideas, and principles. But again, I’m not saying this about all students – but generally speaking it made for some good interaction.

As I dive into this academic setting, I’m experimenting with various tools, procedures, and teaching modalities. I know I can streamline the process by using the tools available – even if it takes more work up front (now!). In one of my classes I gave them an online quiz. Because I’m learning the tool, I allowed for some leeway (e.g. two tries, didn’t lock down their browser, etc) in the process. First, I want to see how they react to the tool; but mostly, I want to see how the tool tracks and responds to their efforts.

“even higher on my list is to help them become men and women of character”

Last night I reviewed the data of the completed quizzes. It was quite interesting. I will share with you some of the things the data revealed, then I will discuss the implications as I see them. Here are some generalizations I saw:

  • The majority of students used the first quiz attempt to see what was on the quiz. Almost all of them did not submit a first attempt at the quiz – but they opened it and looked at the questions.┬áMost students completed their second quiz attempt within 10 minutes of the first.
  • Several students took their quizzes within minutes of each other. There were three distinct groupings of students taking the quiz at three distinct times. Each of these groupings coincided with the smaller social groups I see in the classroom.
  • Despite the advantages of having two attempts, a few students still scored below average on the quiz.
  • I made some mistakes on the assembly of the quiz and had to correct those manually because students received poor marks due to my errors.
  • At least two of the questions needed more preparation – either in the classroom by me, or by the students. One option on one question was not covered by the textbook, or by me in class, but because of the student’s previous class work, they should have had a better scores.

Now here are some of my thoughts on all of the above:

  • First, I will not give them two attempts next time – unless the quiz is designed to be a learning tool/worksheet.
  • Some believe that the younger generation is technologically savvy and and superior to their elders when it comes to navigating information technology and the web. However, there is growing evidence that this is not true. If my students were more tech savvy, they would know I can monitor them via the instructional education tool we use. I can see when they took the quiz, how long they spent on each question, whether they guessed on their answers (via statistical algorithms), whether they collaborated on the quiz, and what computer station they used (via the IP address).
  • Based on the data available to me, it appears students would have scored better if they had taken more time to read the material, rather than browse the quiz questions. In other words, the amount of time they took to browse the questions and research answers (online, via the textbook, or socially) – it might have been more efficient to just read the chapters one or two more times.
  • Obviously, I learned much about this quiz/testing tool. I have about 4-5 hours invested in this short quiz. It would be faster to do it on paper – but I know this time will pay off over the next several years. In fact, I’m actually excited to do the next one.
  • Finally, not all tests/quizzes are well written or valid. Because of some mistakes I made – not technologically, but just because I’m a rookie quiz-maker – I’ll have to modify some scores. Probably…

p2921Given the strict academic integrity policy at our school, and the risks associated with that, I”m really surprised by the amount of collaboration I witnessed via the online data. Either my students don’t expect much from me (or my colleagues) technologically, or, they don’t realize how the technology makes it easier to track this information. Given the recent NSA/Snowden kerfuffle, one would think they would be more aware and more careful. Especially given the potential risks.

One thing my students may not understand about me is that I care more about their learning than I do their grades. When it comes to grades and test scores, I’m flexible – but I’m not an enabler and I’m not a pushover. Unfortunately, the real world isn’t quite so forgiving. If they want to get into med school, or some other competitive role, I understand that grades are the primary objective measurement tool.

However, I don’t believe it’s worth sacrificing one’s integrity and authenticity, just for the sake of a 10 point quiz that is worth less than 5% of their overall grade. But how do I convey this message? How do I let them know I’m more interested in learning than I am in grades and scoring? How do I help them understand that their ability to master the skills and knowledge has much to do with whether I want them taking care of my family and friends?

For me, this is about producing competent care providers. And even higher on my list is to help them become men and women of character.

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