Another teacher came to talk to me about the problems she has had with cheating in her classroom with our group of 7th graders this year. It was a timely conversation, echoing one I had yesterday with another teacher.
I think we have created a culture among students where they do not think sharing or giving answers is cheating.
The social aspect of learning has been at the forefront of education recently. We encourage students to talk it out; we establish group learning/projects as the norm; we seat students in closer proximity to each other trying to facilitate these protocols.
Have we gone too far? Are we creating students who cannot think independently? Where is the line between working together and cheating?
As a general rule, in my classes, students are allowed to confer when working on independent work. The only time I usually implement 'silence' in during a final assessment/test situation. I find students better able to explain to each other the problems they encounter, and it is obviously easier for me to not have to help each individual student. I know the students who are "teaching" are cementing the learning in their minds more securely, and like to think both parties are gaining from the experience.
However, I am begining to question my philosophy. Are the slackers just coasting along, stealing answers from the others? Are they really learning?
I find it more and more difficult to keep students quiet during an assessment situation. They are so intune to talking to each other, they seem to struggle to silence themselves. Is that bad? If they are learning in a social situation, should they also be assessed in that situation? If so, how will I ever know that Student A really does get it?
Students seem unable to differentiate between what is actually cheating and what is not. They think letting someone else copy their answer is 'helping' and showing them how to work a problem is just 'assisting'.
How do I learn to draw the learn for them, and for me? How can I ever be certain each and every child is grasping the content we cover if I am not assessing accurately?
Does it all matter in the scheme of life?