Monday, October 10, 2011

Who is Being Cheated?

I did a short race Sunday morning (300 meter swim, 3.7 mile bike, 1.2 mile run). It was a wonderful race, just a small group of people and pretty nice weather. It was held at my alma mater, a college I love. However, the area is hillier than I had noticed as a student - biking and running will make that pretty clear. As I hit about the halfway mark on the run, knowing that ahead of me I had a pretty steep hill that I had already biked, it occurred to me that I could cut through a part of campus and shorten things. Basically, cheat. It occurred to me, but I had no interest in doing it. I do these races for myself, for the exercise and for the accomplishment. Cheating in a race would only cheat myself.

I thought about that as I rounded the corner and headed up that ridiculous hill for the second time that morning. As a student there, cheating had occurred to me at various points but was always rejected. Back then I rejected cheating because I didn't want to get in trouble and because I felt very strongly about the honor code. Never because it felt like cheating would be cheating myself.

I haven't really figured out what this means. My sense is that somehow learning and the assessment that goes along with it needs to be so meaningful to students that cheating would be cheating themselves. When the only reason not to cheat is fear of getting caught there will be many who cheat.

When the focus is on grades rather than learning, cheating seems like an intriguing option. When students are working for someone else rather than for their own interests and by their own motivation the urge to cheat can be strong. We spend a lot of time thinking of ways to keep students from cheating and not enough time looking at why they cheat.


Sarah said...

"We spend a lot of time thinking of ways to keep students from cheating and not enough time looking at why they cheat."

So true! And very well said! I wish I was better at cultivating my students' intrinsic motivation!

Jenny said...

Sarah, cultivating intrinsic motivation is such a worthy goal and such a difficult one to achieve. Every student's motivation will be different and it takes so long to get to know each one well. I think that's partly why the beginning of the year is so painful in many ways, because I don't know the kids well enough yet to really accomplish everything I want to.