2013-2014 CETL Events Summaries

2013-2014 CETL Events Summaries



Title and Description

November 12, 2013

James Lang on Building learning environments that reduce cheating and increase learning.

James Lang, author of the recently published book "Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty" gave a talk at Clark on Tuesday November 12, 2013 as part of the CETL Faculty Development Series.
Lang began by noting that contrary to commonly held beliefs, cheating among undergraduates is lower today than it was in the 1960s (67% at present vs. 87% in 1963), while 10-20% of all students participate in serial cheating, defined as three instances of violations of academic integrity.

Over the years, social psychology experiments performed on children and adults established that “most people are willing to cheat under the right circumstances.” Lang, therefore, suggests that if we want to prevent cheating, we must begin by understanding the underlying causes.

Lang explains that a highly structured academic environment, such as in post-secondary education, induces students to cheat because of:

1: Extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivations. Extrinsic motivations involve binge/purge learning where students study for exams and then forget the material shortly after. The external rewards like grades, passing standardized tests, parental acceptance, etc. are in fact counterproductive to holistic learning.

2: The orientation towards performance as opposed to learning as a whole also leads to cheating.

3: Infrequent, high-stakes assessments

4: Low self-efficacy that comes from students not believing that they can perform the task required and be graded fairly, especially in difficult courses.

5: Cheating is perceived as common and is accepted by peers

Lang suggests a number of strategies that require a complete change in the way faculty teach course material that could lead to an environment of holistic learning.

  1. Course design changes: Rather than having a prescriptive learning environment where disinterested students have to “suffer” through material, they could be more engaged if they approached their assignments as problems to be solved by the material learned.
  2. Class assignments: Create assignments that give students a sense of control over either process or product.
  3. Student choices: Give students a say in establishing priorities in task completion. The more choice they feel they have, the more likely that they will be interested and engaged.
  4. Assessment: Replace high-stake assessments with frequent low-stake assessments. Examples: Minute papers, questions that require them to retrieve and practice new concepts. Students are less likely to cheat if the stakes as not very high, and they have enough opportunities to accumulate enough points throughout the semester to pass the course.

This talk was followed by a question and answer period where Lang helped Clark faculty think of different strategies that they can use in their classes (Handout link).

Download Supplementary Material

Cheating Lessons Overview: A handout shared during the talk

Chapter 9: On Original Work. From Cheating Lessons : Learning from Academic Dishonesty. Cambridge: MA: Harvard University Press, 2013.

Boston Globe article (8/4/2013): How college classes encourage cheating. Our universities motivate students to be dishonest. Here's how to fix them.

James LangJames M. Lang is an Associate Professor of English and the Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College in Worcester, MA. He is the author of four books, the most recent of which are Cheating Lessons: Learning From Academic Dishonesty, and On Course: A Week-by-Week Guide to Your First Semester of College Teaching.

A copy of "Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty” is also available for borrowing from the CETL library.

To obtain material shared during the event, or to borrow a copy of Lang’s book, please contact cetl@clarku,.edu.

This talk was the first CETL Faculty Development talks of the year. Additional talks and workshops will be advertised on the redesigned CETL site: http://www.clarku.edu/departments/cetl.

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