Not the method, but the presence

What bothers me about this piece on exam cheating is not the method used by Caveon; it’s the presence of the company as a private for-profit doing the job of teachers. The article doesn’t discuss the ethics of this situation at all, though it sometimes¬† implies such a critique is forthcoming.

American educators have had to play games with academic book publishers for well over a century; if you accept a book for your course, it eases the teaching task greatly¬†but also restructures it in ways that are not easily controllable, even if you use a ‘teach against the book’ pedagogy, which is great for graduate students but doesn’t always work well with undergraduates. As such, the publishers and their authors can very easily end up ‘teaching’ courses. If it’s a good, well-organized book that matches your teaching style, great; sometimes, though, the selection is limited.

In general, l am suspicious of any for-profit intrusions into academia and the secondary school system that may replace functions usually performed by teachers; this is one of the reasons I refuse to use services such as Turnitin. If a student manages to plagarize their way through my course without me detecting it, shame on me; it’s my job to be able to discern differences in student writing ability and style over the course of a semester. If I couldn’t do that, I wouldn’t be able to teach writing, let alone estimate the effects of my efforts.

The exam genre is a bit different, though. I’m not sure what I would do if I worked in a field that always measured student success by exam. Probably it would involve individualizing each exam, perhaps by rearranging questions, introducing subtle changes in calculations, and keeping enough complexity to make a text message answer difficult. That’s a lot of work, though, both on the grading end (unles I wrote a program to sort out the differences between each exam to streamline grading) and on the explanatory end if I wanted to go over the exam with the students afterward (something I do regularly in my grammar class that partially measures students by exam, but I can’t recall ever having a professor do so in any subject when I was a undergrad).

Leave a Reply