The end of the school year (May or June, in America)
brings with it final exams and the need to monitor these
events to prevent cheating. This topic was discussed recently
on the FLTEACH listserv, and Janet Loewenstein, of East High
School in Newark, New Jersey, has agreed to share her innovative
solutions in this article for ESL MiniConference Online readers.
To provide students with proper feedback and monitor their progress, we must use multiple forms of assessment. One form that often gives teachers difficulties is testing because many rooms are overcrowded, putting students within a glance of each other's paper. In addition, many just let their eyes stray when they have a space for which they do not know the answer. This has happened to me in all of the grades, k-12 plus college level ESL classes so I've had to devise some strategies to combat this practice without getting stressed out.
In order to combat the temptation to let eyes stray to their neighbor's papers, I have been doing a number of things:
1. Alternating tests by rows. This means I have to make up more than one version of the same test but I change the order of the answers. This has cut down on a lot of copying on multiple- choice questions or matching. (My tests incorporate a variety of questions.)
Alternating tests may take a bit more time than grading one set, however, it is worth it to me to make two answer keys and do it as it does help to eliminate cheating. This is not necessary to do for each and every test but only once in a while to keep the students alert to the fact that I am watching them. I also provide different tests as makeup exams for students that are repeatedly absent on testing days so they cannot obtain the answers in advance. IN addition, sometimes I just copy the same test onto two different colored papers to make the students feel that it is a different test.
2. I have a policy: Share the answers and you share the grade. I have had to do this only once in each of my classes. That was enough. I took the lowest grade of the two students involved and divided it by two, awarding half to each. Then, I had the parents come in for a conference and explained the situation.
My students are well aware that if I say that I will do something, I do it. This concerns checking homework, testing policies, calling parents, etc. By adhering to these rules myself, I have cut down on many of the problems that evidenced themselves during the beginning of the year.
If a student is planning to cheat, he or she knows that they are doing so in order to improve their own grade. They know that they have not studied for the evaluative procedure and are not prepared. Explaining to the cheaters that they will have future chances to improve that grade is only effective if the student is the kind of person that will do the work in the future. This works with some students but not all. In addition, scolding only works if the student is one who will be affected by it and not all students care.
I also will allow students to use their notebooks in the last few minutes of an exam as they are then rewarded for completing the work. Those that have only copied the work do not know where to find the information and waste their time thumbing through their notebooks, if they have them. In fact, I have told the students that they may do this during the final exam as it is comprehensive and not that easy. The caveat here is that this works as long as there are no discipline problems and everyone completes all assignments in the two weeks we have remaining prior to the exam.
Cellular Phones are not a problem as they are not permitted in our school. If the students are caught with them, they are immediately confiscated and returned to the parents. When I teach in the college, at the onset of each class, I remind students to turn off all cell phones as it is rude and disrespectful to the other members of the class.
By Janet Loewenstein, BA, History/Education, MA TESOL
Bilingual (Spanish) Social Studies
East High School
Newark, New Jersey
2002 ESL MiniConference Online