Student Copying, Plagiarism, Essay Factories and Ghost Writers

A recent article from The Conversation analyses issues with plagiarism or cheating, especially amongst international students, although a little light on insight and innovative solutions e.g. why or why not use essays in assessment?

Essay factories and ghost writers have become an issue in international education especially.

Cheating Amongst University Students (Image copyright Pexels)

Doing away with essays won’t necessarily stop students cheating

December 20, 2018 6.06am AEDT

Julie Hare Honorary Fellow, University of Melbourne

It’s never been easier for university students to cheat. We just need look to the scandal in 2015 that revealed up to 1,000 students from 16 Australian universities had hired the Sydney-based MyMaster company to ghost-write their assignments and sit online tests.

It’s known as contract cheating – when a student pays a third party to undertake their assignments which they then pass off as their own. Contract cheating isn’t new – the term was coined in 2006. But it’s becoming more commonplace because new technologies, such as the smart phone, are enablers.

Cheating is taken seriously by universities and the national regulator, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency. Much of the focus has been on changing assessment tasks to ones deemed to be harder for a third party to undertake. This is called “authentic assessment”.

This type of assessment has been widely adopted at universities. They are comprised of tasks that evaluate knowledge and skills by presenting students with real-world scenarios or problems relevant to the kinds of challenges they would face following graduation. But new research found authentic assessment may be as vulnerable to cheating as other more obvious examples, such as essays.

What the research shows…

….They found, for both students and teachers, assessments with a short turnaround time and heavily weighted in the final mark were perceived as the tasks which were the most likely to attract contract cheating.

Assessments perceived as the least likely to attract contract cheating were in-class tasks, personalised and unique tasks, vivas (oral explanations of a written task) and reflections on practical placements. But these tasks were the least likely to be set by educators, presumably because they’re resource and time intensive….

…So what do we do about it?

This research provides yet more compelling evidence that curriculum and changes to teaching strategies and early intervention must be employed to support students’ academic endeavours…

…The data demonstrates assessment tasks designed to develop relevant professional skills, which teachers are highly likely to set, were perceived by students as tasks that can easily be cheated on. These might include asking accounting students to memorandums, reports or other communication groups to stakeholders, such as shareholders. In fact, among students from a non-English speaking background, the risks of cheating might actually increase for these tasks. This means authentic assessment might run the increasing risk of being outsourced.’

Solutions?

Related strategies could also include educating (international) students about ‘learning how to learn’ as used in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) sector, discouraging rote learning and regurgitation, management supporting teaching and learning with appropriate funding and systems.  Related, less pressure on enrolment and retention rates, then more innovative ongoing assessments including shorter open book exams and in class assignments with focus upon higher level skills according to Bloom’s taxonomy i.e. analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

For more related articles and blog posts about academic integrity, assessment, copying, learning, pedagogy and student plagiarism click through.

 

 

 

 

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TAE40116 Certificate IV Training Assessment Package – ASQA Review Submission

Submission for TAE40116 Training Package Review

 

Written by Andrew Smith; submitted 3 April 2018

Introduction

There has been much discussion amongst training practitioners about the updated TAE Training Package.  One of the main issues has been the perception that it has been designed for quality administration and assessment while neglecting quality of actual training delivery and learning.

ASQA Australian Skills Quality Authority Certificate IV Training and Assessment TAE40116 Review

TAE40116 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment – ASQA Review (Image copyright ASQA)

This has been experienced by the writer currently upgrading BSZ to TAE via a registered training organisation (RTO) by distance learning; PO Box with ‘assessors’ and ‘trainers’ based offshore.  Further, the delivery is based upon basic pedagogy of presentation of content, regurgitation of content according to instructions while seemingly unable to offer explanations or insight for trainees, especially delivery and learning skills based upon andragogy.

 

What is the TAE Training Package?

 

Description

 

This qualification reflects the roles of individuals delivering training and assessment services in the vocational education and training (VET) sector.

This qualification (or the skill sets derived from units of competency within it) is also suitable preparation for those engaged in the delivery of training and assessment of competence in a workplace context, as a component of a structured VET program.

The volume of learning of a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment is typically six months to two years. (Department of Education & Training 2018).

At face value the TAE40116 appears to be a relevant and practical qualification for vocational education and training to deliver accredited training packages, assure quality with a focus upon assessment.  However, there have been many criticisms of the package from practitioners, industry and other stakeholders, why?

Issues with TAE Training Package and Delivery

 

According to the Resources Training Council

 

It has become a qualification for the training industry, not industry that trains. They do not understand workplaces where training and more importantly the outcomes (assessment) must be fit for purpose to achieve what VET is all about.  VET should be about producing safe, proficient (productive) workers and providing an opportunity for learning to be built on as people move along their chosen career path (Munro 2017).

 

From an experienced VET training practitioner

 

To improve assessment practices of RTOs and improve skills and knowledge of trainers and assessors we need to:

  • Update our regulatory framework and move to a real outcome-based regulation, where relevant industry stakeholders have a say in the registration/re-registration process
  • Support the National Regulator in building the required capabilities to assess compliance in a diverse and complex environment
  • Ensure the National Regulator provides an even-playing-field to RTOs
  • Identify the different issues within the assessment system, and consequently identify gaps in current workforce skills (in all AQF levels not only entry level) and update the TAE training package accordingly (Castillo 2016).

 

Research criticisms have included: one size fits all approach whether novice trainer or an already well experienced and/or qualified trainer or teacher, trainer assessor expertise or skills, questions over subsequent assessment outcomes, lack of depth related to training and learning delivery, no clear development pathway and the skill outcomes from the TAE for practitioners to deliver (Clayton 2009).

The focus of criticism has been directed at sub-optimal education and training pedagogy (learning theory for children and young adults or novices) of both the TAE and practitioners for quality delivery, learning and trainee assessment outcomes.  These revolved round, preparedness of trainers to train, opportunity to learn content knowledge, delivery quality, learning the practice of good teaching or training, learning from experts, then more about planning and assessment (Ibid.)

The latter issue of assessment has been raised within sectors whether validation between providers, or simply better understanding of assessment by practitioners (Halliday-Wynes & Misko 2013)

Further, expert input often hints at what is lacking by focusing upon learning theory or ‘pedagogy’ for children and youth, as opposed to ‘andragogy’ for youth and adults.  The latter would be exemplified by self-directed learning or training, responsibility, experience, motivation to learn and preference for real tasks and problem solving (Educators’ Technology 2013); supported by well skilled trainers.

 

Training Delivery and Learning Quality

 

However, delivery of some TAEs has more to do with education and training or ‘pedagogy’ influence from two generations ago manifested in trainer or teacher directed, or top down.  This assumes trainees have no relevant knowledge or practical input to offer, focus upon systems, processes and assessment round any given package, but not delivery i.e. developing quality training and learning skills.  Additionally, very content driven for good reason, however, it is presented or instructed (not elicited) then regurgitated or replicated for satisfying requirements for assessment, then assumed optimal for the workplace?

The significant size of the VET sector requires standard packages, systems, processes and assessment to be compliant and manageable.  However, the risk is that system quality may be based upon indirect top down paper-based systems and processes of (quality) compliance that are reactive when issues emerge, if discovered.  For example, sub-optimal training and learning, versus proactive measures through more intrusive evaluation of actual training delivery quality or bottom up informing.

Quality maybe improved by intrusive quality assessment through mystery shopping on any given TAE course, dynamic (publicised opportunities) for feedback from trainees and clients, evaluation of specific programs and trainers or evidence of dynamic quality evaluation of skills versus merely possessing a TAE qualification or ‘ticket’.

 

References:

 

Castillo, A 2016, Newly endorsed Certificate IV in Training and Assessment – Same Issues, LinkedIn Pulse, viewed 22 March 2018, < https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/newly-endorsed-certificate-iv-training-assessment-amaro-castillo/ >

 

Clayton, B 2009, Practitioner experiences and expectations with the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAA40104): A discussion of the issues, NCVER Melbourne, viewed 22 March 2018, < https://www.ncver.edu.au/__data/assets/file/0023/4658/nr08504r.pdf >

 

Department of Education & Training 2018, MySkills: Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, viewed 22 March 2018, < https://www.myskills.gov.au/courses/details?Code=TAE40116 >

 

Educators’ Technology 2013, AWESOME CHART ON “PEDAGOGY VS ANDRAGOGY”, viewed 1 April 2018, < http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2013/05/awesome-chart-on-pedagogy-vs-andragogy.html >

 

Halliday-Wynes, S & Misko, J 2013, Assessment issues in VET: minimising the level of risk, NCVER, viewed 22 March 2018, < http://www.cmd.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/801600/AssessmentIssuesInVET_MinimisingTheLevelOfRisk.pdf >

 

Munro, J 2017, The TAE debacle – a resources sector view, Resources Training Council, viewed 31 January 2018, < http://www.resourcestraining.org.au/news/the-tae-debacle/ >