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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Learning Theory – Behaviourism – English Language Teaching – CELTA

Learning Theory – Behaviourism – English Language Teaching – CELTA

 

In language learning, and one’s own experience via RSA Cambridge Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) now Cambridge English Teaching to Adults CELTA, is a communicative approach, based mostly on behaviourism, very much stimulus and response.

(Image copyright Pexels)

 English Teaching Model

 

There should be a clear process whether grammar/language structure, new vocabulary, function etc. hence the cyclical PPPP model, Preview, Present, Practice and Produce.

 

An example could be functional language of ‘shopping’ e.g. convenience store:

 

  • Preview via image of shopping, elicit vocabulary, grammar and dialogue (including shopping list) from learners.
  • Present via audio or AV recording, reinforce key structures or phrases, correct pronunciation etc. via concept check questions of random learners. If concept not understood start again.
  • Practice or drill dialogue, e.g. model between instructor and learners, then learners practice dialogue in pairs (with monitoring).  If not correct do again.
  • Production via role play where random students act out situation several times with different partners without assistance, monitored and followed by correction if needed (eliciting correct answer from leaners).
  • Review, if unable to ‘produce’ well, go back and do again.

 

  1. First stimulus comes from the instructor and atmosphere they create for learners to learn in a positive and interactive environment.
  2. Second, stimulus for Preview and Presentation above learners to understand and become interested and motivated in providing a response.
  3. Thirdly when learners do activity with each other and not instructed centred they use stimuli of questions or requests and the other with respond; vice versa.

 

At each phase there should be an observable outcome, especially at the end when all should ‘produce’ the structure well, in this case higher degree of fluency and confidence.

Behaviourism like above is good because it’s active learning, practical, reinforcing, controllable and clear in outcomes.

The negative could be when wanting higher level outcomes e.g. not skills of regurgitation or rote learning but analysis, reflection etc.; learners can be assessed further in written evaluation of their learning through reflection etc.

For related blogs or articles click through Education Training Learning.