“We are not cheating, we are working together!” This was a statement of a student who was accused of cheating at my school. Just by walking by, I don't believe anyone could assess whether or not cheating or collaboration were occurring.
If as adults, we collaborate on most or all of our tasks in life, why do we require our students to work alone? We should be promoting collaboration in our schools and not independence or even cooperation. I have written about the difference between cooperation and collaboration here.
If you are truly worried about cheating in your class, here are easy and simple solutions to prevent it from happening:
· Create open ended projects which allow the students to create and use autonomous strategies. Once the “group” has decided on a certain path to take, students will want to be more accountable without extrinsic motivators. Have these projects relate directly to the students’ lives through their passions or interests. Once the student understands that it is a worthwhile problem, he/she will have more motivation to also understand how to solve it.
· Have these tasks as low risk tasks. This can be done by not assigning any marks to the project. Put the emphasis on the work done, the learning achieved, and the final project presented, not on the mark given to the group.
· If you are giving marks, have the students actively involved in the mark. Ask them to evaluate themselves; listing both strengths and weaknesses of the completed project. Allow for students to improve the mark by giving them comments (without marks at this point) as to what areas are needed for improvement.
The common argument to letting students collaborate on a project is: “The teacher won’t actually know how much each person knows.” I am still not convinced that this statement is true. I believe if you give students a well thought out collaboration project, students will learn the intended outcomes.
Teachers need to stop the requirement of marks and start looking more at a holistic idea of whether or not students understand the intended outcome. I agree that teachers will not know the EXACT mark (ie: 92.5%) of a student through a collaborative project BUT….. Neither will they know it through a test! Great teachers understand how poor and inaccurate test scores are to demonstrate how much learning has occurred.
Once, as an entire education system, we embrace the idea of not needing marks to assess students you will see how a collaborative project is a more effective tool than an individual traditional test.