Pause for thought

I recently ran into a former student whom I have not seen in nearly 15 years. I was surprised he remembered me since we did not part on good terms — he was caught cheating on his major term paper and responded by throwing it in the garbage. At the time I was pleased with myself for having found his essay through a quick Google search (0.63 seconds he told his now girlfriend when we saw each last week). While I still remembered him and the incident, I doubted he would. He surprised me however by saying that he was glad I caught him and taught him a lesson about taking the easy way through life. Over the years I have referred to this student, his paper, and my actions; interestingly the intervening years have caused me to rethink why I tell the story. There was a time when I told this story to show that I was diligent about maintaining the academic integrity of my class; for a while I told the story to show how technology can be used effectively in class by teachers; more recently, though, I have told this story to highlight how my assessment and evaluation practices had changed.

Fifteen years ago I wanted to make that student know that he could not hand in work that was not his. I was certain that I had assessed him fairly for having cheated, but did I really assess anything? Did I help him learn anything abut my course or have him actually show me what he learned? If the same situation occurred in my classroom today, I would have told the student what he had done wrong and worked with him to get me his own writing. I wish I had taken a moment to have my former student rethink his actions in class and show me what he could do. Instead, I have had years to rethink what I do and how I can help my students learn from their mistakes so I can actually assess their learning.

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About Chris Hale

Teacher, parent, husband, fan of tech in class. Have eventually become a runner.
This entry was posted in Critical Thinking and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Pause for thought

  1. scimann says:

    I bet that you will be talking about this student again in your classroom, although this time, the context will be entirely different than the previous three times. There will no doubt be the part where he thanks you for catching him cheating….thank you for sharing!

    • Chris Hale says:

      Yes, the story I tell will change in light of meeting the student again after so many years. While I have still revised my original view of the story and how I could have made differ choices, his reaction to the event is also important. I really thought he would never have remembered what happened; this is a good reminder of how our actions can leave a greater impact than what we plan to teach or say.

      Thanks for your comments!

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