How to Benefit Most from our Evaluation Service - Part 5
Last spring we started a series of posts to help parents help your children get the most from our courses and evaluation service. Here are the first four posts:
As I continue this series of posts about students in homeschooling and our evaluation service, I keep my promise to take up a thorny topic: Cheating. I say "thorny" because some students and parents may have had negative past experiences or challenges with this issue. As we have worked with homeschooling students for several decades, we have responded to different cheating/dishonesty situations that have come from submissions of student work. So, it happens enough that it's worth talking about. But we also know that God graciously gives opportunities in families for learning, growth, and continually getting back on the right track.
Cheating, in whatever form it happens, must be understood at the cross-section of personal, spiritual, educational, and curriculum factors. In some cases, copied math test answers is just down-right lying (and stealing credit for work not done). While there is always background to be considered (eg., daily habits, learning environment, structure, parental expectations, etc.), there is also real moral responsibility.
In other cases, the expectations for an assignment or test could be unclear and the student resorts to 'unapproved research methods'. Sometimes, weaker curriculum cultivates in a student a sort of contempt and apathy; does it really matter how I get these silly answers? Younger homeschool students may have little experience with "formal" tests and what is involved for preparation. In each of these cases, we must be careful as parents and educators how we prepare and equip students for success, so that we do not tempt them to evil.
Some occurrences of cheating may be impulsive and momentary, "in a pinch". On the other hand, a worst case scenario occurs when a high school student develops a long-term strategy of avoidance, hiding, and cheating on assessments; this may also involve a pattern of procrastination. While many biblical proverbs could be levied in relation to this, the old maxim 'cheaters never prosper' seems fitting; they may succeed temporarily in getting through something hard but cheating simply never helps but only hurts. Discovering these situations is discouraging and disappointing for all involved, but necessary for the student personally, spiritually, and educationally.
Tips to help prevent cheating:
- lay the groundwork for a biblical work ethic in all areas of life, including your own parental example
- develop a culture of love for learning about God's world, appreciation of different subjects and topics
- discern between educational, curriculum, and personal/spiritual issues
- train students to be thorough in their everyday studies; develop good habits that build confidence and competency
- promptly address 'minor' issues of dishonesty, cutting corners, "peaking", etc.
- be familiar with the student's courses and what is involved (eg. tests, assignments, projects)
- maybe develop a pattern/schedule (even as a family) of completing tests on a designated day of the week
- be patient and flexible with students if they require more time to complete a unit; it is often (but not always) unhelpful to push forward
- consider the student's work environment; private bedrooms may be quiet but may also allow unmonitored computer use
- so, it may be best to have a devoted education-computer station in an open place in the home
- Bonus Tip: do not store textbook answer keys in accessible places!
- use the Bible;
- refer to law and gospel;
- communicate carefully and with love;
- give restoration, hope, encouragement;
- communicate with the Tree of Life evaluator where applicable;
- make proactive changes to prevent repetition.
From the perspective of Tree of Life, we do not have a one-size-fits-all approach or policy to cheating situations that occasionally come up. Instead, we seek to communicate with the student and parents in order to reach understanding and then move forward. In all, we have sought to be patient and gracious with the proper balance of educational standards.
Do you have any ideas for dealing with cheating, or any questions about it? Feel free to comment.