To limit cheating and fit distance learning, faculty adjust testing styles

March 17, 2021

Before March 2020 most testing situations looked the same. A teacher would pass out a test, sit down at their desk and keep a watchful eye on any conversations or phone usage during any 45-minute assessment. 

But during the last year, distance learning has made it easy for students to cheat:  to take a test on their computer while another browser tab is open, or to text their friend asking for help on a question.

Academic dishonesty has become easier during distance learning, and while the transition to some in-person classes could be used to supervise some students more closely during tests, some U-High teachers and an administrator do not view that as hybrid learning’s main purpose. 

History teacher Christopher Janus said he prefers to test all students at the same time, and will continue to do so. He said the increased possibility of cheating during distance learning has not affected his plans for hybrid learning.

“I’m assuming that people are not cheating, but if they are cheating that’s their business and eventually they’ll get caught for it and be punished,” Mr. Janus said. “It’s not something I shape my teaching philosophy around.”

Science teacher Elizabeth Hubin has used Schoology to test during synchronous class sessions this year. During hybrid learning, Dr. Hubin plans to continue this assessment form, with tests only on days that all students are remote.

What sets scientists apart is their ability to digest scientific information and apply it and really have scientific literacy. None of that is memorization; it’s about really digging deeper into material.”

— Elizabeth Hubin

“I think that there’s better ways of spending [in-person classes] than just sitting and taking a test, so while I’ll still continue to have tests, I’m going to have them during our Zoom classes,” Dr. Hubin said.

Dr. Hubin said her tests focus on applying material rather than memorizing it, which makes it less useful to use the internet to seek answers. Additionally, to try to alleviate the temptation to use outside resources, all of her tests are now open note.

“What sets scientists apart is their ability to digest scientific information and apply it and really have scientific literacy,” Dr. Hubin said. “None of that is memorization; it’s about really digging deeper into material.”

Similarly, science teacher Zachary Hund said the uniqueness of his test questions reduces the effectiveness of outside resources. His tests are also all open note.

“I would like to think that my students are not using the internet to search for answers, which also goes into why I try to make questions that are very unique and things you can’t Google, at least for my AT Chemistry class,” Dr. Hund said.

While he hopes his students would turn to their notes before the internet when stuck on a question, Dr. Hund said he and teaching colleague Kenny Fournillier have taken steps to reduce the stress of testing, so students feel less inclined to cheat.

“With Chemistry C, Dr. Fournillier and I decided to drop the percentages pretty significantly in terms of how much an exam counts for,” Dr. Hund said. “Hopefully, knowing that an exam really ends up actually being less than a homework, I would hope, encourages less students to cheat or think about cheating.”

Like Dr. Hubin, Dr. Hund does not plan to use in-person classes for tests. Instead, his classes will do experiments.

“I am more worried about making the in-person experience worthwhile, rather than using it as an excuse to give a locked-down assessment where I know students can’t cheat, because the other thing, too, is half of my students are going to be remote, so there’s no way to give everyone the same test anyway,” Dr. Hund said.

U-High principal Paul Beekmeyer said he hopes in-person learning will be enjoyable for students. 

“As always, assessment is set by the teachers in the department. As a school, I encourage us all to have a healthy balance between coursework, assessments and room just to be together and have fun as a community,” Mr. Beekmeyer said.

So while these tabs may stay open and these conversations keep happening, the goal for teachers in the hybrid format is not to become a watchful eye over tests, but rather to capitalize on the other opportunities presented by in-person classes. 

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To limit cheating and fit distance learning, faculty adjust testing styles