Alfie Kohn: “Who’s Cheating Whom?”

The prolific and incisive education writer Alfie Kohn casts a discerning eye on the current and past epidemic of cheating in K-12 schools and higher education. He notes that the evidence shows that …

“[…] when teachers don’t seem to have a real connection with their students, or when they don’t seem to care much about them, students are more inclined to cheat.[5] 
That’s a very straightforward finding, and not a particularly surprising one, but if taken seriously it has the effect of shifting our attention and reshaping the discussion.

“So, too, does a second finding:  Cheating is more common when students experience the academic tasks they’ve been given as boring, irrelevant, or overwhelming.  In two studies of ninth and tenth graders, for example, “Perceived likelihood of cheating was uniformly relatively high . . . when a teacher’s pedagogy was portrayed as poor.”[6]  

“To put this point positively, cheating is relatively rare in classrooms where the learning is genuinely engaging and meaningful to students and where a commitment to exploring significant ideas hasn’t been eclipsed by a single-minded emphasis on “rigor.”  The same is true in “democratic classes where [students’] opinions are respected and welcomed.”[7]  

“List the classroom practices that nourish a disposition to find out about the world, the teaching strategies that are geared not to covering a prefabricated curriculum but to discovering the significance of ideas, and you will have enumerated the conditions under which cheating is much less likely to occur.   (Interestingly, one of the mostly forgotten findings from that old Teachers College study was that “progressive school experiences are less conducive to deception than conventional school experiences” – a result that persisted even after the researchers controlled for age, IQ, and family background.   In fact, the more time students spent in either a progressive school or a traditional school, the greater the difference between the two in terms of cheating.)[8]”

In addition, concentrating on class rankings or awards in academics provides even more pressure to cheat.

There is a lot more. Read the entire article. And click to subscribe to his page.

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. During my training to become a certified teacher of social studies, I was exposed to Fenton’s Inquiry Approach and had the wonderful experience to use this pedagogy during my student teaching at Clarkston HS in Washington. Powerful, engaging, and exciting. This is part of my institutional memory that is currently being erased by the school reformers that took control after Nation at Risk (which was pretty much totally debunked as fabrication by the Sandia Laboratory Study—which was essentially shelved and ignored by the reformers).
    I had the pleasure to hear Alfie Kohn speak at the Education Now & In the Future Conference by the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory around 2000—right before No Child Left Behind was implemented. He talked extensively on the misuse of standardized testing which still plagues Oregon’s public schools to this day. Sigh……

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