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Testing over Zoom: Teachers adapt to virtual assessments

October 27, 2020

As classes shifted to a virtual format last spring, many upper school teachers canceled tests and quizzes over fears of cheating and a lack of rule-enforcement in a virtual format. Now, armed with the knowledge of a semester of remote learning, teachers have adapted to online testing, shifting toward open-ended and project-based assessments. 

One method to curb cheating that teachers have used is intentionally making their tests challenging and grading on a curve, preventing students from sharing test questions and collaborating to avoid hurting their own grades. Others have shifted to open-note assessments, asking more subjective and proof-based questions with time pressure to prevent internet searches. 

“I feel like the different techniques teachers are using are great because now you have a sense of trust with your classmates. Because of the increased regulations, you can rest easy that the other students are not cheating which will lessen your temptation as well,” said Bryan Zhang (12), one of the senior Honor Council representatives.

Certain teachers, especially for certain math classes that inherently involve more objective questions, have adopted dual-camera systems to better monitor students while testing to recreate the supervision of an in-person environment.

How can we expect students to learn to do the right thing when no one’s watching when teachers are always watching? Personally, if I watch you like a hawk, I feel like I’m telling you that you don’t have honor”

— Sam Lepler

 

On the other hand, some teachers — such as upper school economics teacher Samuel Lepler — have rejected these intrusive methods of supervision, instead hoping to foster honesty through mutual respect. 

“I like to treat my students the way I want to be respected and trusted. How can we expect students to learn to do the right thing when no one’s watching when teachers are always watching? Personally, if I watch you like a hawk, I feel like I’m telling you that you don’t have honor,” Lepler said.

According to a schoolwide Honor Council survey, 21% of Harker students have cheated at least once on a major assessment, although only 3.7% admitted to cheating “sometimes,” “often” or “always.” At the same time, 77% out of 730 respondents believe that cheating has increased in a virtual format. 

Ultimately, teachers want to assure students that although they empathize with the struggles and temptations of virtual learning, honest work is appreciated over dishonest performance. 

“I get the day-to-day pressures and I get the temptations to cut corners. I hope students know we are sympathetic to the pressures that they face,” upper school history teacher Katy Rees said, “We will do all that we can to help them succeed in our classes, but we are a lot less than sympathetic when students use dishonest ways to pull themselves up.”

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