Upcoming Webinar: None of the above: Integrity concerns of standardized English proficiency tests with Soroush Sabbaghan and Ismaeil Fazel

January 4, 2021

Sabbaghan Fazel webinarThis session will bring to fore (or highlight) the oft-neglected discord between equity and integrity in high-stakes standardized language tests. The equity issues surrounding these so-called standardized language tests can potentially precipitate and predispose academic dishonesty. This presentation will discuss the ramifications of inherent inequities in high stakes language proficiency tests for academic integrity and will call for a more critical consideration of commercialized high stakes language tests. Redressing equity issues in language assessment can serve to promote academic integrity and reduce academic dishonesty.

Learning outcomes

  • Learn more about challenges to equity in high stakes language testing.
  • Recognize discords between equity and integrity in commercial standardized language tests
  • Review principles and best practices for equitable language assessment

About the presenters

Ismaeil Fazel - web sizeIsmaeil Fazel is a Lecturer at the Faculty of Education of Simon Fraser University. He has a PhD in TESL and a sub-specialization in Measurement and Evaluation from the University of British Columbia. His main research interests include English for Academic and Professional Purposes, academic discourse socialization, and language assessment. His publications have appeared in the Journal of English for Academic Purposes, English for Specific Purposes Journal, and TESL Canada Journal, among others.

Soroush Sabbaghan - web sizeSoroush Sabbaghan is a Senior Instructor at the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary. He holds two PhDs, one in TESL and the other in Curriculum and Learning with a focus in Mathematics Education. His main research interests include language and mathematics education of bilingual and multilinguals, Language Learning and Technology, and ecological complexity discourses. He has publications in both Language and mathematics education journals and books.

Friday, 08 January 2021

10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Calgary (Mountain) time

This session is open to the public and everyone is welcome. Registration required. Deadline to register is 07 Jan 2021.

More information and registration:

https://taylorinstitute.ucalgary.ca/series-and-events/academic-integrity-urgent-emerging-topics

This webinar is part of our series, Academic Integrity: Urgent and Emerging Topics. This series addresses timely and emergent topics that are cutting edge, provocative or high profile in nature. The series is hosted by the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, University of Calgary.

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This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary.


Comparing E-Proctoring Software to Hydroxychloroquine: An Apt Analogy

November 4, 2020
Image courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To help educators and administrators understand why I urge caution, and even skepticism about the use of e-proctoring software and other surveillance technologies such as those that lockdown students’ Internet browsers, here’s an analogy I have been using that seems to resonate:

In my opinion, e-proctoring software is to higher education what Hydroxycloroquine has been to the COVID-19 virus.

It’s not that e-proctoring software is bad, it is that it was never designed to be used under the current conditions. There are colleagues who would disagree with me about this kind of software being bad in principle. I accept their position. Let’s look at this through the eyes of scholar who is trained to reserve judgement on an issue without evidence to back it up. If we assume the software was designed for a specific purpose – to invigilate exams taken via a computer, then it fulfills that purpose. So, in that sense, it does what it is supposed to do. However, that is not the whole story.

We can turn to Hydroxychloroquine as an analogy to help us understand why we should be skeptical.

Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malaria drug, also used to treat arthritis. It was never designed to be used against the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus. Hasty attempts to do research on the coronavirus, including studies on Hydroxychloroquine, have resulted in numerous papers now being retracted from scientific journals. People ran to this drug as a possible antidote the coronavirus, just as schools are running to e-proctoring software as an antidote for exam cheating. Neither e-proctoring software nor Hydroxychloroquine were designed to be used during the current pandemic. People flocked to them both as if they were some kind of magic pill that would solve a massively complex problem, without sufficient evidence that either would actually do what they so desperately wanted it to do.

The reality is that there is scant scientific data to show that e-proctoring actually works in the way that people want it to, that is, to provide a way of addressing academic misconduct during the pandemic. By “scientific data” I do not mean sales pitches. I am talking about independent scholarly studies undertaken by qualified academic researchers employed at reputable universities. By “independent scholarly studies” I mean research that has not been funded in any way by the companies that produce the products. That kind of research is terrifyingly lacking.

We need to back up for a minute and look about why we invigilate exams in the first place. To invigilate means “to keep watch over”. Keeping watch over students while they write an exam is part of ensuring that testing conditions are fair and objective.

The point of a test, in scientific terms, involves controlling all variables except one. In traditional testing, all other factors are controlled, including the conditions under which the test was administered such as the exam hall with desks separated, same lighting and environment for all test-takers, length of time permitted to take the test, how it is invigilated, and so on. All variables are presumably controlled except one: the student’s knowledge of the subject matter. That’s what’s being tested, the student’s knowledge.

Exams are administered in what could be termed, academically sterile environments. In an ideal situation, academic hygiene is the starting point for administering a test. Invigilation is just one aspect of ensuring academic hygiene during testing, but it is not the only factor that contributes to this kind of educational hygiene that we need to ensure testing conditions control for all possible variables except a student’s knowledge of the subject matter.

During the pandemic, with the shift to remote learning, we cannot control all the variables. We simply cannot assure an academically hygienic environment for testing. Students may have absolutely no control over who else is present in their living/studying quarters. They may have no control over a family member (including their own children) who might enter a room unannounced during a test. The conditions under which students are being tested during the pandemic are not academically hygienic. And that’s not their fault.

E-proctoring may address one aspect of exam administration: invigilation. It cannot, however, ensure that all variables are controlled.

As an academic integrity scholar, I am distressed by the lack of objective, peer-reviewed data about e-proctoring software. Schools have turned to e-proctoring software as if it were some kind of magic pill that will make academic cheating go away. We have insufficient evidence to substantiate that e-proctoring software, or any technology for that matter, can serve as a substitute for an in-person academically hygienic testing environment.

Schools that were using e-proctoring before the pandemic, such as Thompson Rivers University or Athabasca University in Canada, offered students a choice about whether students preferred to take their exams online, at home, using an e-proctoring service, or whether they preferred to drive to an in-person exam centre. During the pandemic, students’ choice has been taken away.

We all want an antidote to academic misconduct during remote learning, but I urge you educators and administrators to think like scholars and scientists. In other words, approach this “solution” with caution, and even skepticism. At present, we lack sufficient evidence to make informed decisions. Educators need to be just as skeptical about this technology and how it works during pandemic conditions as physicians and the FDA have been about using Hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus. Its use as being effective against the coronavirus is a myth. The use of e-proctoring software as being an effective replacement for in-person exams is also a myth, one perpetuated by the companies that sell the product.

Forcing surveillance technology on students against their will during a pandemic is tantamount to forcing an untested treatment on a patient; it is unethical to the extreme.

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This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary.


Let’s Talk About the Other Pandemic: Academic Cheating

May 17, 2020

Since the shift to remote emergency teaching and learning as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, there has been story after story in the news about students violating academic integrity.

It’s time we talked about it. Let’s talk about the associate head of school at a New York city upper west side private schools who allegedly tampered with high school admissions tests by (allegedly) providing unsolicited answers to students to help improve their scores.

Let’s talk about how the “unidentified party” who posted fake answers to the Advance Placement (AP) test on Reddit and other social media to lure cheaters taking. It has been reported that the body who administers the test, the US College Admissions board, would not comment on how a “ring of students who were developing plans to cheat” were identified. But someone planted fake answers on social media for students to find. Then that “someone” used those fake answers to identify alleged cheaters.

Let’s talk about the other incidents of individual college professors allegedly posting fake answers to assignments on social media in order to identify students who cheat. Let’s be clear, if this is really happening and it is not some mutated urban myth in which educators are evil masterminds, these would be pretty clear cases of entrapment.

Let’s talk about the professors who allegedly post messages directed to their own students on social media outlining how they’re tracking students’ every move, from their social media posts to their IP addresses during exams. If this is really  happening, then that would be awful. I mean, it would be surveillance to levels that even Orwell didn’t dream up. It might even be considered intimidation, or harassment, or even bullying of students.

Let’s talk about how none of this actually helps students, who are also living through this pandemic along with the rest of us. Let’s talk about how students are reporting they are so stressed out by the conditions under which they are learning and taking exams, that they are throwing up, due to anxiety related to the crisis conditions in which they too, are living. Yes, students. They are trying to complete their academic work in the middle of a global crisis.

I acknowledge there are many caring and dedicated educators who are working hard to support students’ learning, but the increasing number of examples of unethical behaviour among instructors and administrators during the Coronavirus pandemic is not only worrisome, it is downright disturbing. Those educators and administrators who believe that entrapment or other unethical behaviour is “fighting fire with fire” when it comes to academic conduct have forgotten this basic lesson: Two wrongs don’t make it right.

If we are going to ask students to uphold academic integrity, then for the sake of all that is holy, teachers, administrators and learning organizations must lead by example. Educators and administrators who focus on cheating, rather than learning, may not have students’ best interests at heart.

It’s time to start talking about instructional integrity, administrative integrity, and institutional integrity.

A symptom of the academic cheating pandemic is not that students are cheating more, it is that we, those who are responsible for supporting their learning and development, are letting them down. We must keep the focus on helping students to learn. We need to work with our students, not against them.

In the game of “Gotcha!” no one wins.

Related posts:

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This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary.


New article: Strengthening the research agenda of educational integrity in Canada

July 25, 2018

There’s been lots of research done about plagiarism, cheating and other topics related to academic integrity, but how much of it has actually been done in — or about — Canada? That’s the question my co-author, Rachael Ileh Edino, and I asked when we set out on a journey to review the published research literature about these topics, casting a specific lens on the Canadian context.

The results have been published by the International Journal for Educational Integrity.

Article screen shot.jpeg

Abstract

We present findings of a literature review on the topic of educational integrity in the Canadian context. Our search revealed 56 sources, published between 1992 and 2017. A historical overview showed a rise in the number of scholarly publications in recent years, but with an overall limited number of research contributions. We identified three major themes in the literature: (a) empirical research; (b) prevention and professional development; and (c) other (scholarly essay). Our analysis showed little evidence of sustained research programs in Canada over time or national funding to support integrity-related inquiry. We also found that graduate students who completed their theses on topics related to educational integrity often have not published further work in the field later in their careers. We provide five concrete recommendations to elevate and accelerate the research agenda on educational integrity in Canada on a national level. We conclude with a call to action for increased research to better understand the particular characteristics of educational integrity in Canada.

Check out the entire article: Strengthening the research agenda of educational integrity in Canada: a review of the research literature and call to action.

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This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.

 


Universities unite against the academic black market

October 17, 2017

The ConversationOn the TV show Suits, Mike Ross’s character charges a hefty fee to students to take the LSAT (law school admission test) for them. Ross has a stellar memory and a remarkable ability to take tests without getting crushed by stress — he is the perfect “contract cheater.” Later, Ross builds a career as a lawyer based on fake credentials, presumably from Harvard.

Mike Ross may be fictional, but his business is only too real within universities globally. “Contract cheaters” such as Ross complete academic work on a student’s behalf — for a fee. This work includes test taking and homework services. It includes essay-writing and even PhD thesis-writing services, also known as “paper mills.”

In my role as interim associate dean of teaching and learning at the University of Calgary, and as a researcher who specializes in plagiarism prevention and academic integrity, I have been writing about contract cheating since 2010. Since then, it has become rampant at high school and post-secondary levels.

This black market for academic work is vast and little understood. Universities in Canada, and around the world, are having a very hard time trying to police it.

On Oct. 18, 2017, many universities have committed to the second International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating. This aims to tackle the issue head on — by raising awareness and sharing prevention strategies.

Read the whole article in The Conversation (originally published on Oct. 16, 2017).

Check out the radio interview I did on CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/calgary-eyeopener/segment/14438512

Related posts:

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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