Monday, January 28, 2013

Academic integrity in A&P

About a year ago, I posted a brief item in my blog The A&P Student about academic honesty.  It succinctly describes what "academic integrity" is and explains clearly why it's in a student's own best interest to cultivate and practice academic integrity.

One of the most important points this post makes is this:
Research shows that people who practice dishonesty become more dishonest over time. Yikes.  Apparently, it's so easy to get in the habit of cheating that it soon becomes part of who you are and what you always do!  Don't let that happen to you . . . it will only cause misery.
This is an especially important lesson for those going into either the health professions or medical research.

After reading in What the Best College Teachers Do that professors recognized as "master teachers" have all abandoned fretting over futile attempts at building elaborate layers of defense against cheating for a more effective strategy: developing a culture of integrity in the course.  The old "honor system" really does work in a context of reasonable precautions!

Part of my effort to put this approach into practice is to have my students read my blog posting Why be honest? near the beginning of each semester.  I announce this assignment while relating the recurring nightmare that I think most of us share:
In my dream, I wake from unconsciousness as I'm being wheeled into an emergency room, strapped to a gurney. A health professional (for me it's a nurse) is covering my face with a mask as she (sometimes it's a he) says, "hey Dr. Patton, remember me?  I was the one you flunked in A&P for cheating.  I'm here to take care of you now."  I try to break free, but the straps hold tight.  I try to shout out, but the mask prevents it.  I wake up in a cold sweat.
I explain that this could be any of us.  Or our family or friends.  And ask them all to join me in creating a culture of integrity in our course.

Consider putting a link to Why be honest? in your course material.  Perhaps even make it required reading.  For example, my friend Gary Heisermann includes a link and related question about the content in his first homework assignment, which reviews and emphasizes various important policies in his A&P course. I include it in each course syllabus.

Want to know more?
  • Why be honest?
    • Kevin Patton
    • The A&P Student 5 Jan 12
    • [Provide this link to your students in your syllabus or online course resources.]

  • What the Best College Teachers Do
    • Ken Bain
    • Harvard University Press April 30, 2004
    • [In stories both humorous and touching, Bain describes examples of ingenuity and compassion, of students' discoveries of new ideas and the depth of their own potential. What the Best College Teachers Do is a treasure trove of insight and inspiration for first-year teachers and seasoned educators. ]

  • The "Truth" About Why We Lie, Cheat, And Steal
    • NPR staff
    • 4 June 2012
    • [Interview with Dan Areily, author of The Honest Truth about Dishonesty, and current research on dishonesty.]

  • The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty
    • Dan Ariely
    • Harper June 5, 2012
    • [The New York Times bestselling author of Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality returns with thought-provoking work to challenge our preconceptions about dishonesty and urge us to take an honest look at ourselves.]

Image by Hariadhi

Monday, January 21, 2013

Start A&P 2 with a Final Exam

I always start my A&P 2 with a final exam. WHAT?! Yep, that's right. I start with a FINAL exam!

It's a version of the final exam that I give my A&P 1 students. I warn them in A&P 1 that they need to retain all these concepts . . . they'll surely see them again. Then when they return from their break to start A&P 2, WHAM! Right in the face.

I call this exam that starts off my A&P 2 course "Test Zero." It's before the first regular test of A&P 2, Test One, so that makes sense. But it does "count" toward their course grade. It's a randomized, online test that they can do up to three times (each attempt is a different version of the exam).

Test Zero reviews the entire A&P 1 course--including the hard parts. It helps them brush up on what I want them to know to be successful in their A&P 2 course. And later courses.

It's also another opportunity for them to practice. As we all know, if we don't use it, we'll lose it.

I've done this for many years now and it works wonderfully. I can really see a difference each time we encounter an "old" idea from A&P 1.

Want to know more?

  • Teaching as Testing.
    • Kevin Patton
    • The Electronic Professor 27 Feb 2009
    • [Article outlining my use of randomized online testing as a mechanism of needed practice. Includes links to a full video presentation.]

  • Practice. Practice. Practice.
    • Kevin Patton
    • Lion Tamers Guide to Teaching 3 December 2010
    • [Article on the role of practice in teaching and learning, using the analogy of taming lions.]