What next? Just when you think you have heard it all, the CBC is reporting today that Saskatoon’s high schools will not be treating plagiarism as cheating or taking marks off for handing in work late or incomplete (H/T Paul). Why? Because they are supposedly “behaviours” and not learning.
Do these people have any idea how wrong that view is? As a learning specialist I can tell you that BOTH cognition and behavioural changes are about learning. I mean, think about learning to drive a car. Should we allow new drivers to have a licence as long as they get a good mark on the preliminary written and visual tests, since the practical driving part of the test is only looking at behaviour?
Yes, no fail-policies are truly that narrowly focused and irresponsible! It’s like education ministries in Canada think learning stops at high school graduation. For example, the CBC item states:
“Some educational experts are critical of the move — an apparent first for Saskatchewan — saying it creates an uneven playing field for students in other parts of the province. But the Saskatoon Public School Board, administrators of the school division and some teachers say the new report cards encourage learning by removing penalties for poor behaviour.
English teacher Katie Kehrig said it’s taken her 30 years of teaching to realize the benefits of separating academic marks from behaviour evaluations. ‘I don’t give late marks, or deduct marks if students are late,’ Kehrig said in support of the new evaluation method. ‘I don’t give bonus marks. I don’t have participation marks. Those are behaviours. As long as a student hands in an assignment at some point, no marks are docked. The same applies to students caught plagiarizing.'”
Have these people lost all sense of reality? Truly, they must have because surely they must know that post-secondary institutions will not put up with this nonsense. As a former university teacher, I can tell you that most professors will not split hairs about what is learning versus what are behaviours.
I mean, an assignment that is due on a certain day is due on that day, unless there is proof there was an extreme family or health emergency. However, barring that type of emergency, marks will be taken off if handed in late or incomplete. Moreover, a student caught plagiarizing will not only fail the assignment and the course, but will be thrown out of the university. Plus, they will forever have a note on their transcript that they cheated.
In other words, you can’t separate “behaviours” from learning. It’s all about learning.
- It’s learning right from wrong.
- It’s learning about personal responsibility.
- It’s learning that there can be negative consequences to what we do or don’t do.
- It’s learning why it is important to get work done on time — because employers will expect that.
- It’s learning that claiming someone else’s work as your own is not only cheating but intellectual theft.
- It’s learning that not handing work in on time is failing at a task.
- It’s about learning “how to work” and what it will be like to go to college or university and what an employer will expect.
So, the school districts and teachers in Saskachewan, or anywhere else in Canada for that matter, who are defending this “no-fail” type of policy (see my archive on similar Ontario policies) are failing in their jobs as educators because, in their misplaced zeal to graduate more students, they are NOT preparing them for life beyond high school.