06 SES 03 A, Using, Studying & Cheating
Pupils’ everyday media activities are deeply entangled with their activities in homework. The everyday media activities usually take place in informal contexts whereas homework is dominated by the formal characteristics of school. It is therefore a goal of the research project “Homework & Media Education”, funded by the Swiss National Research Foundation to investigate reconciliations between those two contexts. One of our central results show that doing homework is not just the completion of given tasks from school, but it is especially accompanied and structured by media activities, such as communicating in social networks like Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Instagram. Research in the project focussed on Swiss secondary schools and was collected in 25 classes in seven different German-speaking cantons.
As will be demonstrated, emerging cultural practices, are deeply integrated into homework as school-associated activities in out-of-school contexts. Besides of traditional didactic and educational functions of homework, it seems to transport ethics and societal structures into the media practice of pupils. Alongside “traditional” school media, a range of everyday media are integrated by students into homework and learning activities.
Homework could be discussed as a cultural practice opposed to changes due to conversions in media landscapes. Entertainment, communication, and social interaction among pupils are integrated into fulfilment of school tasks using social media. The shift in this cultural practice will be demonstrated at the special attention to shifting perceptions of cheating for homework. In a narrow definition, homework are concrete pre-formulated tasks by the teacher to be completed by the pupils outside school, resp. at home and alone. Not complying to these framing rules is usually treated as an academic crime, deviant behaviour or moral disengagement and implies that learning does not take place (Michaels and Miethe 1989; Schab 1991; Bouville 2009; Watson and Sottile 2010; Farnese et al. 2011). Other research show that cheating is also dependent from school subjects and pupils’ preferred subjects (Kohler, Merk, and Zengerle 2013; Kohler et al. 2014). The project “Homework & Media Education” used a wider working definition of homework including all work by pupils for school outside of the school or classroom. Judging from pupils’ media and homework activities in the sample a transition or shift in perceived rules on cheating is visible. Sharing material on social media is widespread and usually not considered active cheating. Other national and international research second these findings (Burgason, Sefiha, and Briggs 2019). The presentation will give insight to patterns of sharing and of “getting work done” and will contrast them with statements by pupils on cheating.
The survey was conducted in autumn 2018 in 25 classes in seven German-speaking cantons of Switzerland. The media diaries (authors 2018) of 250 pupils who had kept them over a period of 14 days were evaluated. The pupils in this sample are between 11 (as two primary school classes are included) and 17 years old, with an average of 14. Just over half of the respondents in the sample (55%) report 'female' as their gender, with 43% reporting 'male' (2% not reporting). The survey is built as a mixed methods design. At the beginning, there is a written survey consisting of closed questions on the topic of support with and control of homework by parents and other persons, and which media pupils would use for support. This is followed by an open-ended question about media use in the context of homework in the format of a media diary. At the end of the diary (ibid. 2018, 37) there are three open-ended reflection questions about homework during the two weeks of the survey. “Remember the past two weeks. • I have done this well with homework over the last 2 weeks. That's how I did it: • What was the coolest homework during the last 2 weeks? Why? • Recently, I copied [or cheated on; author] a homework. Here's how it went:” Of these, the third question about copying or cheating is central to this contribution. From the 250 students who had kept the media diaries, 131 wrote an answer to the direct question about cheating on homework. In the course of the study, a coding scheme was developed inductively, building on the coding process of the pre-studies (author 2018; author 2018) in several iterative-approaching processes (Mey and Mruck 2011, 24f.) of open coding and concept or category formation. Alongside a granulated coding of different kinds of media, addressed as hardware, software, media activities and apps/services, we developed a coding scheme allowing for the integration of these forms of media into different kinds of structures (authors 2020). One of these are social structures, connecting media activities to friends and colleagues, parents, teachers, or other relevant thirds in the pupils’ daily life. In analysing the reflection questions, another layer of the social structure, in form of rules, values, not only in respect to media activities, but also concerning a relationship towards homework and academic achievement could be developed.
Our results suggest a transition or shift in perceptions on cheating as an academic deviant behaviour. The data indicates that pupils still have some sense of wrongdoing in cheating while at the same time sharing or using shared homework material is not connotated negatively. Currently four dimensions of cheating and pupils’ relation towards it arise: Justification: Giving reasons for copying seems to serve as justification for the attempt. It also shows a sense of wrongdoing on the side of the pupils. Technical and social resources: Those who copy often name sources where they got the solution from. Technical resources for copying are chatgroups in social media, preferably WhatsApp. Social resources of homework material indicate that copying or mutual sharing material seems to be a social practice. Admitting the role of being the provider seems to reflect a social status attained by supplying solutions for others to copy, as others will have to come and ask. Between social desirability and irony: Almost half of the answers state that no copying or cheating was conducted. Those answers could be interpreted in terms of “social desirability” and reflect that cheating and copying homework is not accepted. It may also reflect how “making an effort” seems to be highly valued. But there is also a wink in the eye and the use of irony as some pupils emphasise, they had “NEVER” copied any homework. Understanding the term of “abschreiben” (copying) It needs to be said that the common German term for cheating on homework [German: abschreiben] can also be translated to “copying”. The way how pupils report having copied homework may also indicate that they simply e.g. copied the assignment from the blackboard. Thus, the term “abschreiben” reflects a shift in perceptions on values.
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