POGIL, Posting Keys Online, Cheating and Checkpoints

POGIL High School Chemistry

What am I doing to help kids achieve?

How do I know when they are there?

What is the evidence?

  We had just had some snow days and I had the feeling that I was getting behind. In one class we were approaching the topic of orbital diagrams and electron configurations. I was tempted to just say, "Here are the notes." Sometimes there is nothing wrong with that. This time, something was eating at me. Instead I picked a POGIL from the "High School Chemistry" book that presented the ideas through guided inquiry.

  At first, it went well. Kid got up and got moving. They were in small groups. I could hear through the conversations students talking and debating the meaning of the symbols and not talking about the basketball game coming up this Friday. And then it happened....yes..there was the one student quietly looking down at her cell phone so intently that she did not know that I was standing next to her looking at it also. All of the answers can be found online for almost every single POGIL.....

  Currently, there is a significant amount of discussion on teaching list serves about the frustration of people posting answer keys online and students checking the internet instead of doing the work. Many teachers, myself included, experience this frustration. So what can we do about it? Here is what I can't do...given the current day jobs of teachers, there is no way I and anyone else can do all that we are expected to do AND decide to police the internet for people posting keys AND tell them to stop. The ship has already left the dock. Many schools are going toward blended learning which makes it even easier for students to find and share answers without thinking about the concepts. So what can we do?....

  Maybe we need to think about different ways for students to present the answers. Maybe, having the answer on paper is only a very small part of the assignment. What if demonstrating mastery and applying the concept is what counts? What would that look like? What if the teacher went to each group and said that the group has to have a "checkpoint". Essentially, the teacher not only checks their work as a group but also asks clarifying questions....ones that cannot be found online easily when the teacher is looking the person right in the eye. Many labs, POGIL activities and other activities have these built in. This is where I think the real teaching and learning occurs. Students are more likely to ask questions in small groups that they would never ask in front of the class. It is much easier as a teacher to see who is working, who truly is not sure of the answer and who is just writing answers down that they found somewhere else. Make it clear to students that it is important to write down the answers, and even more important to be able to verbally explain and apply the science concepts.

  There is a downside to checkpoints. It is "messy". As teachers work with one group, another might be on task, or they may not be. You might be able to talk to most of the students, but not all of the students. Every teacher has their own personal teaching style and I am not about to criticize yours. Personally, I gave up trying to keep everything nice and neat a long time ago. The checkpoints that I have experienced during most activities have been helpful because I can catch kids in small groups and especially help those who think they can't get science.

  Will we always have some students who cheat? There will always be some that do. However, there will always be some who do not. The best we can do is to provide students with the opportunity to learn. Whether or not they decide to take that opportunity, it is up to them. Meeting them at ground zero and asking them to explain is where the really rich educational moments can happen. It does not always happen online or if I spend the bell sitting behind a desk. To quote Neil Tyson, "True Science Literacy is less about what you know, and more about how your brain is wired for processing information." Here is to helping all kids process information in a meaningful way..... If you have not tried a POGIL or student checkpoints, give it a shot...you may be pleasantly surprised....

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Comments 3

Michelle Okroy's picture
Michelle Okroy | Mon, 02/08/2016 - 22:13

Hi Chad,

  Over the last few years I've had the same issue with POGIL as well as Modeling Instruction assignments, teachers are posting the keys as well as not keeping them on a password protected website. 

   So where do we go from here? I think it is just as important to assess the conversations we have with our students and the discussions they have with one another, in addition to the assignments they turn in. Like you mentioned, dialogue can be messy to grade however teachers need to consider this as an additional assessment tool. 

   I'd be interested to hear how you assess students during class discussions because I am always looking for new ideas.

Jawary Prieto | Tue, 02/23/2016 - 06:42

I agree! Confidential answer key are there for a reason. Not only in high school this is of great concern but also in college. 

John Yohe | Wed, 02/10/2016 - 08:25

One solution to the cell phone issue is to have a basket at the front of the room for them.  Have the Equipment manager place them in the basket in the beginning of class and retrieve them at the end of class.  I have also seen teachers use calculator holders for this same purpose.