Who's Doing the Work?

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At my presentation at the Computers and Writing Conference last week, I shared ten narrative remix assignments and related student work (example shown in the picture on the right). When it came time for the Q&A session, someone asked, “How do you know that students are doing the work?”

When I heard that question, there was a moment when I stopped and panicked. What if they were cheating? What if it wasn’t their work? Who was doing the work? How did I know for sure?

What caught me off guard, I think, was the fact that it never occurred to me that students might be cheating. I just knew, in that way you know in your gut. So when I was asked the question, I found myself constructing an answer for why I knew.

First, I explained that I know because I see them work. I walk around the classroom and pay attention to what they are doing. I use microconferencing to talk with students frequently about where they are on the projects and to provide feedback on whatever they show me. So I see their work and I see them working.

I also ask them to write about their work in dialectical blog posts at the end of class. Their entries are organized around two headings: What I Did, and Why I Did It. When I review their posts, I see a running list of the things they are doing. When relevant, they include links to drafts or related artifacts of their process. So I see them talking about their work.

That’s where I left the topic in the presentation. I’ve realized as I thought about the question since Friday, however, that there’s something more. I know because of the assignment students are working on. It asks students to choose something a topic that is a passion project and to take a risk. I encourage them to choose something that they want to learn or know and to make that part of the work they will do.

With those parameters, they are all deeply engaged in the projects. They eagerly call me over to look at what they are doing before class even starts. I have found them in the hallway outside of the classroom sharing their prototypes with anyone who will watch. There are times when I have to force them to stop working and leave the classroom so that the next class can come in. That’s not the behavior of students who are doing dishonest work. So, yes, I know students are doing their own work.

How about you? How do you know that students are turning in multimodal projects that are their own work? What do you do to ensure academic honesty? Let me know by leaving a comment below or dropping by my page on Facebook or Google+.

About the Author
Traci Gardner, known as "tengrrl" on most networks, writes lesson plans, classroom resources, and professional development materials for English language arts and college composition teachers. She is the author of Designing Writing Assignments, a contributing editor to the NCTE INBOX Blog, and the editor of Engaging Media-Savvy Students Topical Resource Kit.