Friday, 21 August 2009

Tricher ou pas tricher...

Last term, one of my more challenging students got full marks for the first time in a vocabulary test. When I congratulated him, he said, "I cheated." I asked him, "How?" He replied, in all sincerity, "I memorised the words before the test." "I wish my GCSE students would do that," I said.
You may have read this story recently, where 3 modern languages teachers were suspended over allegations of cheating in GCSE exams. This school is not alone; there are other schools under investigation at the time of writing this.

To be accused of cheating in a public exam is, obviously, a very serious allegation and I hope that, for their sake, when the investigation is over, the teachers involved will be found to have done nothing wrong.

So, what is cheating? My student was convinced he had acted in a devious, underhand way, but he had done nothing wrong at all.

We have all heard (and probably told!) anecdotal stories of teachers "bending the rules" or "misinterpreting the rules" and giving their students a little too much help with coursework and there may be a case for many more schools, acting in a similar way, to be accused of cheating.

Is "bending the rules" cheating? Well, nowadays, I suppose it all depends who you are and whether you get caught.

If it was a sporting situation, perhaps they would be guilty of "gamesmanship": "Pushing the rules to the limit without getting caught, using whatever dubious methods possible to achieve the desired end." (Lumpkin, Stoll and Beller, 1994)

Gamesmanship is rife in sport. We have all seen it. There is a certain tennis player, who has such a terrible cough (just before an opponent's serve), I feel should be at home in bed rather than on the court. But is it cheating? I think so.

Back to learning languages. Obviously, giving the students the questions in advance of a test is cheating. Is preparing students thoroughly for an exam cheating? Is going through past exam papers cheating? Is doing a mock exam cheating?

AQA, an exam board I have used for more than 10 years, publishes past exam papers and sample questions along with mark shemes and examiners' reports on their website. They even publish model questions for the speaking test. The same types of questions come up year after year. I use these with my students as a means of revision and practising exam technique, as I'm sure most teachers do. This is not cheating and having all these resources means that you shouldn't need to cheat.

What makes a professional cross the line and feel that he or she has to cheat? Pressure from a departmental head? Pressure from schools to achieve targets and move up the league tables? Performance management targets? Performance related pay? Attracting more students to study a language and thereby saving jobs? The ability to say to your colleagues in other subjects, "Our results are better than yours"?

What I find sad about these teachers who are caught cheating is that they have probably been doing it, and getting away with it, for years.

What kind of example does it set to our students?

A wise man once said, "There are no bad students, only bad teachers."
Okay, it was Mr Miyagi in "The Karate Kid", but he does have a point.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Some authentic links for AQA A2 French

I decided to put together a list of web sites, pages and articles for my Year 13 students to look at and use as authentic background reading, so I thought I'd share it with the world.

I may even make some resources to go with them. Watch this space.

You may want to use the articles as a way of starting class discussions. After all, students will be expected to express, justify and defend a point of view in the exam.

I've tried my best to put an explanation with each one and I must stress the opinions given in these links are not my own personal views.

The Environment - French site giving information about pollution, the ozone layer, deforestation., etc. It has maps and statistics, too. - As it says in the title there are 100 questions about the environment with comprehensive answers. Could be a very useful research tool and good practice for the speaking exam. - Mainly science based website, but with some excellent information about the environment, fossil fuels and alternatives, global warming, etc. - French government glossary of terms used in the nuclear industry with explanations for the likes of you and me. - The French Greenpeace site contains lots of information about their activities and general information about how we can protect the planet.

Immigration - Everything you could ever need to know about immigration in France - An article from 2002 looking at some of the causes of racism in France - Pressure group against racism containing a lot of useful information - Another pressure group against racism. The site has a teacher's section with resources

Poverty & Unemployment - An article about poverty in France, laying the blame at the door of the French government. Quelle surprise. - Quite a long article from UNESCO about poverty with lots of statistics. - An interesting website with lots of information about homelessness in France, the reasons why people end up homeless and what we can do to help - An article from a French newspaper about the unemployment explosion in 2009 in France - An article from February 2009 (originally in Le Figaro) which considers the rise in unemployment in France and compares it to similar countries and has a video report with it. - A company which deals with producers in developing countries a bit like Fairtrade in th UK

Crime - An article about the increasing threat of phishing to French "internautes" - An article about Youtube's decision to ban uploaded videos which contain violence. - An article about the problems of illegal downloads. - A project from the French Socialist Party with comments from the public (the kind of public who would be aware of the socialist party website, that is.) - More politics, this time from the democratic movement

New technology - A very political website on the absolute brilliance of all things genetically modified - As above, but on how terrible genetic modification is - An article in which the horrors and dangers of using Facebook are expressed - An article about assisted suicide. An ideal start for a discussion - Another article about euthanasia. This one claims you can buy a DIY kit in Switzerland - An interesting article about the ban on embryonic stem cell research in France, comparing it to the USA where Obama has allowed such research to go ahead. Contains some great vocabulary!

If you use any of these, or can recommend any other links please comment below.