February 3

#MyWhy

As a first generation college student in the late ’80s, with family roots that flow deep into Appalachia, the #RuralInfluence was a powerful force in shaping my path and perspective. With the experiences that 50+ years on this earth have afforded me, I am only further convinced in the power and purpose that can be found in small-town and rural America. That is why #RuralMatters has become such a large part of #MyWhy.

I have now been an educator for close to three decades – the majority of that time has been with small-town and rural school districts. Serving within the public schools under the #RuralInfluence only deepened my belief that it is a distinct educational environment that brings with it an intensity that can only be found in the rural experience. However, the #CulturalMindset tends to marginalize rural life and individuals – often portraying rurality as the problem that needs to be fixed.

This #CulturalMindset takes me back almost twenty years, to the voices of neighbors and naysayers as I began to expand my garden. As I started the rototiller, digging into the soil, I immediately discovered the ground was full of rocks. Not small pebbles but rocks – the size of which, when the tines would hit them, would cause the tiller to buck and bounce. The neighbors and naysayers from the outset told me I would never grow anything in such a rocky soil, all the while never once lifting a finger to clear the stony ground! By the end of growing season, my wife and I had canned over a hundred quarts of half-runners and froze several gallons of sweet corn out of that rocky garden (besides the weekly eating of the peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and such)!

When others look at the small-town and rural educational systems, they may see rocky ground that will never produce. I see a richness in the soil – a richness that can only be found in such a school environment and the communities they serve. The rich soil comes from unique characteristics that such districts share – providing a distinctiveness from their urban/suburban counterparts. I know #RuralEdMatters because I have had the joy in watching/experiencing what such soil produces!

I leave you with this. Chyann is a first generation college student – a product of the small-town/rural educational experience. She is an example of the richness that #RuralEd provides and gives voice for what lies #BeyondTheClassroomWalls for those coming from the #RuralInfluence.

November 18

#ContextMatters

A recent Tweet by Ohio Doorsteps stated, “Sixteen #schooldistricts reported having at least 200 students experiencing #homelessness; among these are urban, suburban and rural districts” (@ohiodoorsteps, November 16, 2018). At a time of the season in which so many focus on family, food, and festivities, this social media message – along with its shared graphic (above) – is a sobering reminder of the effects of poverty educators in Ohio – and throughout the nation – encounter on a daily basis.

These effects are put into perspective by several educators who teach in districts from southwest Ohio that encounter generational poverty on a daily basis. Allie, a third year high school teacher,  described her district, “They’re in the second generation of poverty right now because of factories that have closed.  And if you talk to people that have been there for a while, there’s been huge changes in the attitude about school” (Interview, May 1, 2017).  Hailee, an 11-year veteran, added, “That whole mindset of poverty thing.  Like the Ruby Payne stuff” (Interview, May 1, 2017).  It was this poverty mindset that Allie alluded to when stating:

I feel like hard work means something different to them . . . it doesn’t have to do with school and homework but it does have to do with their actual work job.  It’s just a different set of priorities that if you don’t value in them, they’re not going to respect you back for that.  (Interview, May 1, 2017)

It was Payne (2013) who stated, “An understanding of the culture and values of poverty will lessen the anger and frustration that educators may periodically feel when dealing with these students and parents” (p. 58). That understanding of the culture and values can only come through building relationships – the foundational mental model, according to Payne (2013), that those living within poverty approach situations (pp. 43-44). However, the context, setting, and personal experiences matter in the how one approaches building such an understanding.

As noted by J.H. Flowers in a recent Tweet, “Context influences leadership approaches. There are distinctions between rural leadership and urban leadership” (@jhflowers40, November 16, 2018). Although there are deep similarities among those in poverty from rural, suburban, and urban communities, context and setting will influence the needed leadership within each. Although there exists no universal definition for rural, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) provided one for rural education when it revised its definitions in 2006 of schools based on new classification system that relies less on population size and county boundaries than proximity to urbanized areas (NCES, n.d.).  Accordingly, the NCES defined rural schools into three subcategories (fringe, distant, remote) based on their location to centers of urban areas (NCES, n.d.).

The state of Ohio, with the 2013 School Districts Typology, defined rural education school districts to be “High Student Poverty & Small Student Population [or] Average Student Poverty & Very Small Student Population” (Ohio Department of Education, 2014; Ohio Department of Education, 2015).  Based on the NCES definition, there are close to 10 million students enrolled in rural school districts, comprising over 20% of all public schools (Johnson, Showalter, Klein, & Lester, 2014).  Within the state of Ohio, the rural student population is the fourth highest among the 50 states, with more than one in four Ohio students enrolled in a rural school (Johnson et al., 2014).  Moreover, the rural school enrollment continues to outgrow non-rural enrollment (Johnson et al., 2014).  As such, the call for relevant research targeting the rural influence in education is well justified.

As I have noted before, the rural influence is a distinct environment that brings with it an intensity that can only be found in the rural experience. Rural schools are typically the centerpiece of the community in which they serve, an institution connecting generations of families – and thus connecting generations of poverty. It takes someone with the proper perspective and experiences to lead in such a situation.

References

@jhflowers40. (November 16, 2018) . As I’m reading this report [Twitter post]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/jhflowers40/status/1063651182625910784?s=20

@ohiodoorsteps. (November 16, 2018) . Sixteen #schooldistricts reported [Twitter post]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/ohiodoorsteps/status/1063422694547496968?s=20

Johnson, J., Showalter, D., Klein, R., & Lester, C., (2014). Why rural matters 2013-2014: The condition of rural education in the 50 states. A report of the Rural School and Community Trust. Retrieved from http://www.ruraledu.org/user_uploads/file/2013-14-Why-Rural-Matters.pdf

National Center of Education Statistics. (n.d.). Rural Education in America – Definitions. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/ruraled/definitions.asp

Ohio Department of Education (2014). 2013 School District Typology Overview. Retrieved from http://education.ohio.gov/getattachment/Topics/Data/Frequently-Requested-Data/Typology-of-Ohio-School-Districts/One-Page-Overview-of-2013-School-District-Typology.docx.aspx

Ohio Department of Education (2015). Typology of Ohio school districts. Retrieved from http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Data/Accountability-Resources/Ohio-Report-Cards/Typology-of-Ohio-School-Districts

Payne, R. K. (2013). A framework for understanding poverty: A cognitive approach. (5th ed). Highlands, TX: Aha! Process, Inc.

November 4

#RuralSchoolsMatter

Recently, I had the honor to be a voice for #RuralEd as I presented at a #KDPConvo18 Roundtable on why #RuralSchoolsMatter. The turnout was better than anticipated. There were pre-service teachers, educators presently in the classroom, and education professors. States like Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, and Ohio were represented. I was even able to discuss the commonalities with those from Uganda and Nigeria! It was an excellent roundtable session with great discussions and shared insights. A special thank you to @kdpkean for allowing me to present my passion.

As I shared with this great group, the rural influence is a distinct educational environment that brings with it an intensity that can only be found in the rural experience. Research tends to marginalize rural life and individuals, often portraying rurality as the problem that needs to be fixed. As I mentioned in my last posting, there is a #CulturalMindset.

Based on the NCES definition, there are close to 10 million students enrolled in rural school districts, comprising over 20% of all public schools.  Within the state of Ohio (where I reside), the rural student population is the fourth highest among the 50 states, with more than one in four Ohio students enrolled in a rural school.  Moreover, the rural school enrollment continues to outgrow non-rural enrollment.

Rural school districts, and the communities they serve, all share unique characteristics that provide a distinctiveness from their urban/suburban counterparts.  Rural schools are typically the centerpiece of the community in which they serve, an institution connecting generations of families. As Tieken (2014) noted in her recent work, Why Rural Schools Matter, “[the rural school] is more than a job or an institution; it’s an identity” (p. 65).

This identity and #CulturalMindset needs to be understood on a much broader scale. I encourage you, as I did those at the #KDPConvo18 Roundtable session, look deeper into rural life and individuals – into #RuralEd. I offer you a few Rural Resources in which to explore. I believe that once you do dig deep, you will find yourself saying, “Great place and even better people!” (Allen Pratt, Ed.D., 2018).

Rural Resources

Dr. Nate

October 27

#CulturalMindset

Recently, while attending the #RuralEdForum in Denver, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate with like-minded individuals within Peer Networking Groups. Thanks go to @nrea1 and @battelleforkids for bringing so many of us together – to giving us an opportunity to share and collaborate on our research – on our passion. All of which had rural education as its focus.

While sitting down with those like Nancy Meredith, an educational consultant from Colorado, and Gyanu Luintel, a doctoral student from Texas by way of Nepal, we quickly discovered a common theme across the differing research – there is a #CulturalMindset when it comes to rural education. Whether those participating pointed to the technology, the rurality, historical factors, or other influences, the conditions they described within their research and experiences of rural education was always placed in terms of a changing culture.  A culture in which has changed the dynamic of the 21st century classroom but is not always reflected within the conditions of which teaching and learning takes place.

Maybe the most powerful take-away from this time of sharing and collaboration was the importance placed on building relationships in order to generate a shift in the #Mindset.  This familiar thread could be found running through every discussion as the participants repeatedly pointed to the importance of building strong, genuine relationships within their classrooms, communities, and countries in order to counter the culture they are facing within an educational system that is not meeting the needs of a 21st century society.

There is a need for a shift. Just the little bit of time given to us by @nrea1 and @battelleforkids made a large impact. Was it impactful enough? If we each bring back to our communities this influence – have these same discussions – the same type of collaboration – the same emphasis on building relations, then maybe we will find commonality to move forward. We must because #EducationMatters to everyone!

Dr. Nate

August 19

#CultivatetheSoil

Like myself, many of the teachers within rural districts can look upon the rural landscape outside their classroom window, dotted with barns and silos as large farm fields butt up against sports fields as shown in picture above. Being a part of rural and agricultural life, they are well aware of the importance of cultivating the soil in order to increase growth. Sadly, this mindset does not always transfer to the classroom – to instruction – to the students.

A master teacher once described a scenario in which a land owner became disgruntled with the lack of production from their crops. Blaming the plants, the landowner decided to tear down the crops. However, one of his workers readily stepped forward. He begged the owner to give him time to cultivate the soil that the crops were planted in. The owner agreed.

Often times within education, fault is found with the students or even within their families when they do not produce at the level expected. Some within the school system may be quick to complain about this lack of growth – even placing the blame on the students or their circumstances. Others may even go as far as writing off those students of ever having the ability of growth.

However, as a rural educator, I know that the area farmers would never blame their plants for the lack of production. They would not set out to write off their fields or destroy their crops. These hard working and dedicated growers would set out in earnest to find out what was hindering production – to cultivate the soil. This is their livelihood. This is their families future.

With the start of another school year, it is so important for all involved within the school systems to take such agricultural principals to heart. The students that enter our classrooms are the very lifeblood of the future. When growth is hindered, it is our responsibility as educators to set out in earnest to find out what is hindering production – to #CultivatetheSoil.

July 27

The Need for #Clarity

The headlines of May 11, 2016, article reads, “High-tech devices take cheating to a new level in Thai schools” (Associated Press, 2016).  During the medical school admission tests for Rangsit University in Thailand, several students were caught using smartglasses and smartwatches to cheat on those tests, in real time.  Because of this incident, students are now met with much higher security at testing sites and could face possible prison time if caught cheating (Asian Correspondent, 2016; Wee, 2016).  However, this incident did not come without warning.  Counter (2014) described in their headline that, “With shrinking wireless devices, online classes and the emergence of wearable technology, it’s easier than ever to cheat.”  Academic dishonesty is not a new problem but there are now “New frontiers in high-tech cheating” (Counter, 2014, para. 1).

As noted by McCabe (2001), the digital age “raises new and significant problems for both students and teachers” (para. 15) with regards to the academic dishonesty phenomenon.  Throughout my research, the participants would use words like accountability, consequences, common language/vocabulary, and commitment when it came to this subject.  Although there is not a widely accepted definition of what constitutes academic dishonesty, the participants discussed wanting clarity concerning this issue. I believe every classroom teacher is seeking this same clarity when it comes to the gray/hazy area that the assimilation of 21st-century technologies into the classroom has created.

Research cannot understate the role of the classroom teacher in regard to managing academic dishonesty.  In speaking with teachers during my research, many of them described dealing with cheating within their own classroom – or as Abby framed in, “I took care of it in-house and reported it too” (Interview, January 24, 2017).  Sydney admonished that educators need to “be very consistent and very clear [and] teachers should definitely be leading by example” (Interview, March 13, 2017).  However, as Payton noted concerning this scenario, “I guess it’s ridiculous to even think everybody’s always going to be on the same page” (Interview, March 23, 2017).

Reflecting further, Payton commented, “I guess we need clear guidelines on what we are supposed to be doing in education” (Interview, March 23, 2017).  Hailee, emphasizing the need of this, stated, “I think it needs to be taken a lot more seriously . . . I think that there need to be very real consequences” (Interview, March 13, 2017).  It was Abby who warned, “I mean how you go about changing this is difficult . . . I do think it is a mind set and a culture thing” (Interview, January 24, 2017).  Hunter agreed, commenting during his interview session, “We need to do something different in the school systems [but] I found out that in this teaching world if you want to change something, it is so slow” (Interview, March 13, 2017).

This difficulty did not deter each teacher’s call for clarity on what academic dishonesty is in the 21st-century classroom. As Hailee put it, “I tell the kids if it’s not your own idea, if you didn’t arrive at that conclusion on your own, then you need to cite it . . . we struggle with the idea of citing ideas” (Interview, May 1, 2017).  Sydney echoed this sentiment, stating that this is “something that is hard for them to understand” (Interview, May 1, 2017).  It is due to this lack of understanding that caused Allie to attest, “In my experience, academic dishonesty is not intentional the majority of the time” (Interview, May 1, 2017).  Re-emphasizing the need for clarity and a common definition, Payton ascribed, “I think these students are struggling at knowing, in some areas, what is dishonest and what is acceptable.  And I feel like the digital age has kind of changed that definition a little bit” (Interview, May 1, 2017).

As this and previous research indicates, the understanding of what is considered academic dishonesty is of absolute necessity. With technology now considered a legitimate learning tool in the 21st-century classroom, there is a need for clarity to the definition and context of academic dishonesty within the digital age. It is now time that we in the field of education begin “Marching Off of the Map” (Elmore, 2017)  to provide that clarity!

REFERENCES

Asian Correspondent Staff. (2016, June 8). China: Students caught cheating in university entrance exams could face 7 years in jail. Asian Correspondent. Retrieved from https://asiancorrespondent.com/2016/06/china-exam-cheats-gaokao

Associated Press. (2016, May 11). High-tech devices take cheating to a new level in Thai schools. Foxnews. Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2016/05/11/high-tech-devices-take-cheating-to-new-level-in-thai-schools.html

Counter, R. (2014, October 12). New frontiers in high-tech cheating: With shrinking wireless devices, online classes and the emergence of wearable technology, it’s easier than ever to cheat. Maclean’s. Retrieved from http://www.macleans.ca/education/uniandcollege/new-frontiers-in-high-tech-cheating

Elmore, T. (2017). Marching off the map: Inspire students to navigate a brand new world. Atlanta, GA: Poet Gardener Publishing in association with Growing Leaders, Inc.

McCabe, D. L. (2001, Winter). Cheating: Why students do it and how we can help them stop. American Educator, pp. 38–43.

Wee, T.C. (2016, June 6). High-tech security for Chinese uni entrance exams. AsiaOne. Retrieved from http://news.asiaone.com/news/education/high-tech-security-chinese-uni-entrance-exams

July 10

#RuralInfluence

Growing up in a strict religious home with rural roots left no room for the toleration for cheating and lying.  My parents taught and reinforced principles of honesty and truth with the Bible and discipline – if needed.  This moral code followed me throughout school.  I would not allow myself to cheat, nor did I let any of my classmates cheat from me.  I can recall at one point in my high school career purposely placing wrong answers on a test because I knew the student next to me was copying.  I changed them back once the other student finished and put their head down.  Even then, due to this #RuralInfluence, I knew down deep that academic dishonesty takes credit away from those who truthfully earned it through their own hard work and creativity (Dowling, 2003).

As I mentioned in a previous post, academic dishonesty is not a new phenomenon and students today have been culturally conditioned to view acceptable what was once considered cheating. The rural school setting does not change the expectations within a school system regarding success and academic integrity.  In fact, the rural educational setting provides its own unique and complex circumstances.  Although the incorporation of technology within the classroom better prepares students for the 21st century (Jones, Fox, & Levin, 2011), often students and teachers in rural settings are at a disadvantage when it comes to access to educational resources, including technology. This creates a deeper perspective within my research findings on students being Culturally Conditioned – a perspective I refer to as the #RuralInfluence.

I fully acknowledge my affinity for rural life that my background instilled and the personal connection I have with rural places and people. However, the #RuralInfluence is a distinct educational viewpoint that brings with it an intensity that can only be found in the rural experience. It is an experience that one of the participants in my study described, “That whole mindset of poverty thing.  Like the Ruby Payne stuff” (Hailee, interview, May 1, 2017).

It was this poverty mindset that Allie, an English teacher in her third year of teaching, alluded to when stating:

I feel like hard work means something different to them . . . it doesn’t have to do with school and homework but it does have to do with their actual work job.  It’s just a different set of priorities that if you don’t value in them, they’re not going to respect you back for that.  (Interview, May 1, 2017)

Each of the teachers within this study spoke to the level of apathy within the rural community which makes its way into their classrooms and to lack of support found in the homes of their students.  They described a poverty mindset that brought changes to the attitudes on the importance of education.  However, they did attest to the importance of building strong, genuine relationships in their classrooms to counter the cultural conditioning that comes with the #RuralInfluence.

It was Payne (2013) who stated, “The key to achievement for students from poverty is in creating relationships with them” (p. 101).  It was this perspective that prompted Hailee, an 11 year veteran of the classroom, to say, “I think that’s why I thrive in a small, [rural] district . . . for me, it’s about personal relationships and getting to know kids and really building into kids” (Interview, May 1, 2017).  Allie, in reflecting on this #RuralInfluence, stated, “I feel like the biggest thing that rural kids connect to is being genuine” (Interview, May 1, 2017).

I agree, Allie. As a veteran of rural education, I know the power that comes in being genuine with our students and building relationships. There is no greater impact in an educational setting dealing with the #RuralInfluence than making those honest, human connections.

REFERENCES

Dowling, W. (2003). Meaningless grades and a new dishonesty. Academic Questions, 16, 57-62. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12129-003-1064-0

Jones, R., Fox, C., & Levin, D. (2011). National educational technology trends: Transforming education to ensure all students are successful in the 21st century. Glen Burnie, MD: State Educational Technology Directors Association.

Payne, R. K. (2013). A framework for understanding poverty: A cognitive approach. (5th ed). Highlands, TX: Aha! Process, Inc.

 

June 1

#KnowingTheirVoice

Although it has been some time since my last post, I want to continue the conversation on academic dishonesty.  As mentioned in several of my previous posts, academic dishonesty is not a new phenomenon. However, there are few studies that provide a voice for the lived experiences of rural general education high school teachers regarding this phenomenon. It is the rural classroom teacher, with their unique insight into the complex challenges of the rural educational experience, which is best able to provide a voice for the lived experiences and perceived need for pedagogical change regarding academic dishonesty. My goal as the researcher was to turn up the volume on these voices.

A powerful theme to emerge from the data gathered during the interviews and the focus group session had at its core the student-teacher relationship.  It was Payne (2013) who stated, “The key to achievement for students from poverty is in creating relationships with them” (p. 101).  Similarly, Elmore (2015) described the 21st-century learner as one that “hunger[s] more for relationship than for information” (p. 48).  Being a veteran of the classroom, I know that academic dishonesty is rare in classrooms where learning is relevant, engaging, and where teachers communicate with students, developing positive relationships.  The reader could easily view this theme as the lifeblood of the previous themes I have shared.

The role of the classroom teacher cannot be understated.  The key strategy in which the participants of this study gave voice to was that of relationships.  Madison described this strategy well when she recognized, “I have found that by gaining a student’s trust and respect, that student will more often than not perform better academically in my classroom” (Interview, March 23, 2017).  Going further, she stated, “In a way, I feel a student who is academically dishonest in my class is personally insulting me and damaging the rapport and respect we have built” (Madison, interview, March 23, 2017).  This sentiment was not lost on the other participants.

In describing the development of the strategies to manage the academic dishonesty in the digital age, Hailee stated,

I try [to] put in new methods of teaching . . . I try to stay on top of that, but for me, it’s, it always comes back to that personal application . . . I thrive on personal relationship.  (Interview, March 13, 2017)

Suzanne emphasized this as well, describing that when students do original work, “they have to give it their own touch, their own voice” (Interview, January 10, 2017).  Elaborating, she stated, “I as a teacher have developed a . . . relationship with those students, so I know their voice, their quirks, their syntax, . . . strengths, and weaknesses” (Suzanne, interview, January 10, 2017).  Abby equivocated, stating, “You have to know your students better [be]cause your like, ‘that does not sound like their work’” (Interview, January 24, 2017).

To foster such a relationship strategy, Emma explained, “[I tell my students], ‘This is a no stress class!’  And so, because of that, there is a closeness that occurs in our classes” (Interview, January 24, 2017).  As she detailed, “In my class, they know me . . . there’s not a lot of distance between [the] teacher-student relationship in my class” (Emma, interview, January 24, 2017).  As other participants put it, such relationship building enables them to “hear those conversations” (Chyann, interview, February 28, 2017) while “combating plagiarism . . . on the ground” (Sydney, interview, March 16, 2017).  Hailee framed it as, “I try [to] lean on that, you know, that little bit of personal connection piece.  And I think sometimes . . . that’s effective” (Interview, March 13, 2017).

Within the focus group, the participants once again put forth that the key strategy in which to combat academic dishonesty in the digital age was that of relationship building in the classroom.  In reflecting how creating such relationships affected her pedagogy, Hailee stated, “I think that changes what you do in your classroom too.  I give my kids a lot more grace” (Interview, May 1, 2017).  It is this type of relational grace that Allie spoke of when she described telling her students, “So if you plagiarize, I actually don’t care as long as we can talk about why it’s plagiarism and you fix it” (Interview, May 1, 2017).

Not all the focus group participants found building relationships such an easy task.  In reaction to the others’ discussion concerning this, Payton added:

Along those same lines, I don’t know . . . I’m in a rural school district and I understand that comment about you know the students – you know whose doing this, that, and the other.  A lot of times I don’t.  I’m clueless. (Interview, May 1, 2017)

However, he went on to say, “I’m thinking that’s something I maybe need to change.  And if they feel like they know you, they might be more willing to do what you want them to do” (Payton, interview, May 1, 2017).  This speaks to the underlying factor to building relationships – to getting to know the voices of their student – motivation.  Sydney reflected on this, stating:

I do really value building relationships with them and I definitely think that I do build a really good relationship with them . . . and it is that kind of idea that they will be more willing to do something because they like me.  (Interview, May 1, 2017)

As noted by the several within the focus group, although building strong relationships with students provides a motivational influence, it is arduous.  For Hailee, as she put it, “I work really hard at relationships” (Interview, May 1, 2017).  Allie, in describing the end of a school week, stated, “Nothing’s available on Friday’s’ because you’re tired – because it takes so much energy . . . and that is part of your job at a rural school, I think” (Interview, May 1, 2017).  Payton concurred, stating, “I’m a lot more drained at the end of the day.  I think it’s because I’m having to pull on an area that’s not a natural strength” (Interview, May 1, 2017).

Throughout this study, as the teachers reflected on this key strategy, they described a pedagogical framework in their classrooms to engage with students in order listen to those conversations that guide instruction.  Each of the educators put forth a need to change what they did in their classroom to hear the voices of their students – getting to know their touch.  This engagement speaks to the underlying factor of building relationships – to getting to know the voices of their students – motivation.  As noted by these rural educators, building strong relationships with students provide a motivational influence within their student but is also pedagogically demanding and time-consuming.  However, all attested to the need to knowing their students’ voices due to the changing climate of the 21st-century classroom. My desire is that the findings of this research, along with this posting, will supply a voice to educators on a wider scale, providing a meaningful pedagogical framework for the 21st-century classroom.

REFERENCES

Elmore, T. (2015). Generation iY: Secrets to connecting with today’s teens & young adults in the digital age. (5th ed.). Atlanta, GA: Poet Gardener Publishing in association with Growing Leaders, Inc..

Payne, R. K. (2013). A framework for understanding poverty: A cognitive approach. (5th ed). Highlands, TX: Aha! Process, Inc.

April 16

#CulturallyConditioned

As mentioned in my last post, academic dishonesty is not a new phenomenon. However, 21st century technologies are changing our perspective on this.  As Armstrong (2014) stated, “Technology . . . is changing the way many students learn” (p. 40) with, “Educators . . . tend[ing] to resist major change” (Christensen, Horn, & Johnson, 2011, p. 112).  Viewing this as a positive, Christensen, Horn, and Johnson (2011) further state, “this shift in the learning platform, if managed correctly – which means disruptively – is not a threat.  It is an opportunity” (p. 112). It was with that mindset that I turned to rural educators for my own research, to provide them a voice. As mentioned previously, five common and interconnected themes emerged: (a) Purposeful Pedagogy, (b) Culturally Conditioned, (c) Blurred Lines, (d) Knowing Their Voice, and (e) Clarity and Consequences. With this posting, we will explore the second most dominant theme to emerge from the data gathered during the interviews – Culturally Conditioned (see figure above) – by listening to the voices of the educators.

In addressing the shifting dynamic in their classrooms, every participant emphasized a need to recognize how the changing culture affects 21st century teaching and learning.  As one participant described it, “I do think it is a mindset and a culture thing, and I don’t think it’s just in schools” (Abby, interview, January 24, 2017).  Whether the participants pointed to the technology, the rural setting of their schools, or other influences, the conditions they faced in their classroom highlighted the changing culture.  The theme’s title was born out of this outlook and to the research indicating perceptions of academic dishonesty are culturally conditioned (Heckler & Forde, 2014).

In speaking to this changing culture that undergirds the academic dishonesty phenomenon, the participants first turn to their students, which is no surprise.  As educators, this is an instinctive quality as they are the focus of our career choice.  As such, Madison sadly noted, “The main disheartening thing that I see is it’s becoming more widely accepted among the students.  It’s not a big deal to them.” (Interview, March 23, 2017).  Audrey, in describing the nature of her students, stated, “Just the extremes that they will go instead of just doing it themselves baffles me every time” (Interview, January 10, 2017).  Hailee described it as, “Kids think that if they don’t value it, it shouldn’t matter” (Interview, March 13, 2017).  She laughingly added, “I think they’re counting on you to be as disinterested as what they are” (Hailee, interview, March 13, 2017).

Still focusing on the mindset of the students, Hailee described it as a “culture of procrastination” (Interview, March 13, 2017).  Adding to that, she stated that today’s students,

“. . . feel like they don’t need to go anywhere – they don’t need to plan ahead.  They can do it all the day before because all of the information is available to them without waiting – no matter where they are.”  (Hailee, interview, March 13, 2017)

Allie put it slightly differently.  She described the rise in this culture of academic dishonesty as, “either laziness . . . and then sometimes [it] is just panicking because you don’t know if you’re doing it right so you think they said it better than you” (Interview, March 20, 2017).  Madison reflected that “I think it really comes down to them – it’s so accepted.  It’s just not a big deal amongst their peers, not at all” (Interview, March 23, 2017).

Today’s students were born into a digital age where technology is part of their daily lives.  According to Hailee, it is this, “The rise in technology [that] has enabled this, this culture of procrastination” (Interview, March 13, 2017).  Many of the participants reflected on the changing classroom culture due to 21st century technologies.  As Ryan described, technology created an easy path to academic dishonesty in that it is “more easily accessible now to have your hands on other people’s work” (Interview, March 1, 2017).  In the mind of today’s students, as Chyann attested to, believe, “If it’s out there, it’s ok to use it” (Interview, January 28, 2017).

Adding to the technology impact on academic dishonesty, Sydney related, “It has definitely contributed to it a lot.  I mean, they just want to take so many shortcuts because everything’s at their fingertips” (Interview, March 16, 2017).  Audrey, reflecting on her experience since entering the classroom, stated:

“It’s definitely, I think, easier for them to cheat now because they are so much more technologically advanced than they were eleven years ago.  Their access to it is so different – almost all of our kids have a cell phone.  So, they can either Google something for themselves or take a picture of it for a friend.”  (Interview, January 10, 2017)

Thus, a culture is created, according to Sydney, where “students who are academically dishonest . . . insist that they were not being academically dishonest.  They genuinely feel like they were not being academically dishonest” (Interview, March 16, 2017).  Adding to this, Beau stated:

“As with academic dishonesty, as with technology, I think that we will always be behind with that as teachers . . . because . . . kids are innovators, kids are smart.  They’re going to find new and creative ways to cheat.  I mean, I remember when the mirror on your shoe and answers under your desk was creative.”  (Interview, March 13, 2017)

Each of the educators emphasized a need to recognize how a changing culture affects 21st century teaching and learning.  Whether the teachers pointed to the technology, the rural setting of their schools, or other influences, the shifting dynamic they faced in their classrooms highlighted this changing culture. Similar to the first theme, the educators point to the importance of building strong, genuine relationships in their classrooms to counter this cultural conditioning. The practical implications for the classroom teacher is twofold.

First, with access to such a broad swath of data and information with 21st century technologies, the understanding of what is considered academic dishonesty is of absolute necessity.  With technology now considered a legitimate learning tool in the 21st century classroom, there is a need for a definition and context of academic dishonesty within the digital age.  As at least one participant of this study attested to the struggles teachers and students face in defining academic dishonesty within such a cultural environment, stating, “I feel like the digital age has kind of changed that definition a little bit” (Payton, interview, May 1, 2017).  There is a need for a clear definition and practical guidelines concerning academic dishonesty in the digital age.

Secondly, as this study and previous others demonstrate, students entering today’s classrooms were born into a digital age where technology is part of their daily lives – radically changing their thinking and learning.  As such, there is a disconnect between such learners and the traditional classrooms they are in – paving the way for academic dishonesty.  The implications of this are that classroom teachers need to be proactive and purposeful in structuring their classroom and instructional practices – establishing learning that is relevant, engaging, and where they communicate with students, developing positive relationships.  In addition, at some level – academia, K-12, state or national departments of education – there is a need for the adoption of 21st century teaching/learning models that meet the learning schema of a radically changing student demographic.

REFERENCES

Christensen, C. M., Horn, M. B., & Johnson, C. W. (2011). Disrupting class: How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns (2nd ed.). New York City, NY: McGraw Hill.

Heckler, N. C., & Forde, D. R. (2014). The role of cultural values in plagiarism in higher education. Journal of Academic Ethics, 13, 61-75. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10805-014-9221-3