A college of education's science department is having students take exams without monitors present - an experiment that's winning increasing support from both students and professors.
The science department at the Achva Academic College of Education near Kiryat Malakhi conducted its most recent exam period on the honor system. The move had its origins in an experiment by the college's head, Eli Zamski, when he was a lecturer at Hebrew University.
Zamski asked the 430 students in his Hebrew University cell biology course to sign a pledge promising they would not copy from their classmates. Most of the students balked, but 198 agreed. On exam day, unbeknownst to them, the students who signed the pledge were put in a separate room without a monitor.
On average, the students who sat for the exam on the honor system got higher grades on the test, and Zamski found that their average grades in the course were higher as well. Thus it was probably easier for them to promise not to copy from their peers.
At Achva, the science department voted unanimously to adopt the honor system for all students sitting for the latest round of exams. Department head Pnina Albin said students resisted at first.
"They were used to being monitored, and this apparently lent legitimacy to their copying [off classmates]," she said. Once they gave their word that they wouldn't cheat, the dynamic changed, she said.
There was also resistance among faculty members, but they all agreed on a trial basis to hold at least one exam on the honor system.
"I've taught courses in the United States, and there it wouldn't have occurred to anyone to copy or give me monitors so the students wouldn't copy," Albin said. "It was such a serious infraction that anyone caught was really finished with his career. It's an educational issue that's not rooted in our culture."
One student who requested anonymity said she had taken six exams over the past semester on the honor system. "I had mixed feelings," she said. "I was very surprised at the idea because I've never encountered such a thing. It was very strange at first, and I'm surprised to say it works."
She said that on non-multiple-choice exams, no one cheated, but on multiple-choice tests, there were a few cases when classmates conferred with one another.
"I want to believe in the honesty of the students in my class," said Albin of her class of future teachers. "And I want to set an example for them so they do the same with their students."
For his part, Zamski added: "I would prefer an honest student who scored an 8 to a student with a 10 about whom I have doubts."
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