Imagine this situation: During a quiz, you notice a student glancing at another student’s paper. You feel that you need to take some action.
Surprisingly, there was a social psychology study conducted in a hospital setting that can help us know an effective way to approach this student.
For many of us, our first inclination is to confront the student tell him that if he continues to cheat, he will fail the quiz. However, in his book The Originals, Adam Grant shows that explaining how someone’s behavior will negatively affect him or her is less effective than describing how their action will affect other people.
In the “hospital” study, to encourage doctors and nurses to wash their hands more often the researchers posted one of two signs near the soap dispensers in patients’ rooms. One said, “Hand hygiene prevents you from catching diseases.” The other said, “Hand hygiene prevents patients from catching diseases.” (Emphasis added.) Over the next two weeks, a member of the hospital unit covertly counted the number of times the staff members washed their hands and a researcher measure the amount of soap used.
Interestingly, the first sign (“…prevents you…”) had no effect. The second sign (“…prevents patients…”) had a significant impact on hand washing; it resulted in a 10% increase in hand-washing and 45% more soap usage.
How we can apply this study to ESL students who cheat on a test
(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)
You,the conversation teacher, are happy because the noise level in the room is high. That means that the 12 pairs of students (24 total) are engaged in the conversation activity. At the start of the next class, you want to give them feedback on their performance today, especially because you want to give positive comments to those who are very active. There are also a couple of pairs who need some “re-direction.”
Needless to say, you’re not going to be able to give each student specific feedback specifically on what they said because you can’t actually hear them above all the talking. But you can actually see whether or not they are using conversational techniques. (See previous posts of two important techniques Conversation magic: Two most important conversation techniques (Part 1) and Conversation magic: Two most important techniques. (Part 2)
Even if you can’t hear them, you can see if they are engaging in a natural conversation; it looks like ping-pong, in which they are reacting to each other, asking follow-up questions and giving understanding responses. You can also see if they are more like bowling, in which one monologs for a while while the other “zones out,” then the other monologs. You can see if someone is dominating and if someone is very passive. Interestingly, you can even see if they have switch from English to their native language; often when they do this, their voices lower and their faces aren’t as animated perhaps to “hide” from the instructor.
If you suspect that a pair isn’t using natural conversation techniques or isn’t speaking in English, there are things that you can do.
He was making bad decisions all term long, which resulted in failing the course. In order for Edward to pass my advanced academic ESL course and move on to English Comp, he would need to repeat the course. He would also need to change his habits such as coming late and forgetting assignments or doing them with little effort.
After he found out that he failed, I emailed him to let him know that I could give him advice about how he could pass next time. To my surprise, he asked for it.
My first impulse was to make a list of all the things that he needed to change in his study habits. Then I realized that there was a more positive approach that I could take to giving this advice.
I have found that students seem to be more affected by what other students do in a class than what an instructor tells them to do.
Many instructors want to not only point out errors on students’ papers but also encourage them with positive comments about what they did well. Unfortunately, it can take a lot of time writing out these comments with clear handwriting, and it involves mental energy trying to formulate what to say in a way that students can understand.
There is a method for indicating specifically what the student did well on any writing task, which takes little time on the part of the instructor and results in improved writing in the future.