As I watched my literacy students doing, or, in several cases, trying to do, a formal assessment task recently, I thought of that old joke: schools are places where students go to watch teachers work. I questioned my competence. We’d spent over a week doing skill building activities, spiralling back to skills and activities, reviewing, repeating, repeating, and repeating. Oh, the repetition. I checked comprehension. Checked again. The students nodded. They did well in the lessons. Then the task. Back to square one.
The stronger students finished first, of course. However, instead of sitting quietly waiting for the others to finish, some of them did what they’ve been doing in class: helping their weaker peers. This being a formal assessment, my first impulse was to stop this helping, or as the academic term has it, cheating.