Trusting One Another

I’ve been watching a fascinating thread on twitter recently that began with Jesse Stommel tweeting this:

The thread is worth reading and brings up many issues that may be surprising to some (including the privacy issues that are rarely recognized and discussed around tools like Turnitin). However, my thoughts today are on the lack of trust tools like this convey. (If you aren’t familiar with Turnitin, it is a tool that is used to identify plagiarism in students’ writing.) We use tools like this in education because we don’t trust students. We are assuming that students will cheat and our role is to catch them so that they don’t get away with it.

I find that thought depressing. Our role, as teachers, is to help students learn and grow. Presuming guilt in them regularly isn’t going to create an environment in which they will be able to learn or grow terribly well.

Of course, we also have structures that are in place because we don’t trust teachers. Students take standardized tests at the end of every year from third grade on up because we want to be sure their teachers are teaching them. We don’t trust teachers as professionals to do their job without this accountability.

How does this pervasive lack of trust impact students and teachers? How does it impact our educational system? I don’t know the answers to those questions but I feel fairly confident that the result is not a positive one.

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