About Me

This blog carries a series of posts and articles, mostly written by Anthony Fitzsimmons under the aegis of Reputability LLP, a business that is no longer trading as such. Anthony is a thought leader in reputational risk and its root causes, behavioural, organisational and leadership risk. His book 'Rethinking Reputational Risk' was widely acclaimed. Led by Anthony, Reputability helped business leaders to find, understand and deal with these widespread but hidden risks that regularly cause reputational disasters. You can contact Anthony via anthony.fitzsimmons At cranfield dot ac dot uk

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Teachers aren't the only cheats!

Are teachers cheating when marking public examinations?  Ofqual, the UK exams regulator, thinks so - though it invented the term "overmarking" to describe the phenomenon.  It ranged from giving pupils too much  'benefit of the doubt' through to giving pupils marks calculated to lead to the highly coveted "C" grade.  The full report is here.

This is a classic case of incentives positively encouraging unacceptable behaviour.

In England, there are very strong incentives for schools to have as many students as possible get at least a Grade "C" in the English GCSE exam.  In interviews of about 100 schools, Ofqual's press release reported:
"While no school interviewed considered that it was doing anything untoward in teaching and administering these GCSEs, many expressed concern that other nearby schools were overstepping the boundaries of acceptable practice.
The report states: “The pattern of marks – the unprecedented clustering around perceived grade boundaries for each whole qualification – is striking”."
Cheating is far more widespread than you think.  We don't recognise much cheating because we rationalise it into 'normal' or 'acceptable' behavour. 

Dan Ariely, a behavioural psychologist/economist, has made a special study of the subject.  He has summarised the core of his findings in an entertaining short RSA Animate.  For more read his book "The (honest) truth about dishonesty".  It should be compulsory reading for business leaders and regulators.

So watch  out!  Teachers are far from the only people who cheat!  Most people do it to levels they rationalise as 'acceptable'.  But there's no need to design incentives that positively encourage cheating.

Anthony Fitzsimmons

Anthony Fitzsimmons is Chairman of Reputability LLP and author of “Rethinking Reputational Risk: How to Manage the Risks that can Ruin Your Business, Your Reputation and You

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