Reverse Translation

Had a chance to chat to Associate Professor Phillip Dawson after his session at the ACER Designing the Future of Assessment Research Conference. Phil is from the Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning (CRADLE) at Deakin University and spoke about Hacking Assessment. He gave a summary of old threats to the integrity of assessment like copy and paste and relatively new and accessible threats like buying essays, ghostwriting and reverse translation. Whether schools like to admit it or not, plagiarism and cheating is rife in schools, and this brings into question whether it is the accessibility of technology that is facilitating this, the pressure of expectation on students or whether it is the low level nature of the task.

Whilst Turnitin can act as a deterrent and detect many attempts at plagiarism in essay-based assessments, savvy students are turning to tricks like reverse or back translation. This involves taking a body of text (see passage to the left of screen) and using Google Translate to translate it into a different language (see second passage from the left in Spanish). This is then fed back into Google Translate and translated back into the target language (see passage bottom right) and see how it differs from the original.

reversetranslation1

reversetranslation2

If something is easily googleable or can be outsourced to the lowest bidder, is the task worthwhile? Phil asked us to consider a future where that in making a task harder for copying, ghostwriting of cheating, can we not make it better for learning?

A worthy challenge.

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