HigherEdMorning.comThe top 5 ways students use technology to cheat

The top 5 ways students use technology to cheat

September 3, 2009 by Geneva Reid
Posted in: Academics, In this week's e-newsletter, Latest News & Views

They can do it faster and more easily than ever before. But what’s most worrisome: Today’s students may not think cheating is wrong.

Let’s start with the facts.

According to a recent survey by Common Sense Media, 35% of teens use their cell phones to cheat.

And if you’re wondering how they do it:

  • 26% store info on their phone and look at it while taking a test
  • 25% send text messages to friends, asking for answers
  • 17% take pictures of a test – and then send it to their friends
  • 20% use their phones to search for answers on the Internet
  • 48% warn friends about a pop quiz with a phone call or text message

If cheating’s gone high-tech, so have morals: 25% of teens consider the above actions “helping” not cheating.

When it comes to the Internet, 52% say they’ve engaged in some type of cheating.

But again, they don’t see much wrong with it: 36% don’t view downloading a paper as a serious offense, and 42% believe copying text from the Web is a minor offense at its worst.

Educators are put in the difficult spot of trying to catch something that’s difficult to detect in addition to dealing with students who seem to have a loose definition of “collaboration.”

At Canada’s Simon Fraser University, administrators have come up with a new failing grade for cheating students: FD. Given to repeat offenders, the mark stays on a student’s transcript for two years.

Will a different kind of failing grade matter to students? Or do we need another solution?

Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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  • Gary Pandolfi

    It would benefit everyone to move to more problem-based constructivist practices in teaching with more essay/project based assessments. We know that students who do well on multiple choice or short answer tests may not retain what they have memorized by cramming. By engaging students in practices that require them to use information to make new ideas, to create arguments, to demonstrate alternative methods to find solutions, cheating would be very difficult. In addition, the assessment would be a much more authentic measure of what the student really knows.

    Another part of the problem is grades. Students often see the grade as the goal of the course and do not focus on what they have learned. If the grade is the goal, students will do whatever is necessary to achieve the grade. If we encourage students to focus on what they are learning, they have a better chance of earning a good grade that actaully means something.

    I have started weighting discussion as a larger percentage of a studnet’s grade because it is the most accurate indication of what the student knows. It is supported by the practice of thesis defense for a doctorate. Anyone can write a scholarly paper, but it is the discussion which really demonstrate what the candidate owns. Discussion is difficult to fake.

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  • http://web.fscj.edu/~hdenson Howard Denson

    When word processing technology and the internet were relatively new, a speaker told the North Florida Writers in Jacksonville said, “I had a major paper due in one course, so I went online downloaded this and that, and, bam, I had a 15-page paper done in 15 minutes.”

    I was groaning inside because he was bragging about how he plagiarized. In my classes, he would have had the paper bounced back, even if he didn’t tell me how he “wrote” his paper.

    An alert instructor simply needs to build in restrictions or defaults to head off plagiarism. If the topics are open ended (e.g., “Imagery/Symbolism in Faulkner’s ‘A Rose for Emily’”), then probably about 25% of a class would attempt to download a paper.

    The instructor can tweak the topics by, say, requiring the students to compare and conrast two stories on robots (Ray Bradbury’s “I Sing the Body Electric” and the film “A.I.”). I’ll omit the other defaults.

    The best way to warn students that you are serious about plagiarism is to let them know that, even if it only takes 15 minutes for them to download and format a paper, it will only take two to five minutes for me to type in a couple sentences into Turnitin.com or Google and find out if there’s a match.

    Howard Denson, retired professor English-humanities
    Florida State College at Jacksonville

  • http://bionicteaching.com Tom

    Common Sense Media seems pretty lacking in details regarding these stats. Who participated in the survey? How many people were surveyed? etc. etc.

    Not sure this post is anything but timely.

  • Jennifer Leaver

    Since when are phones allowed in class? I confiscate electronic devices that are turned on during class. The simple way to deal with photos of tests and texting for answers is to not allow phones to be present during class. As for dowloading papers or quoting websites, there are several programs that can search for you. My school uses Turnitin.com; although I am sure there are many others. Turnitin provides a percent of the paper that is likely plagerized and will give the sources of the likely plagerism. It’s pretty cool. As for using a phone to warn about a pop quiz, that’s a tough one. Maybe professors need to have pop quizzes in different sections on different days so that students can’t warn eachother.

  • Ted White

    I’ve had to deal with a couple of online cheating situations
    and they were a huge struggle, accompanied by significant emotional
    trauma for both the cheating student and myself (I felt like a sucker
    and that it made a farce of my teaching).

    Since most students ultimately want a degree and many may not care that much about grades,
    it is the degree that is the educational systems biggest leverage point not a failing grade.
    So–harsh though it may seem–I favor one warning for a first offense and expulsion for a second offense.
    Why? A cheating culture won’t be much use facing the massive ethical challenges that the future will bring.
    I view ethics as an vital and fundamental part of education, of critical thinking, and of good citizenship.

  • Bill

    In addition to the techniques I have seen above, I give a zero for the work in question. If the student continues I refer that student for academic misconduct to the college.

  • Dick Panton

    I suspect most of us have been aware of the problem for some time. My preference is to make my classes as “cheat-proof” as I can. I use Blackboard for quizzes and exams and give a healthy time window for completion. I ENCOURAGE working together – since that is a better simulation for life after college – with the cautions of not supporting a leech, and not being a leech. I also warn them I will give a score of zero to all affected for any question where I find the exact same answers, since I cannot tell the original from the copy.

    I check submitted assignments for “authorship” with the properties tab of programs like MS Office. My writing assignments are targeted to doing personal research (talk to such-and-such a person) and I generally have a sense of the student’s writing ability from quiz work before I see a writing submission, so a discrepancy in style can be checked on Google or whatever.

    Certainly also helps to warn them that I DO check and that pretty much every term I find somebody trying to take a shortcut on one of the major grade components and fail them for the assignment.

  • Chuck S

    I teach some on-line classes and specifically look for cheating. My First Day Handout says that they will not be warned and the first inkling they will have is when they see their Academic F when final grades are turned in.

    I’d like to convince the school to give an FC (failed for cheating) the first time, not permit them to take another course from that instructor (I teach some required courses) and their transcript be marked “Expelled for Cheating”, if they’re foolish enough to do it again.

  • http://www.georgian.edu Francesca Holly rsm

    In the FIRST class meeting I recommend the discussion of what they expect from the class and
    a follow up of what I expect. My expectations do not change no matter their expectations:
    1. class assignment completed on the day of class
    2. research completed as required
    3. tests & make up tests taken as scheduled (never are the two the same)
    4. papers must be original thoughts, presented in the proper required style of the school;
    footnotes might not be necessary but books used must be included at the end.
    5. the remainder of the class is an ethics discussion on stealing, borrowing, cheating vs. helping,
    collaboration etc.
    6. First assignment:Hand in for next class: Discuss in a two page paper their definitions of copying and plageriarism. Give them an outline of the course for the semester and requirements.

  • Tom

    Mr. Gary Pandolfi provided some excellent recommendations. Technology is a wonderful tool that helps all of us, however it can also be used to take short cuts. I believe it is not what you can memorize but information that you have acquired through formal or informal education and that you can apply to daily activities that prove more worthwhile. Even a monkey or giraffe can be taught to repeat an act, but itn takes someone with knowledge to create a unique action.

  • http://www.brazosport.edu/sites/CurrentStudents/Faculty/BennetWillis/Pages/default.aspx Bennett Willis

    The following is some code that will block screen printing and copy/paste activity if it is inserted into one question box in a Blackboard test. Standard disclaimers go here but it works for me. I put it into the question box ahead of one of the questions that is on a test. It does not print with the question when the test is taken. You may have to try a place or two but it seems to do just fine. I suppose it is “old tech” but at least it makes copying a test more inconvenient. Bennett Willis Brazosport College

    BODY {display:none}

    var message=”Function Disabled!”;
    function clickIE() {if (document.all) {(message);return false;}}
    function clickNS(e) {if
    (document.layers||(document.getElementById&&!document.all)) { if
    (e.which==1||e.which==2||e.which==3) {(message);return false;}}} if (document.layers)
    {document.captureEvents(Event.MOUSEDOWN);document.onmousedown=clickNS;}
    else{document.onmouseup=clickNS;document.oncontextmenu=clickIE;}
    document.oncontextmenu=new Function(“return false”)
    function disableselect(e){
    return false
    }
    function reEnable(){
    return true
    }
    document.onselectstart=new Function (“return false”) if (window.sidebar){
    document.onmousedown=disableselect
    document.onclick=reEnable
    }

  • Paul B

    I tell my students (large lecture class of ~250 students) that I am in the educational profession and not a police officer. I try to discourage the notion of cheating by telling my students to imagine that their future heart surgeon cheated his/her way through medical school. I tell them that they can use a simple $5 calculator on certain exams. Anyone seen with a cell phone or a programmable calculator will fail the exam with a 0. Bottom line, a student will know whether they cheated and the professors probably will not. I have more important things to worry about because those students surely will fail in life.

  • Indiayque

    Schools should have a required ethics course for all students failed for cheating. It is important they learn the material in the course and not just strive for a grade, but of course some of them are trying to get into Harvard.

    What I consider more important is that they learn why cheating is wrong. Our country has been rocked by “cheating” scandals like Enron, savings and loan crisis, the subprime mortgage crisis. If we do not change what is acceptable for our young, what becomes acceptable when they are in the workforce?

  • John

    I have been a professor at the University of Maryland for 37 years, and I teach biochemistry classes. I have taught classes at all levels, both graduate and undergraduate. Very early on, I confronted the problem of cheating.

    My solution was very simple. I would present an examination to the students that demanded substantive responses to what was covered in lecture and all the reading assignments. The examination was quite long, and the only students who could get a good score would be those that were able to complete this long examination with substantive answers.

    There was no way that another student, even if poised over the shoulder of a gifted student, could possibly copy those answers into his paper. Communication with a confederate over a cell phone would be hopeless. There is little possibility that the person on the other end could possibly know the answers, and searching the internet would take so much time, that the exam would be over before anything came in.

    The only way to get a good score on my examination would be for the student to immediately start writing from within their own understanding, and the only way to possibly complete the examination would be to continue this throughout the allotted time. Someone who depended on a confederate on the other end of a cell phone would be totally devastated. Access to the internet would be useless.

    This is such a simple thing to address that it is a joke to talk about it. Anyone who teaches a class for which examinations could be answered through surreptitious web searches and connections over cell phones would be a joke. Perhaps such teachers exist, but I am not one of them.

  • http://what-was-lost.blogspot.com Lee

    Dishonesty and cheating are nothing new. Loaded dice were found in the ruins of Pompeii, and I’m sure that the pedagogues of that era had to deal with their share of cheating students.

    What is different nowadays is the nonchalant attitude towards cheating. This is not something that is happening in a vacuum. It is part and parcel of our society’s ongoing decay and degradation. This is going to get worse, and manifest itself in even more appalling ways.

    Requiring that cheating students take a course on ethics will do little good when their parents are not teaching them the difference between right and wrong, and vulgar culture encourages them to take ethical shortcuts and even to take pride in having gotten away with doing so.

    Rules and standards of conduct are effective only when most people follow them without coercion, and those who are tempted to do otherwise will be shamed and condemned by their peers if they are found out.

    But when people begin to ignore ethical standards and refuse to judge others based upon their adherence to these standards, everything unravels. Formal punishments and legal sanctions alone are ineffective, and their over application is the face of widespread moral decay does more harm than good. Police states may be orderly, but they are not moral.

    Technology cannot be blamed for cheating, anymore than a knife or bullet can be blamed for murder. Both are legitimate tools with legitimate uses. The prevalence of cheating is inversely proportional to the moral and ethical integrity of those who might be tempted to cheat. These character traits are derived from the values they have learned at home and from the culture in which they live. Technology, or the lack thereof, makes no difference.

    Sending demonstrated cheaters to a remedial class on the difference between right and wrong, while better than doing nothing, will be of little help.

  • Carol W

    I could not disagree more strongly with Paul B. The attitude of the instructor will influence the attitude of the students. To say you have “more important things to worry about” is to diminish the significance of cheating and perpetuate the attitude that it does not matter. Why do students think that cheating is okay? Because their instructors do not seem to care. It reminds me of citizens who will not take a stand in their community because they do not want to “get involved.” True, they are “not police officers,” but we all have a responsibility to make our community (including the university) a better place, especially if we are in a position of authority. Professors who do not aggressively discourage and prosecute cheating are PART OF THE PROBLEM, not part of the solution.

    Second, in a large class, graded on a curve, cheating is stealing from fellow students. This is a social justice issue. If Joe gets a 90% because he cheated and Rebecca gets 88% through her hard work, Rebecca will be penalized in her grade because of Joe’s unethical behavior. Universities are places where the next generation of leaders is shaped. Creating an inherently unfair system, that penalizes people who are ethical (because you “have better things to worry about”) will cultivate cynicism and lead some good students to abandon ethics.

    Finally, it may take a long time before “those students surely will fail in life.” Some students cheat their way through high-school, and then cheat their way through college, more so if instructors turn a blind eye. Again, this is terribly unfair to the honest students, who may not gain admittance to the college or graduate school of their choice. Perhaps cheating will be more difficult in medical or graduate school, but recent scandals in the financial and political arenas amply illustrate, that cheaters may make it to the top. How might things have been different if every teacher and professor along the way had impressed upon them that in THIS class, you will not advance through cheating?

  • Gary Pandolfi

    A few years ago in a discussion forum, student equated plagiarism with speeding on a highway. I agree that getting students to understand the importance of academic integrity is truly a foundational goal as we develop our respective learning communities.

    Prohibiting these tools in the classroom seems to me like telling students never to begin a sentence with “because” to correct fragment errors. The point is that they need to be instructed about classroom etiquette, honesty, integrity, etc. I have told my students that they have a vested interest in protecting the value of their diploma. To do so means to take interest in everyone’s success not just one’s own. This helps to ensure that the greates number of students represent their undergraduate institutions favorably to the outside world. Isn’t this what we were taught at home and in grammar school years ago? It is always reinforced by coaches who realize that students who exhibit poor sportsmanship will be rememberd by the jersey they wear, not by name. I find it a useful spin on community responsibility that the students find refreshing and motivating.

  • Richard Chang

    “5. 48% warn friends about a pop quiz with a phone call or text message”

    How is that cheating? You’ll have to count me with the students for this one.

    Many students view pop quizzes as fundamentally unfair. If you cannot get the students to agree that pop quizzes are fair, then you will have a hard time to get them to behave ethically.

    I never give pop quizzes myself. All my quizzes are at the end of class. If students are missing, I ask their friends to call to them and remind them. That’s a good use of cellphones in a classroom.

  • Nancy L

    In regards to Paul B’s comment, “I have more important things to worry about because those students surely will fail in life.”, I couldn’t agree more. When I was an undergrad at UCSD I found out during my senior year that there was a ring of cheaters in the chemistry program. One of them was an acquaintance of mine who was admitted to CalTech for graduate school. The results? He was dropped from the graduate program after the first year for failing to keep up his grades.

  • John

    I also use blackboard for my exams along with the respondus lock down browser. Students can only access the exams using this browser which prohibits opening any other browser, e-mail, screen shots, or printing. Before using respondus, I had students who would e-mail themselves their notes and tab back and forth from their notes to the exam. I also scramble the questions and answers and only allow one question to show at a time. I do not allow any books, cell phones, pencils, papers, or purses in the testing labs. It has helped with the previous cheating mentioned, but I am sure some student will eventually find a way around it. If they spent as much time studying as trying to cheat they would do fine on their exams.

  • Paul B

    I don’t intend to get into a shouting match with Carol W. But I teach a course in which every seat in a large auditorium is taken. It is not possible to watch each student throughout the exam. I mentioned that I take measures to discourage cheating. I do not perpetuate a problem. Professors who aggressively pursue cheaters by circulating through a large lecture hall disturb the large % of honest students by interrupting their concentration. I teach to and for the honest students; those that want to learn. While I was a postdoc at Stanford I was told that the university had an honesty policy in place in which professors could only be in the exam room for brief times to answer questions. The assumption is that students are honest. Of course many are and some are not. I kind of like the presumption of innocence.

  • http://www.mtsu.edu David W. Gore

    All of my class quizzes and exams are open book, open notes, open electronics devices, etc. (just no working with someone else). I believe that engineering courses require “thinking” to solve problems and students need all resources available to them, just like if they were in their future engineering jobs. This method also allows me to give them more difficult quizzes and exams than would otherwise be possible with the “normal” restrictions. Of course, this method works for technical/engineering courses, and may not be applicable to those requiring research papers.

  • Clay Rooks

    For my regular classes, I allow no electronics to be used or even on during tests. If I see one, the student fails. (However, this would be hard to do in lecture hall classes.) For my online classes I assume everything is open book, open internet. All graded material is papers, no multiple guess tests. For both types of classes, papers have to be submitted through Turnitin, which checks for plagiarism. If they cheat or plagiarize, they receive a zero. That usually means they won’t pass the class. I have a class discussion/warning early in the semester in each class on cheating and plagiarism and I believe in a zero tolerance policy.

  • Mel—

    I agree with Carol W. For Paul B: You can assume the “presumption of innocence” all you want but you’re not being realistic with today’s students. After all, it’s often the parent’s of these ‘kids’ who are part of the problem by NOT teaching them morals, responsibility and honesty. Instead, they’re busy buying them new BMW’s to bribe them to ‘do well’ whether they like it or not. Ironically, when their kids mess up by failing a test or caught cheating, the parents respond by insulting the professor, “my super kid would never do such a thing! You must be a bad teacher.” Whatever happened to the “don’t get in trouble at school because you’ll get it even worse when you get home!”? If the parents aren’t willing to teach their kids – and the professors “have more important things to worry about”, then where are these young people going to learn ANYTHING? This is exactly what’s wrong with today’s youth – no consequences and who cares!?

  • Tom II

    i have a slight variation on D. W. Gore’s testing procedure: We do a lot of work in class to reinforce concepts and everyone must demonstrate by displaying answers to typical test questions and explaining their steps to the rest. i only give three exams, all of them are take-home, collaborate if you wish, do it with a tutor, but LEARN it before the final exam, which is in class, closely proctored, timed, strictly graded and must be done alone. If you don’t pass the final, you don’t do very well in the course, due to its weight.

    On another note, the absolutely awful modern work landscape is overrun with cronyism, punishing the competent while putting up with morons, slackers, clowns, imbezzlers, scam artists, and other unproductive types, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to FIND a job. The Bush administration and Wall Street are prime examples (and Obama, for continuing Bush’s economic policy of bailouts and war isn’t living up to his campaign rhettoric). So, in my humble opinion, any student paying attention to the world the way it is ISN’T getting much of an example of “doing it right.”

  • Jefferson

    Administrators are afraid of student grievances and lawsuits. Consequently, faculty are reluctant to pursue all the paperwork and risk required (at my big state university, at least) to bring plagiarism or cheating charges. The protocol is to meet repeatedly with the student to work out some compromise, but if that fails, an administrator has to judge the case as an “impartial” party. If faculty are going to use “Turnitin” to identify copied papers, students must be warned in advance on the syllabus; otherwise, the professor may not act against the plagiarized paper because the student didn’t have “fair warning.” (Also because Turnitin keeps copies of the student papers). Faculty are not allowed to simply flunk the cheater, at least not while giving that as the reason.

  • Terry Comingore

    I run the testing center at our college. The two biggest problems we have are cheat notes and phones. When caught, the ones using notes know they are guilty of cheating while phone users seem surprise that they stand accused (and some are accidents). Many millennials believe technology is ubiquitous and acceptable. The surprise is almost funny and the teachable moment is invaluable.

    As a teacher, I believe it is our responsibility to teach academic integrity including a statement in the syllabus. I also believe in reporting shoplifting. May I recommend the “Measure of Course Cheatability at http://learningfield.org/cheat/.

  • DoubleVision

    Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed students cheating while helping to proctor an exam, not even being sneaky about it through any technology. When I pointed out to the course prof the student STANDING up shamelessly looking over another’s shoulder at the answers and copying them, this prof neither said nor did anything except tell me to leave him alone, later telling me that it’s “too much hassle” to argue about it. I have a colleague who got reprimanded by the college dean, telling her she needed “more proof” if she was to “accuse” this student of cheating despite seeing it herself AND having other students in the class bear witness to the act AND having the necessary documents that together were undeniable; but it wasn’t enough. Instead, the student tried to claim sexual harassment and threatened a law suit, so the board folded, not interested in how ludicrous the claim, but rather envisioning the impending legal fees. They told this yet untenured prof it “wouldn’t be good for her future” and to “drop it.”

    When the school doesn’t support the profs in trying to control these problems, when students feel like they can challenge your rules because they know how difficult it is to actually follow through on enforcing them, when you’re not allowed to dismiss students from your class anymore for conduct unbecoming, then why not cheat…or “help” others?? Students may not know your subject, but they’re not stupid and will manipulate a broken system. Where in our corporate, hyper-capitalist society to we encourage honesty and integrity outside of education, and even there I could provide several examples to the contrary. Exploiting workers in developing countries? Polluting the environment for all to extract capital gain for a few? Where “money talks” and “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? Why on Earth would our young people think that cheating is NOT the way to win when all you see around you is exploitation and greed? As they say, “it’s a no-brainer…”

  • Allan Forsman

    I have solved these problems in my classes in 3 ways. 1 – I have a short quiz at the beginning of class every day, so there is no need for any student to “warn” another student. 2 – It is clearly stated verbally and in the sylabus that cell phones are not allowed on exam days. If I am walking around the room and can see their cell phone on exam day, they get a failing grade in the class. They are reminded at the beginning of the exam that if they have their cell phone with them, they better put it in the very bottom of their backpack/purse/etc. 3 – Turnitin is a given. My syllabus also clearly states that any work submitted for a grade MUST be the ORIGNAL work of the student.

    In addition, I try to impress on them that this isn’t about getting a good grade. This is about having the knowledge so that, IF you ever get a job in your field, you don’t get fired after a few weeks when your boss finds out you don’t know anything.

  • Ina F

    I work in France and am astounded by the number of students who copy information straight off the web and become angry when you give them a zero. The truly unfortunate thing about it is that many of the profs here do nothing about plagiarism – they give a mark because if they fail the student the professor is required to continue to develop new exams for the student until either the student passes or the professor simply gives up and passes the student. Students pay for their grande ecole degree – some earn it and some do not. It is truly unfortunate that the parents scream if you fail their child and the system has responded by not failing the child. Some students want to learn and are great students, others pay for the degree earned with the minimum pass of 50% and allowed to continue in their degree with 35% or less in some courses.

  • Joseph Koskovics

    It would seem to me that there is a failing of the instructors and teachers in the early stages of learning (such as elementary & high school). Students are encouraged early in their lives to dive into technology, without being taught the structure of integrity. Then, when they enter college, the process is hampered by this lack of preparation and understanding.

    Integrity is built in a lifetime of work. Why do we expect such when students have not been prepared over their early lives.

    Until this trend is corrected in the K-12 environment, colleges may need to require a course on professional ethics in the freshman year, along with the innovative “FD” marks that penalize with the one commodity the students can’t manipulate… time.

    And it’s better to catch it now, than have the students carry it into full adult lives.

  • http://HigherEdmorning.com Joanna Grey

    I’ve been teaching for 30 years now, at research universities, private universities and community colleges. My policy regarding cheating is spelled out in my syllabus and discussed in class. First, no phones or electrical devices at all are allowed on or near the desk…they leave their belongings on the floor near the wall. Second, a first offence of cheating will do three things, and F on the Assignment, and F in the class, and removal from my class. I will also turn in their name to the administration which will then be entered into their permanent record. I don’t mess around, nor do I “give breaks” or “have a heart”. You cheat in my class, you fail. Period. The moral fiber of students will not be helped if we “don’t have time to worry about cheating”.

  • J Brown

    Several others have suggested making exams ‘cheat proof’ by adding essay or short answer questions. What about those of us who teach exceptionally large courses and do not have the time to grade such long exams? We are chained to the automated exams with MC questions. Perhaps we could use Bb to grade short answer questions, but that is still not enough to prevent cheating in larger classes.

    In response to Richard Chang: I find pop quizzes keep the students studying the material throughout the semseter instead of cramming. I have piles of evaluation essays and test scores that support this conclusion.

    Enforcement of harsh penalties for cheating is essential. What is the point of having a rule to prevent cheating if it is not enforced by faculty AND administration? I twice witnessed one of my students ‘peeking’ at a neighbors exam last year. I couldn’t PROVE she was cheating so the issue was dropped. She was in the pre-Physician Assistant program. Even though she wasn’t caught, I submitted her name to the PA department and her application will be discarded if she applies regardless of her ‘qualifications’.

  • M

    As a student I feel like a lot of students justify cheating by looking at the real world application. When we’re supposed to be applying the information we learn from school we will still have this access to technology, resources and other people. We can ask any of them later so why not be able to ask them now?

    I don’t agree with claiming other people’s work as your own and I think turnitin.com is a great way to scare students into doing the work on their own if they’re considering other options. Essay’s should be original thought and properly source the ideas and research of others, but as far as general “fact tests”, why not?

  • http://lavc.edu RM

    “48% warn friends about a pop quiz with a phone call or text message.” So what? I am big on ethics, but I don’t have a problem with dispensing information. It is no different than gleaning information from students who took the course previously. To lump this issue with the others, in my opinion, contaminates the research. With regards to Carol W., Paul B., et al., I am clearly on the side of Carol. Instructors at my school that turn a blind eye towards cheaters make it harder for the rest of us. There are plenty of people who have cheated their way to “success.” I don’t want to be a cop, but, alas, it is part of the job.

  • http://HigherEdMorning Jeanetta

    Ban cell phones form the class room. HELLO !

  • Clay Rooks

    I’ve given two presentations on plagiarism and ways to combat plagiarism. See ERIC:

    http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/3e/6e/81.pdf

    This might be useful for some who are having trouble with this problem. You can also find this presentation “[WWW.2CHEAT.COM] Update” at

    http://www.gantopian.com/others/Dad/WWW2CheatComUpdateMS.pdf

  • Paul B

    If RM and Carol W et al actually read and thought about my original post they would see that I try to prevent cheating in a LARGE lecture room (250 students). What I won’t do is assume that my students are criminals before they commit a crime. It is my impression that some of you do this, which is sad. I sense a kind of glee goes into catching someone. I find it to be a repulsive attitude and approach to education. My goal is to train the future scientific stars of the world and I treat them as such. My glee, indeed my whole reason for taking a position at a research university and not a research institute where I wouldn’t teach undergrads, is my desire to turn young people onto the thrill of science. All students should be treated like respectable and honest citizens until there is evidence to prove otherwise. I bet students love professors that assume they are guilty when they haven’t done anything wrong. I wouldn’t know, I never had a professor like that. Believe it or not, my students like me because I treat them like adults, but and they know that comes with adult responsibilities. Go ahead, strike fear into your students with your negative approaches. I would have never pursued education as a profession if my role models put so much effort into pursuing the flunkies rather than the rising stars. Being a cop is not part of my job. Education through teaching and research is my job. Go ahead, continue to attack my dissenting viewpoint. That is what Fox News does to those that disagree with their viewpoints.

  • Angie

    I agree with you, Paul B. I love your approach to teaching and cheating. It is only the students that will fail in life if they decide to cheat their whole way through it. I understand that some of the academic core courses are of no interest to some of the students, they just want to learn their own major so they will cheat just to get by. Students have been and will be cheating forever, there is no way to stop it, we just have to teach them morals and ethics, so that it is none of our children that cheat.

  • Tiffany Elliott

    I’ve said for the last two years (as long as I’ve been teaching) that cheating, particularly plagiarism, should not simply result in a F on a student’s transcript but perhaps a FP that indicates their offense and the real reason for the grade. The article is right on when it comes to students’ perspectives on this issue. They truly don’t believe there’s anything wrong with their actions. I think the internet and particularly wikis contribute to a generation of people who view information and ideas as public property. I immediately fail my own students for blatant plagiarizism, but it is worth discussing the varying standards on the issue. Americans feel a stronger sense of ownership over their ideas where in other areas of the world ideas are considered publicly shared property, Europe included. Where is the line between the rhetorical act of appropriation and plagiarism? I don’t have a concrete answer, but neither would I want to forbid my students use of the former, which is a legitimate rhetorical act employed by published authors, reporters, musicians, etc. There’s a perfect example in one chapter of Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs when he begins the chapter with the lyrics of Metallica’s “One” (or maybe it’s “And Justice for All,” I forget) without quotation marks, italics, or any other indication that the words are not his own. But he does this with the understanding that his audience knows this. In an “academic” essay, many instructors would chastise Chuck in some way for plagiarizing. As for other forms of cheating, the act of memorization for the purpose of test-taking has no logical purpose. In the “real” world, individuals can and do look up information, collaborate with others, or otherwise find the information they need to complete a personal or work-related task. Why, then, does academia insist that students memorize information as a means of demonstrating knowledge. Wouldn’t open book/open notes/internet access/ collaborative tests that pose analytical questions prove much more successful in teaching students how to collaborate ethically with the ideas of others, to weigh those ideas, build on them, and practically apply those ideas based on critical analysis?

  • DoubleVision

    Regarding ethics and lying and presumptions of guilt, an interesting viewpoint on how to cultivate motivations of honesty and integrity in young people: NurtureShock by Bronson and Merryman.

  • http://lavc.edu RM

    Paul: What’s next, comparing my teaching awards (many) versus yours? Perhaps I have won teaching awards BECAUSE I insist on honesty and good students respect that. You are one of the reasons educators have to work so hard in the face of Fox News and other conservative organizations. When did disagreement become unacceptable in our society? Is your next post going to accuse me of being racist too? My goodness.

  • DoubleVision

    Going to college also includes, along with the applied learning that hopefully is cultivated, one having earned qualifications that have been standardized to some degree, most literally. Imagine your doctor checking Wiki to come up with a diagnosis because they cheated their way through. Imagine the chaos is communication if each of us didn’t standardize through memorization our languages and interactions. Memorization is simply part of learning, and thus is just as important in my mind. And young people can memorize very very well — anyone trying to learn a language in later life will attest to remembering how “easy” it seemed to learn such things when they were younger. I’m not ready to throw memorization, and the training that the brain experiences with that exercise, as less (and neither more) than comprehensive and analytical abilities. The course experience must be set up so that cheating is irrelevant and obvious. Make them push the limits of what’s out there by making the resources part of your toolbox to teach them.

    Understood this would not be possible in a large class such as taught by Paul, with whom I sympathize given I was assistant to an instructor in my graduate days with 322 students. That was insane. But I teach between 40 and 70 students in my course. I allow them to bring a 5×7 handwritten notecard with anything they want written on it. I give them 100 questions, any of which could be on the exam — short answer/essay… The card must be turned in at the end of class, with the exam. 70% of the students tell me that the first attempt (at writing all the information they wanted on the card) failed and they had to write it over. By the time they had it right, they didn’t need the card anymore because at this point, they knew the material. I switched questions between classes and years… make up new ones as times change… There’s just no real way to cheat in my class, even if a student gets their boyfriend/girlfriend to write the card, because completing the minimum does not score a perfect grade, as in life.

  • Paul B

    RM: Why would I accuse you of racism, your post indicates nothing of the sort. However, you are the one that said in a previous post in response to mine, and I quote “Instructors at my school that turn a blind eye towards cheaters make it harder for the rest of us.” The implication is that I turn a blind eye to cheaters. This WAS an accusation and is simply not true. Nowhere in any of my posts do I even suggest that I turn a blind eye to cheating. Different viewpoints (philosophies in this case) on an issue is fine; however, I took offense to your personal attack of my point of view and replied in kind. This has escalated far enough. Congratulations on your teaching awards, I am sure they are justly deserved. So as to head off further escalation, I am NOT being sarcastic.

  • http://www.mchmultimedia.com physics software

    We use cameras in our schools at the time of exams and a strict penalty is awarded to student.

  • JM

    As a student, I have to say, I’m rather appalled by the immaturity you teachers and professors are showing. So you’ve won awards. Congratulations. That has nothing to do with the issue at hand. The fact of the matter is, students have cheated throughout the history of time. Even in the Bible, people were cheating. I can promise you that some of your colleagues are still cheating to this day. If you think that is false, you are rather naive.

    Now, cheating is obviously wrong. It is the easy way out, and it helps no one in the end. But for professors to automatically take a Gestapo position and assume that every single student in their classroom is going to cheat? That’s not only absurd, but it is flat-out insulting to the students. For those Americans of us on this forum, we live in a country in which citizens are innocent until proven guilty. Yet for some reason, professors like to think that that is not the case on campus. Just because we are students does not mean we will cheat. Just because we have a cell phone in our pocket does not mean it is being used to transmit answers or test questions to some other student hidden in a dark room. Technology is shifting every day, but the majority of us use these tools for convenience and not cheating.

    Those professors who stalk about the classroom, eyeballing every student to see if they are leaning to far to their right or if their eyes are anywhere but glued to the sheet before them are not only untrusting of their students, they are distracting. There is a great deal of pressure on the college level to do as well as possible on each and every exam, particularly those classes in which each exam makes up 25% or more of your grade. Having someone watching you is an added pressure and takes your attention away from the test itself. Not to mention, some of the methods you have discussed to deter cheating are inconvenient for a student. Say I am taking a Scantron test and my pencil tip snaps. If my bag is located on the other side of the room, I have to disturb the rest of the students just to get another pencil. How is that fair to my fellow classmates?

    And to say that most students who cheat see nothing wrong with their actions is ludicrous. Everyone knows cheating is wrong. It has been drilled into our heads (by people like you) since kindergarten. But you speak of failing students who plagiarize, and I know that many students are unsure of what exactly constitutes plagiarism. That is why I am deeply grateful to my professors who ask us to utilize tools in which we can submit a written piece, and it will scour the Internet for similar phrase words. These tools show students how similar their work is to another’s, and it actually shows us a need to use our own words.

    Finally, I have to say this: cheating is wrong, of course, but to automatically fail a student and report them for a first offense is, in my opinion, not wrong. Fail them for the assignment, of course, but talk to them. Sit down with them and discuss what they did, find out why they did it. For all you know, there is some deeper issue in this student’s life, some stress that led them to do something they never would have considered otherwise. To jump to reporting them, something that could follow them around for the rest of their lives, is hasty. Yes, cheating is wrong, and yes, they deserve to fail that assignment, but five years after graduation, your exam should not be the most important thing in that student’s life. Cheating may have been one stupid decision, and it should not necessarily follow that person. Cheating should be handled on a case-by-case basis. After all, we are all entitled to our day in court.

    Yes, some students cheat. Always have, always will. It is wrong, of course it is. But I have to say, I think it is a shame that professors, the people from whom we are supposed to learn, those people whom are supposed to be on our side, are so blatantly prejudiced against us. Professors like Paul B have the right idea: make it clear to students that cheating is wrong and will not be tolerated, and leave it at that. Don’t treat us like we are criminals, because we are not. I would hope the majority of professors joined the teaching profession because they love to teach and mold students’ minds, and not because they enjoy catching cheaters. Sadly, the latter seems to be the case for most of you.

  • Myra

    How about an F minus for cheaters? Then calculate into the student’s GPA (assuming a system wherein a 4.0 equals an A) the number minus 1.0 (i.e., negative 1.0 or -1.0) for the particular course.

  • Frank

    A lot has been said about the presumption of innocence. The presumption of innocence is relevant to prosecution. It is not relevant to prevention. Do you leave your car or house unlocked because you presume everyone is innocent? Further, using a site like Turnitin.com would make no sense if we assume every student is innocent. This is an untenable position.

    Let’s not pretend. We need to not have our heads in the sand. Believing something because it makes you feel good, despite evidence to the contrary is irrational. Let’s take a look at some actual data:

    In the U.S., 56% of middle school students and 70% of high school students have cheated.
    Wilfried Decoo, Crisis on Campus: Confronting Academic Misconduct (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002), 23.

    A 2007 AP article (Higher Education Sees Rise in Dishonesty) stated:

    “A study published last fall by Donald McCabe, a Rutgers professor who has studied cheating for decades, and two co-authors found 56 percent of MBA students admitted cheating, along with 54 percent of graduate students in engineering, 48 percent in education, and 45 percent in law.

    McCabe emphasizes the difficulties of measuring trends in cheating, but the undergraduate numbers at the same 32 universities he studied appear even worse: 74 percent of business students, and 68 percent in nonbusiness fields admitted to some form of cheating.”

    “I think the … more frightening figure is the fact that 20 (percent) to 25 percent admit to five or more (instances of cheating),” said Tim Dodd, executive director of the Center for Academic Integrity, which is based at Duke. “The fact that we have a quarter of more of our students admitting they’ve engaged in serial cheating does not inspire a lot of confidence about the credibility of their degrees.”

    Finally, I think Nancy L’s story illustrates why it is important to address cheating as soon as the behavior arises, instead of passing the student along. It would be interesting to know who the student was that was NOT admitted to CalTech because the cheater took his place. There are limited numbers of students admitted to graduate schools. Is it right that a student did NOT get in because a cheater was admitted? Also, CalTech invested time, energy and funds in a student who never should have been there. What a waste. He should have been set straight years before.

  • Frank

    Regarding JM comments, that “And to say that most students who cheat see nothing wrong with their actions is ludicrous. Everyone knows cheating is wrong.” Again, let’s look at some actual data.

    A 2002 CNN article (Survey: Many students say cheating’s OK) cites a study by Rutgers’ Management Education Center of 4,500 high school students:

    “Some 50 percent of those responding to the survey said they don’t think copying questions and answers from a test is even cheating.

    Newhall, a B student at George Mason High School, says students have very little sense of moral outrage about cheating. ”

    This is what the students themselves are saying.

  • David

    This whole thing is, ultimately, a question of pedagogy. Cheating on exams is only possible if there are exams. The idea of classrooms full of students taking tests and exams seems like one possible approach to education at the elementary and middle-school levels, but in my view students have outgrown that approach by the time they’re 16. Why treat adults as if they were kids? If someone is really interested in learning, then s/he doesn’t need to be herded or browbeaten into memorizing data. At the college where I work, there are no courses and every student designs her/his own curriculum, with input and oversight from faculty. This way, they’re free to study what they want to study and they’re respected as adults who are truly passionate about learning. As for cheating, students are expelled for plagiarism on the first offense, no exceptions. We also don’t award letter grades since they’re spectacularly uninformative regarding a student’s actual progress.
    This whole discussion amounts to an indictment of a pedagogy that treats adult learners as nothing but a bunch of refractory fourth-graders, and in which students respond by pursuing ideas with actions, instead of thoughts.

  • Ann

    Lots of my students want “good grades” and do not see what we consider cheating as cheating but “short cuts”. In part, our system encourages this cheating behavior since the students want to get into professional schools which look at grades. The admission process needs to be revised with less emphasis on grades!

  • John

    Interesting discussion.

    Some observations in teaching undergrads and grads at an R1 University for 18 years.

    [*] When possible, far better to design homework, exams so that cheating is more or less impossible.

    [*]

  • Brenda

    As a high school teacher, I take great exception to Joseph Koskovics’s remarks that elementary and secondary teachers are to blame for not teaching students about academic integrity. We, too, struggle with how to prevent cheating and how to instill honesty in our students. In my school district, honesty is a core value that is emphasized, with four other core values, throughout the elementary and secondary years. We do define plagiarism for our students, like many teachers in many other school districts. We use turnitin.com to both warn and catch students who may cheat.

    However, as was so astutely pointed out, the examples of Enron, etc. show that cheating is rampant in our culture. We must ALL work to teach our students that cheating is wrong, from parents, elementary and secondary teachers, to university professors and members of society at large. This isn’t just an educational problem, but a societal problem.

    That being said, thanks to the many who shared some really useful ideas for preventing plagiarism through class discussions of cheating, classroom policies, and assignment design.

  • Stasha Simon

    I, too, teach high school and I have taught at a community college. I do not believe that the problem begins in elementary and high school. I do think the way we react to the situation in elementary and middle school and high school has contributed to the problem. Teachers often want the zero to hold, but are not backed by administration–especially if the “parents” of said child has an important status in the community! Or we are “made” to give a retake test, etc. because we don’t want the child to have a damaged gpa from one poor decision. I say let the zero remain the zero–if I am late on my electric bill payment, I will have to pay the late fee regardless of the reason. We aren’t helping the kiddos learn the lesson by giving them a “redo”–shucks, they got more time to study or do the assignment in the first place? What kind of lesson is that? Even if there is a reduction in points, the likelihood is that reduction is far greater than the original score would have been–even without the cheating.

    We have to either be willing to teach the lesson and stand by it like that strong oak tree in the yard, or be willing to sway like that willow tree in the yard and not complain when it becomes damaged by the swaying.

    I don’t have the resources to “check” for plagiarism for every assignment, but I get damned tired of colleagues who cut and paste quizzes from PinkMonkey or SparksNotes, etc. I was in a classroom once where the “teacher”–who had been gone for 2 days and had assigned the students to read the first 6 chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird–told the kids that Scout was the name of the dog in the novel! She was serious and I was shocked and appalled. Did any of those kids read that book from that point onward? If the teacher isn’t willing to do the work, the kids will pick up on it and run with it…just like we adults do. I will continue to speed on an expressway until I get a ticket, then I will let off the accelerator for a while.

    Here are some sticking points that we all must consider:

    -Students who are adept at texting can do so without ever removing the hand or phone from the pocket. Make sure that hands and backpacks and purses and coat pockets are not accessible.

    -Follow the College board policy–if they are the grand masters of testing, why not mimic their punishment? No technology allowed in the room-except for the approved calculators. No score for the test if the student is perceived as cheating.

    -Yes, the internet is a valuable tool for time saving efforts for everyone-TEACHERS included! Once the students realize that the assignment you gave is from a website, they will look for EVERYTHING on that website and see what you are doing next…even reading those test answers. We need to look at those ideas, and morph them into something that is uniquely ours. I teach literature and many of my questions connect literature that I know they have previously been assigned “Romeo & Juliet” to the literature we are covering “The Great Gatsby”…I pull sentences from the literature we are studying for specific questions. I looks for symbolism within the novel–not check Sparks to see what it says.

    I do believe that I earn my paycheck and I make the students think. I cannot control if my students come from a home where rules are firm or where rules are meant to be challenged or where rules are meant to be bent…but I can define what my rules mean and have the integrity to stick to them.

  • http://clioandme.wordpress.com Mark

    I’ve already got in my syllabus that I don’t want to see smart phones during class and will drop their attendance and participation grade if I do.

    And I make sure they’re put away during exams.

    Interesting tips about texting from within a pocket. Not sure what the benefit would be.

    One other thing is to format exams so that no easy answer via a text will even work. IDs in history that require not only who, what, when, and where, but also why, historical significance, and examples do not lend themselves to an easy text. Nor do essays. Of course, grading takes more work, but oh well.

    I’ve already given students a heads up about IDs: if they study with a friend, they should not sit next to the friend, so that it can never enter my mind that they cheated if their IDs are similar. But really these kinds of questions are too complex to cheat effectively on.

    If I were ever to do multiple choice, I think I would use several different versions throughout the class with no rhyme or reason to it. That could help

    And I expect students to communicate between classes, so exam content and surprise quiz scheduling will vary.

    All in all, one has to walk the fine line and show students respect, not treat them all as potential criminals. Hence, minimizing the utility of cheating is probably best in many cases.

  • Gary Pandolfi

    Grades are perceived to be the bottom line, but rarely do grades reflect what students really know. For some students they reflect merely the ability to take tests and to cram information into short-term memory. Multi-media projects, community awareness displays, what-I-learned-and-how-I-used-it presentatios, are all great ways to engage students with their education and help them apply what they learned to solve problems and to make connections to the world around them. Presenting assessments as opportunities to show what they know and what they think are the most genuine and memorable kinds of evaluation experiences for students, and very difficult to fake.

  • Checkmate

    “never commit to your memory what you can find in a book”
    — Albert Einstein

  • Joseph Koskovics

    I can see that Brenda’s replay is to take exception to my remarks. It is outstanding that she can be an example to others. But I would suggest she extend her example to other who do not hold such high standards, rather than take exception.

  • Mark Schwendau

    There are three places I think cell phone blockers should be required by law… no four.

    1. Church
    2. Fine Arts Productions
    3. Classrooms
    4. Military Transports (already done in the Middle East due to roadside bombings)

    People engaged in these activites, and those around them, can chill from the technology routine for those few moments and give those around them their undivided attention.

  • Gee

    Many good ideas here — many I already do, and more to mull.

    But here’s one: Recently, I had to deal with an incredibly blatant case of plagiarism on a test. I raised it in the next class (when the students did not yet know whom I had caught, as I had not yet returned the tests). I raised it in the context of their next component in the course, the term paper. I told them how easy it was to catch the case of plagiarism, that I am not soooo old that I don’t know how to use the Internet, etc. . . .

    And then I told them about how many times I have been plagiarized, including by so-called scholars — and I told them how much it hurts, not only on principle but because so many family members also had sacrificed so much for mom to do her diss., do her books, etc. Interesting to see the reaction of students. The room was the quietest it ever has been, and several said afterward that they finally realized that plagiarism is stealing, as they related it to thefts they had in their lives.

    Tell them how it hurts — the author, or the other student who studied hard, etc. It doesn’t seem to bother many students that they are engaging in the petty evil that erodes their own moral base. But tell them how it hurts others. Sometimes, that just may get through, too.

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  • http://facebook.com filpoutcrazyteen

    ok i myself am i teenager. at my school, they take away our phones so there is no way we can possibly cheat. this is a great soulution!

  • http://www.youtube.com zander tramp

    i’m 15, and curently going to be in the 10th grade. these statistics are wrong. they need to be higher. we cheat all the time! phones are not allowed in school, but at any one time theres an average of 2 kids texting at one point and probably wont get caught. and it extends far beyond papers we copied an pasted from the internet( we find our information from a couple of sites and just re-word it. yeah, it’ll take 15-20 minutes but its a sure winner). google- answers every worksheet question you give us, there are websites that not only give the answer to math problems, but show the work. so there is no possible way for you to tell if were cheating. can you really blame us? look at it from our point of view, you could bust your hump for an A and learn useless material, or you can take the fast and easy way with the same result

  • -Unidentified User-

    This is why I sometimes wish technology never existed.

  • Lunisol_Hax

    I’m a college student and I agree with Zander Tramp, why Bust your hump to get an A when it’s so easy to find it online. According to rule 34 of the internet, “It exists” (a side note, while generally referred to for porn, it applies to anything) Anything you can think of, already exists on the internet, so spend a week or two writing a paper, or spend 1-2 days getting it offline and re-wording it. Why bother with the hard way? It doesn’t matter how the job gets done, just so long as it does get done.
    As for someones comment that cheaters will fail in life, I read something on the CBS website that said those most likely to cheat are those who are most intelligent and creative. I personally pride myself on my resourcefulness, so I feel I fall in that category. And as for “It hurts others” If they make money off of your work, sure, but if you’ve already turned it in, and its old, and we’re only using it to pass a class or get a good grade, then who does it honestly hurt? If you’re that sensitive then the world should have already eaten you alive. Grow up America, in order to play with the big dogs of the world you have to act just like them, and guess what? Huge companies like Enron, the S&L companies, and even members of congress cheat in one way or another, so you really think theres an advantage to trying to stop cheating? It only forces us to find better ways of not getting caught.

    ~HAX~

  • Lunisol_Hax

    Cheated on my finals and passed all my classes. Get ‘er done!

  • Anonymous

    I’m a college student receiving my master’s in mechanical engineering. How can you all be proud of cheating? What happens when you begin your career? You will be inept at what you do and ultimately get fired from your profession when the company with whom you were hired from realizes you are not qualified for the position. In addition, have you given any thoughts to your professors whom are experts in the areas of study you are trying to become knowledge savvy in? They are here to guide us and to prepare us for what lies ahead of us – beyond the security of the classroom; beyond the security of a place you CANNOT cheat your way through. The next time you decide to cheat, think about this: will cheating now help prepare me to succeed when I graduate? If you can truly answer yes to that question, by all means cheat away. However, I bet, if you are truly honest with yourself, the answer is no. Please stop cheating. We need educated lawyers, doctors, scientists, etc. in our future and we won’t attain them by having those people be the one’s who cheated their way through college learning not a single thing except sly ways to go about manipulating the system. That’s something you can be proud of, huh? Please, stop.

  • Sally Soda

    I make my living writing term papers and doing homework. I’ve done everything from professional papers to collection letters, informational packets from physicians to dissertations to Sunday School lessons. My clients have been everyone from seventh graders to college deans. You’d be stunned how many hours we spend explaining to students why we write things certain ways in their papers, why it can’t be done other ways, and what is plagiarism and what it not, and why. Hint: If your students are bright, they snicker as soon as they read the plagiarism statement in the student handbook….because it is plagiarized. It all goes downhill from there. You can’t demand honesty when you’re teaching them to work together and giving each group a “group grade” that only forces students to carry slackards or risk failure.

    Most of the time, I ask to see the instructor’s original directions, so I can tell what the instructor wants. Many times, students don’t know what the instructors want, and the “directions” don’t make it any more clear. More times than I can count, instructors have kicked back papers telling students to “rewrite this….I don’t like the way this quote is written.” Well….you can’t change what someone said. If the student is doing a paper on Carl Sagan, quotes him, and the instructor kicks it back to have Carl’s quote changed, what do you think it teaches?

    In general, clients fall into four categories: students who are going to fail regardless of how much help we give them; students who have so many outside demands that they don’t have time to do the work, although they are capable; students who can’t understand what the instructor wants; and students who have been told to “hire an editor”. Nearly every university tells doctoral candidates to “hire an editor”….yet under the letter of the law (and university plagiarism policy) hiring an editor violates the rules because it means the work is not 100% the student’s. I can pretty much guarantee you, too, that if I am writing papers for multiple people in a class, there is a very serious problem with the instructor, not the students per se.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but I CAN tell you it starts in the classroom, and not with professors who hold the student’s hand every step of the way, passing out tons of redundant work assignments so that the bright students are held back by having to write a dissertation a paragraph at a time so it is “right”. Who could possibly think the work is theirs when the instructor has told them line by line what to say? I’ve seen some truly amazing works dumbed down this way.

    Until it is about education, not ego…..it isn’t going to work. Until our instructors are bright and analytical, it isn’t going to work. And until we worry about the distribution of knowledge versus rote learning…..it won’t work.


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