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Topic: The loathsome aspect of teaching: your opinion requested
Message: Posted by: S2000magician (Nov 11, 2015 10:32PM)
I love teaching. Unreservedly.

I love seeing students do something that a week or a month earlier they were completely incapable of doing. The process of learning is awesome to behold, and I'm blessed to be able to witness it firsthand day after day.

But there is one aspect of teaching in schools that I loathe: cheating by students.

I despise this. It literally makes me ill. I abhor it.

I'm sitting at my desk grading Accounting exams. As I'm teaching four sections of the same class, I felt it prudent to make two versions of each exam. (Note: I hate this, too. To think that I have to double my work simply to try to prevent the despicable practice of cheating is something I find repugnant.) One student was doing some calculations with distinctly peculiar numbers, and I finally determined why: she was using the numbers from the version of the exam that wasn't given to her class.

So . . . we have two culprits: the student whose exam I'm grading, and the student who gave her a preview of the other version of the exam. The former is identified conclusively; the latter is as yet unknown to me.

What would y'all do in this situation? I ask those who are teachers (who likely have had to handle - or, at least, consider - this situation already), and those of you who are not but may have sound reasoning on which to base a position.

Thanks in advance.
Message: Posted by: Magnus Eisengrim (Nov 11, 2015 10:41PM)
First, I agree completely. There is little more dispiriting for a teacher than to have students lower themselves to cheating.

This is college, I presume. You probably have a code of conduct that specifies procedures and penalties.

For younger students, the modern thinking (which I endorse in this regard) is that misconduct and assessment are separate issues. A cheating student deserves some sort of sanction (age and prior incidents are relevant here), but should also be entitled to a chance to re-assess.

At the college level you are dealing with adults who sit in accordance with an established code of conduct. In many cases, academic misconduct such as cheating can result in a failing grade on the course and suspension from the program. All's fair as everyone knew and assented to the rules beforehand.
Message: Posted by: S2000magician (Nov 11, 2015 10:55PM)
Yes: university.
Message: Posted by: LobowolfXXX (Nov 11, 2015 10:58PM)
How about a plea bargain? If she turns in the other student, you give them both D-minuses, strong warnings, and unique tests for the rest of the class; if not, she can get an F and you report it.
Message: Posted by: landmark (Nov 11, 2015 11:06PM)
I've always maintained that in high school the student is more important than the subject, whereas in college the subject is more important than the student.

Since this is college, I would fail the cheating student for the course. Whether a student deliberately gave a preview is hard to determine--I don't think you can really pursue that.

If it were high school, my answer would be: It depends.
Message: Posted by: balducci (Nov 11, 2015 11:09PM)
I know that at some institutions when a student is suspected of cheating the professor is supposed to immediately remove himself from the picture and forward the evidence to a superior. So if there is any doubt in your mind about how you are allowed to proceed, check your institution's formal rules and procedures. If you violate some official policy, you may just be giving the student an 'out' for a later appeal.
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Nov 12, 2015 01:53AM)
I am notoriously merciful, since I see almost everything as an opportunity for students to grow and learn and prepare for life. Typicially, I threaten, frighten, and make a HUGE deal about infractions, and then show mercy. Whether this has worked over the years I cannot say. My guess is that some students learned an important lesson, and some students took advantage of me.

Fortunately, about half of my exams these days are oral exams. It's hard to cheat on an oral exam.

Just a thought: offer mercy by offering an oral exam as a re-take.
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Nov 12, 2015 08:14AM)
I admire teachers. The patience, the dedication, it is truly a gift to be a good teacher.

I feel the same way about cheating.

Here is something to keep in mind if I may. The problem lies in that they have not yet learned cheating is wrong or if they have they choose not to apply the knowledge. Is it possible to teach them both this? Not simple punishment but rather a lesson.

Do you have a way of knowing if it is habit and custom for them? If so then especially at University level this matters. Also teaching them right and wrong is much more difficult at this level.
Message: Posted by: S2000magician (Nov 12, 2015 09:17AM)
[quote]On Nov 12, 2015, balducci wrote:
I know that at some institutions when a student is suspected of cheating the professor is supposed to immediately remove himself from the picture and forward the evidence to a superior. So if there is any doubt in your mind about how you are allowed to proceed, check your institution's formal rules and procedures. If you violate some official policy, you may just be giving the student an 'out' for a later appeal.[/quote]
I agree completely.

I have already e-mailed the department chair and await her reply.

I'm pretty sure that she hates this junk as much as I.
Message: Posted by: 0pus (Nov 12, 2015 09:49AM)
I went to law school at a university that had an Honor Code that prohibited "lying, cheating or stealing"-- I had not been an undergraduate at that university, and had no experience of an honor code school. In particular, if a student became aware of a violation of the honor code (by another student) then the innocent student must report the honor violation; failure to do so was itself an honor violation. Any accusation of lying, cheating or stealing by a student was heard by an honor tribunal that consisted of several undergraduates, a graduate student and a couple of professors. The sole sanction that could be imposed was expulsion. The system seemed to be often used as a mechanism for students to harm other students.

At the time of finals (in law school, the final exam was the only thing upon which your grade was determined), in order to help students prepare, some professors (about half) put their past finals on reserve at the library for students to review. The other half of the professors did not make their past exams available. I had one professor who was visiting from another law school. He had decided to refrain from making his past exams available.

One student in my study group decided that he would call the visiting professor's home school library and ask the library to send him copies of the exam the visiting professor had on file at his home school. Several exams were copied and sent to the student.

When he told the study group what he did, we felt that he put us all in an awkward and unwanted position. We felt that what he had done was tantamount to "cheating," and we would be required to report him. He, of course, felt that he had done nothing of the sort. We told him that when the exams arrived, he was not to open the envelope and he was to take it to the professor and tell him what he had done. The professor could then destroy the package and move on.

Ultimately the professor put the package of exams on reserve and they were made available to the entire class.

This situation was exacerbated by the imposition of the single sanction -- expulsion -- in all cases.

Cheating can and does happen. It is pretty distasteful all around.
Message: Posted by: TonyB2009 (Nov 12, 2015 10:31AM)
I can only speak from the perspective of a student, not a teacher. As a student I hated it when someone cheated. It made the rest of us look bad, who had done our best to pass a course. I remember once in high school seeing a guy cheat in an exam, and finish top of the class. I took him out back after school and convinced him with a couple of friendly jabs not to do that again.

My view is that out of respect for the others in the class who did not cheat, you fail the student on that paper. Zero grade. And make them wait to sit it again. That sounds harsh, but cheating really is not on.

However I would not go so far as to expel someone. Better it be a severe learning experience rather than a life-changing decision.
Message: Posted by: Cliffg37 (Nov 12, 2015 10:31AM)
You told your department chair; you did the right thing. That really should be all. I can honestly say that I have never cheated. Not in elementary school, not middle school, not high school (almost did once but did not), not college, not grad school, not in my teaching classes, not in my master's degree classes. Never. I find the thought of it to be disgusting.

When I saw the movie "Cheaters," which is based on a true story, I felt stabbed in the gut when the teacher suggested the kids cheat for his own personal reasons. Stabbed both as a teacher; it was a black eye to my profession, and as an honest man.
My Principal has NO stomach for strong discipline, so last year when I caught a student (with photographic evidence) I called in her parents. Mom and Dad were on my side, and her grade dropped appropriately with a zero averaged in. Her co-conspirator, who I felt was the mastermind in the business had not left any real evidence, and he skated away scott free. In that I was not pleased, but I refused to prosecute someone without evidence. The girl I caught would not speak as to who put her up to it, and so that was the end of it.
Message: Posted by: balducci (Nov 12, 2015 11:26AM)
I had never heard of that movie before, I will have to check it out: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0218094/

Read about the true story here: http://www.cynthiahanson.com/pdf/big_cheat.pdf
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Nov 12, 2015 12:35PM)
I discovered a long time ago that I would rather spend my time preventing a fire (so to speak) than putting it out, and I think it came from watching people not do anything to prevent a fire because "it shouldn't happen," and then get upset afterwards when they had to put it out.

That being said, school is about teaching and learning, but it's not just about the subjects taught. When I was teaching a class back in grad school, I didn't have to think about students cheating; however, I did say right up front, the first day, that anything I said in class regarding the subject matter was liable to show up on a quiz or exam. So what happened? I kept hearing stories about students reminding other students that I'd said that. After the first semester, word of mouth got around, and the next class came in pre-warned. Actually, they took it very well and would occasionally ask, as a joke, whether something I said in passing counted. It got to be a running gag, which made the class a lot more fun (interactive?) all around.

In this day and age, I would start off by saying, very nicely and almost sadly, "I'm sorry to have to say this, but cheating blah blah blah, and the penalty is such-and-such." It won't stop everyone, but at least it gets them thinking about it up front, and hopefully thinking twice. You may have already done that, in which case I agree that passing it on to your dept. chair was the correct thing to do.
Message: Posted by: Starrpower (Nov 12, 2015 02:30PM)
As a teacher for 2 decades, I agree with and applaud your feelings on this one. I guess I have a more philosophical take. I never taught at the university level, but we have to decide are we there to offer up knowledge, or are we there to provide credentials and a degree? The answer is both, I suppose, but in today's world it (unfortunately) seems that the latter is the goal rather than the former. The ethics lie with them, not not you; being a caring educator that is difficult to accept. I would do all within my power to prevent cheating, and follow the rules and procedure in place, but beyond that I would try not to let it gnaw at me (as difficult as that may be).
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Nov 12, 2015 03:14PM)
[quote]On Nov 12, 2015, Cliffg37 wrote:
You told your department chair; you did the right thing. That really should be all. [/quote]

No no no no no no no.

(I don't think you meant that the way it sounded.)
Message: Posted by: LobowolfXXX (Nov 12, 2015 04:00PM)
I have to chime in against the idea of this being some sort of moral teaching moment. If you get to college and you didn't pick up the right/wrong memo from your parents or other sources along the way, you're not going to change your stripes and suddenly pick up some character because you get popped for cheating in college. That bus sailed, and not being a cheating scum bucket is now an expected part of the deal. Now you're just cheapening everyone else's degree and throwing off the grading curve, if there is one. Throw the book at 'em.
Message: Posted by: karnak (Nov 12, 2015 06:17PM)
I've been teaching online courses (in comparative religion/world religions) for my state's community college system for the past ten years. The sort of cheating I encounter, all too often, is plagiarism -- it being all too easy, and I suppose all too tempting, for students to copy/paste unacknowledged and uncredited material from online sources into their essays, class discussion posts, and even final exams (not presenting any of it as quotes, but simply as if they came up with that material on their own, expressed in their own words).

Initially I was utterly outraged at such blatant cheating. I still have no tolerance for it, but I've come to see it for what it often is: a sign of how insecure, and desperate, some students are (and the lengths they are willing to go, including compromising their own integrity, to take the easy but seemingly more promising way out).

Fortunately, plagiarism is almost as easy to detect these days as it is to commit. (I have Google, too.) When caught and confronted, most are deeply apologetic, and even embarrassed or ashamed. Insecurity and desperation pushes people hard.

Still, I have a zero tolerance policy for plagiarism. It's inexcusably wrong. But I have come to temper my outrage with sympathy (at least in some cases).

I give them a zero and a warning. A zero for the assignment, and a warning that if it happens again, they will instantly flunk the class.

I have very, very few repeat cases. And I hope that it's a learning experience (or "a teachable moment") for at least some if not most of them.
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Nov 13, 2015 12:36AM)
[quote]On Nov 12, 2015, LobowolfXXX wrote:
I have to chime in against the idea of this being some sort of moral teaching moment. If you get to college and you didn't pick up the right/wrong memo from your parents or other sources along the way, you're not going to change your stripes and suddenly pick up some character because you get popped for cheating in college. That bus sailed, and not being a cheating scum bucket is now an expected part of the deal. Now you're just cheapening everyone else's degree and throwing off the grading curve, if there is one. Throw the book at 'em. [/quote]

I get your point. But speaking for myself: college changed my life. It isn't that way for everybody, but it was for me. I changed my stripes in so many ways that sometimes I think I was born at college.

So I keep that in mind with my students.

As far as cheapening degrees goes, I think Lobo is surprisingly naive. Degrees are so cheap these days that it embarrasses me that people value them. They cost money and effort, I suppose. But you could send your kid to any of the top 10 universities in the world and have them complete a BA without having received an education. Then again, they could have received a fine one. It really is up to them...and maybe a teacher who thought that stripes can be changed. But 99% of money and effort is wasted at college these days.

BTW: I used the women's bathroom in my hallway yesterday, and saw that I was wrong about there being no difference other than the stick figure with a dress on the door. They also have little baggies for sanitart napkins, which I suppose a woman might need and expect. So I take back my previous bluster about gender-studies specialists being hypocrites for not using the men's room.
Message: Posted by: balducci (Nov 13, 2015 10:09AM)
[img]http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51WtUTu1SWL._SX300_.jpg[/img]
Message: Posted by: tommy (Nov 13, 2015 02:43PM)
What else would you expect from a class full of want to be bankers?
Message: Posted by: S2000magician (Nov 13, 2015 10:33PM)
[quote]On Nov 13, 2015, tommy wrote:
What else would you expect from a class full of want to be bankers?[/quote]
Accountants do not want to be bankers; wanna-be bankers major in finance.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Nov 13, 2015 10:54PM)
A sense of humour is one thing that money can't buy.