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Academic cheating

  1. Jan 2, 2016 #1

    epenguin

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    The situation in the UK is apparently sufficiently dire for there to be a whole three articles about it in today's Times, I hope the links work.

    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/share/uuid/895f76fc-b07f-11e5-aa98-d2462c903670
    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/share/uuid/4e677c22-b096-11e5-aa98-d2462c903670
    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/share/uuid/9b4e8db0-afc3-11e5-aa98-d2462c903670

    Your comments and reactions?

    I guess I'll come back with some of mine later, but meantime maybe plaudits :approve: to Gregg and all the collaborators for making it so that we here are not accessories to this sort of thing.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 2, 2016 #2

    DrClaude

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    The links work, but are unfortunately behind a paywall.
     
  4. Jan 2, 2016 #3

    epenguin

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    Oh dear, that means I'll have to do some work to produce a summary. Probably not today.
     
  5. Jan 2, 2016 #4
  6. Jan 2, 2016 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    In the US, estimates are that 1600 or more Chinese students were expelled last year for cheating. (8000 total, 21% for cheating)
     
  7. Jan 2, 2016 #6

    mathwonk

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    I taught math in university for, let's see, from 1968 to 2010, 42 years?, and of the many students I detected cheating, I cannot remember any asians, no Chinese, no Indians, mostly just good ole USA students. The Indians and Chinese on the other hand were often among the most accomplished students in spite of language handicaps. Once I gave a final exam and announced in advance that students would have a choice on it, either to reproduce a lengthy and difficult proof of the most important theorem in the course, or work the problems they found on the exam. Thus they had a choice to prepare the hard question in advance or work a typical exam. One of my Chinese students understood so little English that he did not know in advance that he had this option. Nonetheless on the exam he answered the more difficult question, essentially the only student to do it correctly, certainly the best performance, just from his thorough grasp of the material, not from any especial preparation for it.

    Of course it is essential to make absolutely clear what is the definition of "cheating" before accusing anyone of it. Today apparently some students think when tests are given on a take home basis that all available reources are allowed, such as online material. Of course it is hard to believe anyone could think copying an essay or paper is allowed. But I have had (American) students use answer books to supply answers to take home test problems. I learned this because the answer they used got it wrong and they argued with me over it! I.e. not understanding how to do the problem, they argued that it must be right because they had copied it from an answer book online. So I don't know what to make of the supposed statistics in these articles but they are certainly 100% opposite to my own experience. Indeed strong graduate students from abroad have been such a staple in math graduate programs I am aware of for decades, that special federal assistance grants have been established that are available only to American students, to try to resusciatate in some way the US participation in math here. If there is any truth to these reports, I would suspect it relates to a linguistic misunderstanding, or a lack of clarity by the professors, of what is allowed and what is not, by members of different cultures.
     
  8. Jan 2, 2016 #7
    @mathwonk: From the article posted by StevieTNZ, it seems the cheating under discussion was plagiarism of essays, or use of essay writers for hire. Given the language difficulties you described in a lot of your foreign students, it is conceivable to me they could cheat in this arena, while not cheating in math. (I'm not sure if the epenguin articles have something different to say, though.)
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2016
  9. Jan 2, 2016 #8

    epenguin

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  10. Jan 2, 2016 #9

    mathwonk

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    the thing that bothers me is the implication that these students are more likely to want to cheat. in my opinion, my asian math students didn't refrain from cheating because it wasn't possible in math, rather they gave me the impression they were both very accomplished and had great integrity, indeed more than my domestic ones. forgive me, as I know this probably is not meant, but I feel this thread has a sort of racist tinge to it. i mean what is the point of it?
     
  11. Jan 2, 2016 #10
    From StevieTNZ's link:
    If there's a culture clash at work here, it should probably be addressed.
     
  12. Jan 2, 2016 #11

    Vanadium 50

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    It is also likely that it is easier to track foreign students expelled for cheating, since they have visas.
     
  13. Jan 3, 2016 #12

    epenguin

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  14. Jan 5, 2016 #13
    I think it is a matter of culture to a large extent.
    Now I really don't want to create an illusion that our school system is totally useless, but at least in former Czechoslovakia, mild Form of cheating is culturally acceptable. Especially at primary school and high school.
    Most students have used some form of cheating at least several times and they openly talk about best cheating methods with their classmates, sometimes even parents talk about their favourite cheating stories.
    It is difficult to explain just how much cheating is acceptable, because obviously, it depends on the subject, it's difficulty, importance and whether students believe the information you need to learn by heart is something useful, or something completely useless that teacher assess just because they need to give you some grade.
    If I had to put some general rules, it is acceptable to write a formula on your hand. Or a couple of most difficult words when studying a foreign language.
    It is also acceptable to gain access to test questions in advance, but in that case, you need to share that info in advance with your classmates or you will be considered selfish.
    Of course, it is not considered OK to cheat every time. There is some unspoken limit that most students agree with.
    At the university level, there is a smaller amount of cheating during the tests because if you study something, most people actually want to learn what is necessary for them to get a job. E. g. I used to cheat at HS, in subjects that I considered of no value to me. But once I got to Uni, I did not cheat at all, because I really wanted to gain knowledge in subjects that I chose myself.
    At my university, academical honesty in essays and final thesis was very important and you had to make proper references every time. There are programs that check originality of each important piece of writing. If they discover you cheated in your thesis, you have a serious problem.
    To sum up, helping yourself remember a physical formula - OK, copying someone's original piece of work - not OK.
    Anything in between depends on many variables.
    I really can't imagine giving students a home test. There is absolutely 0 chance that people would not use Internet, textbook or help each other. No one would consider that cheating, not even the most honest students. Anyway, no teacher would even give such a test! :D
    I think it would be very interesting to make a study about attitudes towards cheating in various cultures.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2016
  15. Jan 5, 2016 #14

    Hepth

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    I was given various take-home exams during graduate school and undergrad, and was told not to use anything to help me do them. I took the tests as if I was being monitored, without cheating or consulting notes. And turned in my honest attempt.
    I think I went to a school where at least 50% of the students would do these exams on their own without cheating.

    During graduate school while teaching, I noticed an extreme difference. If I gave out the exam now I would expect 100% to cheat in some form and not a single one to do it on their own knowledge and ability.
     
  16. Jan 5, 2016 #15
    I feel that the major problem with cheating in academia is that the current academic structure is more aimed at test taking than learning. I'm reminded of something Richard Feynman once said: "I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something."

    I see that all the time in resumes of fresh out of college software engineers who claim that they know Object Oriented design. After looking at sample code from some of them, I see easily which ones know OOP and which ones just know the terminology of OOP. The former of which makes a good engineer, the latter of which got a perfect GPA.
     
  17. Jan 6, 2016 #16
    I was thinking about this and I remembered something.
    My friend was taking a course in the UK and they were given home test. My friend had no idea that that means you can't use any resources. She just copied all the answers from her textbook and got an A and her professor praised her for being one of the top students.
    Most of other students got very bad grades and when she was talking about this, we made fun of the English students who can't even copy the answers from a textbook.
    So now I see why! They probably took it as a normal test! That explains everything.
    In this case I don't think she was really cheating in moral sense, because she had no idea what the rules were. I would do the same assuming that the course assessment was based on homework.
     
  18. Jan 6, 2016 #17
    That kind of take home tests are bs if you ask me.
    1. How to check if they used resources?
    2. Why not organize a moment for the test? Can't come -> you're failed unless you've got a darn good reason.

    Better would be if the teacher prepared (in undergrad or grad school) questions that require the students to do the work.
    And understand the problem and theory very well. In fact these have become my favourite kind of evaluations.

    One time we were given only 3 questions, I spend 2 weeks or more using any resource I could find!
    I can honestly say I haven't memorized as much as for other course but I really feel I understand what we did. (large deviation theory, mathematically rigorous).
     
  19. Jan 9, 2016 #18

    Hepth

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    "How to check if they used resources?"

    If you're viewing it as a game of cat and mouse, then your concept of higher education is lacking. The young adults are there to learn, not to cheat their way to graduation. Its unfortunate that academic integrity can't be expected anymore, especially when the assignments become difficult, or even worse when they become integral to your grade.

    Would you feel the same about a take-home essay? Why not have them write the essay in class where you can make sure they aren't using some online pay-per-paper source? Its probably because you expect them to have some integrity and write it for themselves. But it seems this sentiment only goes so far.

    I don't like any attitude that expresses something like "The professor shouldn't tempt us to cheat by giving hard exams, takehome, that are a large part of our grade. I know other people are going to cheat, so I need to also to make sure I'm ahead of the curve..."
     
  20. Jan 13, 2016 #19
    I agree. What counts as cheating is culturally based. I would assume a take home test would allow outside resources unless specifically told otherwise. Our instructors often allowed "cheat sheets" with formulas in class tests. In some places plagiarism is significantly using another's ideas without crediting them. In others, a typo in a citation counts. It varies. I even knew a professor who was sacked for flunking a cheater because the school feared a lawsuit.

    I don't believe in cheating, but the term needs to be better defined, taught to students, and enforced. Cheating will continue until that happens.
     
  21. Jan 21, 2016 #20
    Going through engineering we saw lots of cheating in various forms.
    From people copying answers on assignments (which was fine as they'd usually fail the exam) to individuals actually swapping tests during exams.
    Worst thing was most of the prof's didn't seem to care.
     
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