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Students who cheat in introductory physics courses

  1. Feb 19, 2009 #1

    Ben Niehoff

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    Seriously, do they not realize that we have the solutions manual right in front of us when we're grading? lol
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 19, 2009 #2

    lisab

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    I was amazed at the amount of cheating that went on in the lower division classes when I was in college. Seemed to stop in the upper division, though...those weasles get weeded out - yay :biggrin: !
     
  4. Feb 19, 2009 #3

    Gokul43201

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    You had a solutions manual for all your classes? Wow! What classes are these? Only a minority of the courses that I've graded did I have access to/need for a solution manual. And even in those courses, not all questions were set from the textbook.

    I'm curious what kind of cheating you have observed and how having the solution manual helps. Do the students find a way to get a hold of the manual themselves, and copy the solutions verbatim?
     
  5. Feb 19, 2009 #4
    I remember some people copying off from solutions word to word .. and they were caught.
    It's not hard to find soln manuals but my professors know that.
     
  6. Feb 19, 2009 #5
    At my university, in my department, many solutions are shared on the public computers. Some are student attempts at problems and some are from published solutions manuals. I can't say how many use these solutions to cheat, but I can say that I would not have understood Materials 101 without these solutions. I couldn't solve the homework using only the textbook and the lecture.
    There is legitimate value in solutions if the student uses them correctly-using them to check answers, to discover the correct method to use, or to get a hint when stuck instead of copying them.
     
  7. Feb 19, 2009 #6

    Ben Niehoff

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    We have a solutions manual for this particular course.

    Usually what I see are students copying each other's work, but this time I found them copying the solutions manual almost word-for-word. It's a "physics concepts" sort of class, so it's mostly written answers in words, with very few equations. This, of course, makes it all the easier to catch people cheating. :D
     
  8. Feb 20, 2009 #7

    Nabeshin

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    That's just poor form. At least have the decency to paraphrase...
     
  9. Feb 20, 2009 #8
    You should turn them over to the experimental biologists. I hear they need more guinea pigs.
     
  10. Feb 21, 2009 #9
    When I was a TA I definitely saw many situations of cheating. The class I graded for was probably a 2nd or 3rd year class. Sometimes, people would turn in the same work (and of course since they were friends they would turn it in together so it was that much easier to spot), but since the class was notes driven I don't think I ever saw solutions identical to the official solutions. Of course I informed the professor of the cheating but he didn't seem to care and I wasn't about to blow the whistle to the academic department because I will probably rely on him for a recommendation for something.

    Although it hasn't been mentioned, I think it's important to say that different cultures have different opinions of what is cheating. I find that Indian students, for example, are way more relaxed on what they consider cheating than Americans. It's so bad that we actually have to give lectures on ethics to incoming grad students because stuff like plagiarism is so common amongst internationals from certain countries.
     
  11. Feb 21, 2009 #10

    robphy

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    I sometimes make a statement like
    "Wow... that's just like the way they solve it in the instructor's solutions manual."
    I'm not accusing anyone of cheating... just noting the similarity [and letting it be known that I see the similarities]. It could even be taken as a compliment.

    One could go further and suggest [since the student is so "good" at writing solutions] that the student write the solutions for other problems (e.g., quiz and exam problems, and other homework problems not taken from the text).

    It's amusing when the solution manual has an error which is replicated in the student homework submission.
     
  12. Feb 21, 2009 #11

    Moonbear

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    Cheating requires opportunity. There are a lot of ways to prevent it, and I really think that's a better approach than trying to prove it happened after the fact.

    We're currently dealing with an accusation that four of our students were cheating on two exams (I witnessed two of them collaborating on answers, and was pretty sure I saw them copying answers off the other two as well, but really have no evidence that two of them were actually cooperating). The student honor council wants to pursue it, since they claim it has happened in other courses too, so we'll go along with it, but I prefer approaches that would have avoided that from happening in the first place. There is no indication at all that they cheated on the exam I had primary responsibility for proctoring, and no students have accused them of cheating on that exam...I simply didn't allow any opportunity...if students got too close together, I moved them and reminded them to keep their answer sheets folded so others couldn't see them. The exam I witnessed them cheating on was one I was helping proctor, but didn't have responsibility for how it was organized or started. I'm now addressing this with the course coordinator to find ways to prevent it on future exams (aside from telling the students in question that there have been accusations from other students and they should voluntarily sit apart from one another so future accusations can be avoided). Even so, once I noticed them cheating, I stopped it by simply standing behind them for most of the exam. Our university allows us to still move students if we suspect copying, but I prefer not to do that. Sometimes what appears to be cheating really is innocent, and to move them is equivalent to accusing them in front of the entire class, and even if they turn out to be innocent, they will still be viewed as guilty by their peers. So, I prefer to avoid that quagmire (I cut my teeth as a TA in the litigious state of NJ, so avoid things that could risk legal action from students).

    The best approach I've ever found is to randomize seating on exams. On the day of the exam, post a seating chart of where students need to sit. This way, they can't plan ahead who will be around them, what seat they'll be in (so no answers taped under the desk in advance of the exam), and splits up the groups that have planned strategies for copying off one another.

    The other things to watch for/listen for are answers inside baseball caps (I tell them they can either take the cap off and put it on the floor where it will remain for the exam, or they can leave it on but turned backward so the bill is in back of their head, but it then must stay on their head for the whole exam), or on beverage containers (especially soda bottles...they can write answers behind the label, repaste it on, then drink down enough soda to read the label), and tapping or clicking of pens. That was an old fraternity trick after the pyramid seating arrangements to put the smartest student in front where everyone else could copy off of them, to tap out answers for multiple choice exams, either in morse code or 1 tap = A, 2 taps = B, etc. You don't have to accuse anyone of anything if they start tapping pencils or clicking pens, just tell them it's disruptive to people around them and ask them to stop.

    The only thing that always astounds me is that students who cheat always seem to cheat off other poor students. I've never seen anyone get better than a C by cheating.

    Though, if you're talking about homework assignments...why are you wasting your time grading homework that's in a solutions manual? Usually, that's why the solution's manual has only every other problem solved, so you can assign the other half of the questions for homework. Otherwise, an easy fix is to make up your own problems to assign rather than using ones directly from the book.
     
  13. Feb 21, 2009 #12
    Someone writing exam for his friend?

    Saw that once.. It was hilarious because the person acted really dumb when the exam ended. Everything went perfect (professor didn't check our Ids) .. but at the exam end, he went out before the prof told to .. so got caught :rofl:

    In other interesting case, three people at back raise their hands and make all TAs come to help them, people at the front would start cheating. And, then people at front would ask for help .. (I heard this from my prof)
     
  14. Feb 21, 2009 #13
    For one of our classes recently some grad student was caught selling copies of solutions manual to introductory analysis course. I don't teach the course, so I don't really know what happened.

    But very very sad. The manual was available in the library!
     
  15. Feb 21, 2009 #14

    robphy

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    If I suspect cheating on an exam,
    I will try to secretly write different versions of the next exam...
    likely the same problem with different numbers. This helps distinguish who did the copying.

    Another technique is to print the same exam on different color paper...
    or with some "version" listed on the front.
     
  16. Feb 21, 2009 #15

    Nabeshin

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    Really, the best thing to do is to constantly do new things for the exams, experiment with new techniques to prevent students from cheating, and improvise. No matter what system you devise, the kids who want to cheat will figure out a method of doing so, especially when the system is static.

    God if only they could put the time they waste thinking of ways to cheat into actually learning the material. Seriously, some of these methods are damn clever!
     
  17. Feb 21, 2009 #16

    Ben Niehoff

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    I didn't assign the homeworks; I'm only a grader monkey.
     
  18. Feb 22, 2009 #17

    Redbelly98

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    In high school, one science class had 2 sections, and the teacher gave weekly multiple-choice quizzes. The first 2 or 3 quizzes were identical for the 2 sections. After that, he "re-arranged" the order of the answers. A few students in section #2 had memorized the order of answers given to section #1 (Eg: A,C,B,D,A,etc.), got 30% on that week's quiz, and forever were in dubious status in the eyes of the teacher.
     
  19. Feb 22, 2009 #18
    Unfortunately, there are teachers who just don't seem to care when the first section's answer becomes unavailable.

    The reason why I hated biology so much in high school was that there were these were take-home exams, and someone did it and this person being so much generous, he let most of the classmates copy his answer. Needless to say almost everyone got near-perfect marks, without doing much work. Did the teacher notice this? Yes. Did the teacher care? Nope, not just one bit.
     
  20. Feb 22, 2009 #19
    I was lucky enough to attend Virginia during that time when the Honor System still worked. Professors commonly handed out exams and left the room. Students were free to talk among themselves or even to get up and go out for a coffee, so long as they did not provide or receive help. It was an exhilirating experience to be able to trust and be trusted. I truly pity those who value grades more than knowledge and self-esteem.
     
  21. Feb 22, 2009 #20
    One of my professors requires everyone to leave their backpacks and all notes at the front of the room. Another only allowed us to use the scientific calculators and not the graphing ones which notes can be stored.

    I cheated like crazy my first 2 years of highschool, it was a nerdy special math/science school and there were high pressures to perform well and people were used to making As in middle school with little effort so rather than try harder and actually study, most of us cheated to still make the As. I realized though I was hurting myself and stopped the last 2 years of school and it felt so much better when I actually achieved something on my own.


    In the upper level engineering courses its pretty much impossible to cheat on the tests. They are design problems, with each one taking up a page or more, so its not like there is just one letter or one line you can quickly copy from a neighbor, you need a page of calculations to answer the question, so you better be able to do it at test time.

    People collaborate on homework and that is accepted and allowed unless it is a rare take home test. Some classes had group homework assignments. I dont know of anyone copying whole homeworks to my knowledge, I imagine others wouldnt be willing to give up their hours worth of work to some slacker for nothing, plus you need to know the stuff to pass the tests anyways.
     
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