22 cheats out of 108 is big - and the real proportion may have been even higher, given that it seemed like he caught only either blatant cheats or conscience-stricken/less brazen cheats (the latter category from when he acted people to own up). And it's a lot of work, and I've been around this process at a couple different institutions and seen how tough it is to see it through to an appropriate conclusion.
However, all this wasted time, and all this aggravation, wouldn't be necessary if all the other professors were doing it too. The only reason they're at 28/108 or higher is that people have obviously been getting away with almost anything.
The author has buckled (understandably) as being the only hard-ass in a environment where everyone else is getting away with it isn't feasible. From his perspective, I can see why he didn't fight this, but if he'd stuck it out for another year or two - and showed the next round of incoming classes just how ugly it will get - he'd have gone back to 'normal' cheating rates rather than 28/108.
The idea that you can always produce assignments that are 'unique flowers' that can't ever be duplicated year by year by cheating students has its own pitfalls. One problem is exactly that these assignments _are_ unique flowers, and might turn out to be systematically too hard or too easy or too vague. An advantage of the rather mechanical, "near-clone of last-years stuff" approach is that you can learn from last year's assignments and tune them onto the target. Faculty shouldn't be dumping the same material without fixes every year, but in many fields it's insane to expect that they have to prepare all new assessment material every year. They just don't get paid enough or get enough time for that.
Now, I'm not a teacher, and all those caveats. But in my imagination, my approach would be much less time-consuming. I cribbed this from my high school physics teacher. It involves little detective work and no long drawn out confessions.
When cheating is detected, simply send a note to the student with the following: "I'm aware that you cheated on this assignment. You have received a failing grade on it. The next instance of cheating will be referred to the honor board and you will fail the class." Any student who wished to contest the charge would be referred to the honor board immediately. Contest it with people whose job it is to handle this sort of thing. The policy on cheating would be posted at the beginning of class and strictly enforced.
The reason why this is so much more efficient is because the net time spent compared to a non-cheating assignment is probably negative. This is simply because you no longer have to read or grade the papers that are found to be copied. Since there is no conversation to be had with the student, there's also no extra time spent there. The only marginal cost is if a student wishes to appeal your verdict, but I doubt there will be much of that happening since the consequences would almost certainly be more severe.
This also solves the problem of bad ratings. There's no need to play the hard-ass in this situation, which is probably where the rating trouble comes from. Since the interaction is terse and factual, the students won't have much face-time in which to build resentment. You could even put something like, "I know you can complete this class successfully, which is why I'm not referring you to the honor board on the first offense. Please come to the TA's office hours if you're having trouble on your papers in the future. I look forward to working with you and helping you achieve your goals in this class" at the end of the email to put a positive spin on it. (Although the idea of having ratings come from people with whom the professor is in a somewhat adversarial relationship seems like one that could be improved.)
Anyway, I see where this guy is coming from but I'm not sure his is the right decision. Maybe I'm wrong though because as they say I have not walked a mile in his shoes.
Students hear that peers are getting sent straight to the honor board, and they fall in line. The next assignment that rolls around, almost surely less students will attempt to cheat. If you have to spend Y hours sending more students to the honor board, hopefully Y is less than X. But it sends a loud-and-clear, unmistakable message to the students that cheating is unacceptable. With any luck the students that actually take the class seriously will appreciate your candor on the matter.
I agree that allowing students to actually come in and argue their case to you is a waste of your time. You're right, that's not your job. Send it to the honor board and waste the time of the deans and the department heads, since that's their job. If you let students waste your time by giving them an extra strike before they're out, you can't be surprised when they try to take advantage of it. One strike and you're out tells students that it doesn't matter if ex post facto you think your best friend's grandma's death drove you to do it: cheating is never acceptable.
Think about it in terms of incentives and scarce resources. If the students know they can come and protest to you with no additional consequences, they will certainly do so, guilty or no. Everyone has heard the story of merciful teachers and cops that don't give a ticket if you cry. At worst, they are out two hours, and at best, they may get a higher grade with very little work. Basically, your time has become a commons whose use has no real cost to the individuals taking advantage of it, but from which they believe some value can be extracted.
The economic solution is to make sure the time costs something, so that the students will consider whether there's really enough utility in protesting to make it worth the cost. The cost is that if they protest, they run the risk of suspension in the event they are actually guilty. It should be obvious to students that this will be the likely outcome if they do protest.
Let me know if I'm reading you wrong because I really am curious if students protested even though any protest would result in an immediate referral to the honor board. Also, thanks for fighting the good fight even though it got you screwed in the end. We need more folks like that.
Oh, I didn't mention the one other advantage this approach has. If you quickly and forcefully deal with students who have violated class policies, I think there will be less emotional "splash damage." It's the same way a parent should not draw out a punishment over a long period of time -- make it hard, get it over with, and wipe the slate clean so you can smile at each other the next day.
So I did that, notified the cheating students they got a -30 (negative the points of the homework) and directed them to the Dean's office for appeals.
Well, it was very difficult to enforce the "talk to the Dean's office if you have a problem with my judgment." When the student comes in my office during office hours, I cannot say "I do not want to talk to you, get out of my office". Yes, I could do it, in theory. Hard to do in practice. Would I physically push the student out of my office?
> Instead, I sent an email to the class. I just said that there were cases of plagiarism detected and whomever cheated, could come and find me. For the rest, I would report the case . . .
I guess I just read this as an invitation to come and discuss the matter with you. And I understood from this that any who didn't come would be referred. If I were a student and reading this paragraph, I would make damn sure to speak with you about my indiscretions. That is the exact opposite of what I'm proposing, which is that you only refer students to the dean if they do come and speak with you.
Perhaps you meant to convey something different than what I'm getting from the blog post, if so, sorry for misreading.
> When the student comes in my office during office hours . . .
Once again, I've never been a professor, although I did TA for a while when I was in college. That said, I had an expectation that my office hours would be utilized in some way or another by students. I would propose prioritizing any student that wants to ask about something other than their cheating conviction. For students who want to talk about the cheating, just say, "If you really believe you did not cheat, we can discuss the evidence. But that will only happen at an academic integrity board hearing. If they find you innocent, I will regrade your work. Think about it and let me know by email if that's what you want to do." And then just refuse to talk about it.
Again, you're the professional and I'm the backseat driver. You know more about how this works than I do. This is simply how I imagine it would go, and although you've disagreed with me several times I still haven't gotten the impression that you did what I'm proposing.
In fact, I would argue that office hours is NOT the proper venue to discuss these matters anyway. From my experience, the purpose of office hours was to clear doubts and further understanding of the class material. I would've been extremely pissed off if I came to office hours with a legitimate question about the material, only to waste my time waiting on a bunch of people arguing about cheating.
However, during office hours, any student can come in and discuss class-related topics. I cannot prevent students from entering my office, just because I believe that they will want to discuss their cheating penalty.
I understand that people will cheat and that as technology changes the game it's potentially harder to catch them and that's ultimately not your job. Does the school use character as one of the attributes when selecting students? Should they maybe be more selective? It just seems like a staggering number of cheats.
You ever collect any statistics on it? Are there certain trends?
Of course, I think I would only refer students to the honor board if it was blatantly obvious they were cheating, and they opted to refuse my "warning" punishment.
Basically, a group of students is selected to oversee the trial. They are repeatedly instructed that they must issue a guilty verdict if a preponderance of the evidence (51%) points that way. An overseeing officer (captain or admiral) supervises the proceedings and assigns a punishment after a guilty verdict. This combination creates a strong expectation that students will issue a guilty verdict. (If this does not make sense, then you have not been around "real" authority and I cannot succinctly explain.) For juniors or seniors, punishment is typically expulsion and a $100,000 fine to cover training expenses. For underclass, it is typically a six-month probationary period (this is closer to a jail sentence than a normal college probation).
In some respects, the Navy is an exceptional circumstance. Most people would rather have lots of innocent people be punished than have a potential cheat graduate and be placed in control of nuclear weapons. Still, I have seen lots of innocent people punished (or guilty people punished way too severely) to not be skeptical of a system that has any chance of going this direction.
As for personal experience, I was never accused of an honor violation, but I testified at honor hearings for friends. In my opinion, both were unfairly convicted and punished. All midshipman get training on the procedure at least once per semester, and it is severely indoctrinated in our version of boot camp.
It seems to me that the incentives that Panos describes, such as poor evaluations, funding/salary, disinterested administrators, and awkward one-on-one confrontations are common to many top institutions.
I didn't say that 22/108 was "non-standard for a large US research university's business school". I said it was "big". It is big. This doesn't change if the norm at every other business school is 32/108. The OP also thought it was big and was unhappily surprised by it.
Your post indicates that you think 28/108 is big relative to what a normal cheating rate would be (as can be seen by your statement "he'd have gone back to 'normal' cheating rates"). How can you establish whether or not something is big relative to a norm when you haven't even established what the norm is?
I'm having trouble picturing an argument for how a 25% cheating rate would be "small".
This is exactly why the author stated, 'The Nash equilibrium is to let the students cheat and "perform well"'
I don't think this is necessarily true. I can construct arguments either way, but they depend on big ifs. I think it's unreasonable to ask someone to go through a professional grinder for two years because things might get better.
This is a classic problem in economics: what to do if an entire group of people would be better off doing something, but you doing it alone makes you worse off? In his case, working on cheating on his own results in lower evals and a more contentious class environment. The incentive, as he points out, is not to bother.
I wrote about incentives in a longish post about grade inflation (http://jseliger.com/2011/04/02/grade-inflation-what-grade-in...) that comes to a similar conclusion: instructors are rewarded more for good evals than they are for grading harshly (or, for that matter, pursuing cheating). So we get situations like the one described in this post.
Looks like standard 80/20 to me, nothing surprising.
The system plays on the student's mind: when they submit the first assignment and cheat their motivation to bother to make the minimal effort to dick around with the next one waivers. Most of the cheaters apparently dropped before the midterms. Any whiners with the balls to claim they had not cheated get to make their case to the Dean and voluntarily submit themselves to the school judicial process, but this was generally unneeded as apparently most cheaters dropped the class before midterms. No whiners in your office, and the reviews of you as a teacher are in before you fail them. Seems like it addresses all your problems.
Do I feel bad about it? Absolutely not.
It's imporant to consider why people cheat before you deem it bad. I cheated because the assignments were a waste of time. Plain and simple, a waste of time. It often felt like something the teacher gave us just so we shouldn't spend our evenings having fun. It wasn't something you were supposed to learn something from, it was something you were supposed to do because you were supposed to do it.
I should point out that that the Norwegian high school system is quite different from the American system. We couldn't choose our subjects, we had to take what the education law said we had to learn. Because of that I had a lot of subjects that I didn't have any interest in whatsoever, the only thing important was the grade I got. When you don't have any reason to study a subject other than to get a high number on a paper, it's natural to cheat. It's borderline impossible to be motivated to do something forced on you.
However, if the subject or course is your own choice, like the case with most university courses, cheating is something different. If the the only value the students get from a class is a grade and not relevant and valuable knowledge, I understand and sympathize with the cheaters.
Still, they need to separate "formative" and "summative" assessment. If a piece of assessment is easy to game, it should be "formative" - the marks you get should not go to your final grade, and should only be used as a feedback. If the assessment is hard to game, it should be "summative".
UK universities used to give a final vocal exam, after three years of study. You can't cram for it, there's too much to cover. And it's an exam, so there's a hell of a lot less cheating. Still, it does seem a little extreme.
PhD thesis (and other research-grade work) are another example, but I guess its too hard for 90% of undergrads.
Commercial quality work might be another option, but it won't assess the fundamentals that universities should be teaching.
You actually pointed of something I didn't mention in my previous comment. If you learn something, it shouldn't matter how you learned it. I actually learned the topics and passed the exam with flying colors even though I cheated on a lot of the assignments.
(I'm being somewhat tongue-in-cheek here)
-- Mary Claire van Leunen, "A Handbook for Scholars"
I've always tried to agonize over drawing some unique conclusions from a variety of source material. Looks like the more efficient method would have been to just reword the wikipedia article.
All of the stories about education bubbles, unemployed graduates, etc, seem to make a lot more sense when you see data like this.
When he got his essay back, this one sentence was circled in red with the comment "If you're going to plagiarise, be less obvious about it". He wouldn't go back and protest (he was pretty laid back) but I imagine that the rest of his essay didn't quite shine like this sentence did...
I almost quit college over it. That aside, the amount of cheating in my engineering courses was high. There was only a 10% grad rate within 4 years and 16% total. I think it was the top 10% and cheaters that could graduate.
I think it's absolutely critical that any accusation of cheating allow the student to respond, preferably to a different teacher if the original teacher still thinks they were cheating.
I want to do this.
How did you go about it?
This is roughly consistent year-to-year.
This isn't code, these are written assignments we're discussing. English is pretty damn flexible, and nobody gets suspended for "Abraham Lincoln died in 1865." There's no point invoking degenerate cases to argue against a policy. That's just silly.
When a nontrivial sentence appears both in an essay and in one of the listed sources, the Wikipedia page, or a top Google hit for the subject, you can draw inferences. If you can argue that you just happened to write:
> However, just six days after the surrender of Confederate commanding general Robert E. Lee, Lincoln was shot and killed by Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C.
just as it appears on Wikipedia at present, and convince your peers it's more likely than not that you did, then you won't be punished. Not unsurprisingly, such pleas typically (but not always) fail.
There's also the whole grade inflation problem: http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/93987
... perhaps a part of the problem is accreditation of higher ed schools?
Sounds like the purpose of the class is to teach people to use a thesaurus.
I asked them whether we could justify improving academic programs using ROI. The lead consultant said, "Nowadays, it's all about the amenities," and that we should build a swimming pool.
I think higher ed really is about pleasing the students, parents and alumni, and keeping the money flowing, unfortunately. Bureaucracies just perpetuate themselves.
Yes, it seems like the university goals are often to have the most published papers and the most prestigious research department, which is completely at odds with the students who want the best teachers.
Papers that students legitimately write and no third party ever gains access to, are still inflating their essay counts and therefore making some guy rich.
The courts upheld that it isn't a copyright violation since they decided it was fair use, but I have to say even if it is legal it is morally abhorrent for schools to go along with it. Plagiarism is unavoidable from individuals that are trying to scam their way through school, and something that needs to be combated, but universities are supposed to be bastions of enlightenment not cronies for privately held corporations.
To be clear, I don't see any problem with automatic plagiarism detection. I do see a problem with very significant profits being made due to usage of students work that they cannot possibly opt out of (especially high school students who don't even have the option of transferring schools if they don't want their work being used that way)
I wonder if laws would change if we were talking about combatting plagiarism in film schools by keeping a database of all films to match against.
There're various other cases of fair use that make this fairly obvious, eg. when you DVR a TV show, that's fair use, but it doesn't mean that the MPAA has lost copyright over that show and can no longer go after people who share it on Bittorrent.
What you mention was a very big problem for the adoption of services like Turnitin. In fact, when there is a match, there is no way of seeing the "source" of the homework, unless you get a permission from the "owner" of the homework.
Also, students when they submit the assignment to Turnitin, they assign a license to index the content for plagiarism detection purposes, and for nothing else.
And students have the right to remove their assignments from the index, if I understand the language of the agreement correctly.
I thought you said it was integrated into Blackboard, thus not requiring students to directly submit their assignments to Turnitin?
He complains he had to work almost 44 hours (2 hours * 22 cheaters) and repeatedly moans and bitches about how much time that is, despite being spread over the course of an entire semester. I assume he's been in academia his whole career, because I can't remember a week where I've worked less than 50 hours.
My only solace is to know that this guy is a professor at a business school giving incredibly simplistic homework in excel, and his students are too stupid to do it. I can't think of a better punishment for someone who puts his leisure and student assessments above academic integrity than to have students like that.
Finally, what is the value of his class at all? If he can't tell his students are cheating without globally searching everything with this software, what are they supposedly learning? I would favor just eliminating this class; if you can't tell whether a student took it or not, they didn't learn anything. If you can't quantify the learning experience, it shouldn't carry credit.
This may be my strong bias as a Math major, but I know there is no way I could have cheated in almost any of my classes. If I had copied someone's homework, either the professor would have recognized it right away (since most professors actually knew and cared about the students in their class), or I would have failed all the exams. Do business school students not have exams that they can fail? If not, what are they supposedly learning? I know lots of business schools really drive their students hard to learn skills that they will use later. My opinion of NYU's business school (where the author of this is a tenured professor) is now so low that I will do a bit more diligence on MBA students with a degree from there as I review resumes and gauge job candidates in the future.
Edit: removed something criticized as a personal insult. This comment was modded up to 10, and at the time of this is now modded as 4. There should be some kind of meta-karma for controversial posts, since they inject lively debate instead of just attempting to game the system! That is my biased view anyway.
The 44 hours is not a number to show how much extra I had to work. Believe me, a 14-hour day is a pretty common thing for me. Teaching is only part of my overall job (I also have to do research, supervise PhD students, review papers, serve on committees and many other things).
The 44 hours figure is given just as a contrast to the actual time that I spent in class. I would much rather spend these 44 hours on helping students, on creating new assignments, on finding things in the news that are relevant to tomorrow's class and so on. Instead, these 44 hours were literally wasted on the students that should have been the least deserving. (When I had the student crying in my office, I had actually lines of students waiting outside to ask me questions about the material in the class. Most of them ended up leaving, as they could not wait for so long.)
Also blaming NYU/Stern for this is a rather shortsighted approach. I would not be surprised if the situation is identical in many other schools but just nobody has the incentives to fight cheating.
Just a note: My PhD is in computer science. I have a technical background. I code for fun, and I detected cheating in the Excel assignments using my own code.
A pair of my friends work for online colleges; one for a state college with a pretty good reputation, and another for a for-profit school with a decent reputation. Neither are tenured.
Both of them have had serious issues with student cheating. The one at the state college got support from one of her superiors, and was not penalized for fighting plagiarism, but it was still very time consuming. Another one of her superiors (in previous years) did not support her in any way, and she had to cut back on enforcing academic honesty to help protect her job, save for the most blatant cases.
The other one (at the for-profit college) stopped crusading against cheating when she found out that she'd (effectively) be fired if she continued. Pass rates are a sizable portion of what's used to determine which teachers are given which classes. In one class, more than half of her students should have been failed for academic honesty violations by the halfway point of the year. However, if she did that, her pass rates would have been low enough that it was extremely likely that she would not be given any classes next semester. (Not technically fired, but functionally so.)
So, you are not the only person encountering this, and you're not alone in realizing that fighting cheating can be hazardous to your career. It's a damn shame.
As a whole, this seems like an administrative issue, rather than an issue with a single professor. In an environment where departmental heads and academic deans expected, and encouraged professors to report plagiarism - then dealt with it in a fair, consistant manner, this would be a non-issue.
Another big part of what this story illustrates is that individual professors shouldn't be responsible for both detecting and punishing academic dishonesty.
From my experience, teaching a 3 credit course (meeting MWF for one hour each with no labs/recitation) requires the three hours for the course plus the following:
1. an additional 1 to 2 hours per class of prep. time to get yourself situated for that paricular class
2. 0.5 to 1 hours of meeting with your TA regarding grading and what is being covered in the course this week (more if the TA has a recitation session)
3. 3 to 5 office hours for students (of which a majority is not used, but still must be set aside)
All together, teaching a three hour course takes about 10 hours a week on the low end. Dealing with cheating students takes time from every portion of this 10 hours. You must waste time in class addressing the cheating. You must waste time in preparation thinking of ways to stop the cheating. You must waste time talking with your TA about the cheating. You must waste time dealing with students who will admit to "working together" but never "cheating" during your office hours.
The most important part of this, and the part that gets eaten up the most, is the office hours. This is where students should come to delve deeper into a subject or clarify material. Dealing with students during this time sets back students who truly have an interest in the subject and cripples students who have fallen behind (which will most likely lead to more cheating!).
While 44 hours over a semester sounds like nothing to most people, it is actually a significant amount of time wasted for the class.
As an aside, many students think that teaching is a faculty member's first and foremost duty. Depending on the school, this can range from absolutely true to downright false. Most schools have a layout on what they expect from their faculty regarding research, teaching, and service. Most schools weight that in decreasing priority as listed. If a school is well-known for its research, chances are it follows this pattern and teaching is not a priority for the faculty outside of good student evaluations.
Edit: A course at my school lasts for approximately 15 weeks which comes to ~150 hours per semester at 10 hours per week. At 44 hours, dealing with cheating would take 30% of my time spent on the course during the semester.
Kind of stupid, I know. But it is really impossible to violate the mandate that my teaching should not be "wasted" on doing assignments in class etc.
And yes, when I tried it, I loved it. The teaching time becomes so much more interesting and stimulating. But I can only practice this a couple of times over the semester, as otherwise I will be seen as "wasting" my time in class.
The system is broken.
Of course, there are professors that fail to teach well, the students get disinterested, then the professor gets even more disinterested and teaches worse etc etc.
There's not an easy solution, obviously. You are taking a risk when you do something that some other members of your faculty are not doing. You must realize, they are threatened by your attempt to prevent cheating, because it will become obvious very quickly when you find such high rates of cheating and deal with them appropriately, that they are not doing so. That will raise difficult questions, deans will notice. I think you might find, to your surprise, that there are many other people in the same position as you, but perhaps not as bold as you are. I would wager that that many, many other faculty members hate cheating as much as you, and are disgusted by the blatant plagiarism, but also like you are pressured by the current state of affairs to bury it.
I would encourage you to stick to your original guns, and keep grinding cheaters out of your class. First of all, your reputation will be established very quickly among students. Students who know they have to cheat will avoid you every semester, saddling other professors who are softer on cheating with worse students, and concentrating the best students into your classes. More to the point, students won't try to cheat in your class nearly as much once your reputation is established, so the amount of time you have to deal with it will, I suspect, go down dramatically.
Edit: This is way more congenial than how I actually feel. It's your responsibility, and every other faculty member's, to identify cheating and run those students out of the university. They are stealing from the students who are trying hard and mastering the material, by graduating uneducated and unprepared. When they go out and embarrass themselves, it reflects on every other student with that same university's name on their diploma.
As for the girl crying for 2 hours, who cares? Let her cheating ass go cry in her dorm, I think you have very weird priorities to let her waste your entire office hours (with honest students waiting) with her obvious, transparent attempt to manipulate you emotionally.
Btw, all students were reported to the administration and have a mark in their transcripts that they cheated. This is communicated to all future employers and is an automatic block to entrance in law schools.
But again: 22 out of 108 is not a problem to be solved by force. It is a deep structural problem that got me thinking about evaluation strategies that are independent of cheating.
Btw, the girl was not crying to manipulate me. She really had a serious nervous breakdown, bringing out all sorts of issues that she had with her life. Apparently her parents kept reprimanding her for not "performing" at the university. There was a long term stress issue and the realization that she was going to fail the class was just the straw that broke the camel's back. But it was a very uncomfortable spectacle: her classmates outside my office looking at her, and other faculty members stopping by and making gestures, trying to figure out what is going on.
Ouch! This professor is caught between students who don't want to learn and an administration who does not know how to properly measure teacher performance. Give the guy a break; he's in a tough situation.
By the way, insults and personal attacks are not welcome here at Hacker News.
It's hardly fair to call the one guy trying to fix the system a coward, just because he decided he had better things to do.
Besides, "No tolerance" is a bad way to beat corruption, as an individual. The best way is to occasionally bring it up. You won't lose as many friends, but some people people will still think that a crackdown might be underway. You might feel stupid, only catching one or two cheats, but it's more effective in the long run than being too hard.
He's not a lazy coward. He's just not a great political player. His boss is a lazy coward, for putting him in a position where he has to know how to be positively Machiavellian in order to improve things.
I don't trust a college degree from anywhere to prove anything other than that the student was able to finance his/her purchase, regardless of school. I know this will not be taken well by several folks, but it's not a complete disregarding of higher education (take me on my word or call me an idiot, you'll probably be right).
Cheating is a fact of life. When I was in college, the punishment was expulsion. This rarely happened. It was the old "make the punishment so awful that nobody would want to commit the crime", and it fell flat as soon as human beings were put in the picture.
Those who knew how to get away with it almost always got away with it. And even when caught, the book was rarely thrown at them. This "tenured" professor is trying to find a way to separate cheating from passing. I don't know that he'll be successful. But the traditional "Turnitin" approach is working as well as anti-malware software/devices work. It's an arms race. The solution isn't to build better detection or encourage better behavior from users ... it's to make the attack irrelevant.
I'm skeptical that it can be done, but I like the approach. I don't believe this is a Lazy Coward operation (good to edit it out, but I didn't downmod you, I thought your comments were fair). It's a creative, and possibly disruptive, method to teaching.
Edit: Sorry, it's really difficult to write out a reasonable reply without reading it over a few times and making changes.
The problem seems systemic, he throws his hands in the air and gives up because he cannot do anything alone and is punished. Others either came to the same conclusion or don't know/care cheating is happening to begin with. I don't think I can simply blame him for the calculations he went through in making his decision.
It is likely that I would fail, but as I will sometimes announce loudly in the Milo office "I've got something to say! It's better to burn out than fade away!'
You don't always have that much choice, do you?
>I would rail against it every day and try to change the system by doing the right thing and calling out other faculty for not doing so, publicly.
You will not simply fail, you'll get screwed by the system at the first opportunity. If you really want to "buck the system", cool down and watch some episodes of "The Wire". This series portays exactly and reallisticaly the inner workings of corrupt institutions and what happens to "lone wolves" trying to beat or change the system (spoiler - they get screwed by superiors and peers alike and achieve absolutely nothing).
I'm not saying it's impossible to transform the system from within. But trying to do it single-handedly is fighting a losing battle that is doomed to alienate your coworkers.
No, his pay was increased by less than in previous years. He didn't actually earn less.
Would you work twice the amount of time for less pay?
He didn't work twice the time. 32 lecture hours is an indicator of the workload - he spends far more on the course than just contact hours.
The problem seems systemic, he throws his hands in the air and gives up because he cannot do anything alone and is punished.
He still got a pay increase. Not as much as he would have liked, but it's not exactly horrible punishment. In one aspect he's just as guilty as his cheaters - he is more concerned for the big bux at the end than in doing his job properly: "If doing things properly means I get paid less, screw that".
EDIT: it's important to note that he also reports on the changed dynamic of the class, not just the dollars. That being said, it's interesting that the dollars come first.
If his pay increase was less than inflation, then many people would say he did actually earn less.
I've conducted several training sessions in the course of my career, and I can tell you that the time consumed by the actual class/training is a very small portion of the time spent by the one giving it. Preparation time can be 5-20 times as long, depending on the complexity. Now it is true that professors would reuse past materials, however, there is also time going through submissions of attendees, understanding them, and determining a fair grade. I'm not familiar with the US university system, except for what I see in movies/tv programs, so the professor likely had help.
That said, 44 hours spent on overhead that also degrades the experience of everyone involved, and as a result can interfere with the actual learning experience, is indeed worth finding alternative approaches for.
Instituting a system that by its nature is difficult to cheat is a much better approach.
(Based on his research output, I'd suggest he spends a lot of time on research.)
Further, his complaint seems to be that putting in this extra work resulted in a smaller pay increase (as a result of poor student evaluations), not that it cut into leisure.
Most people complain when they do the right thing and get punished for it.
From the tone and from personal experience, I'd guess he has been the exception - in the other direction. Seasoned professors have already learned their lesson and reached the same conclusion he did eventually: doing "the right thing" by going after the cheaters is a losing proposition because (a) it steals resources that could be better spent on non-cheaters and (b) makes all involved parties (students, teachers and administrators) look bad. It may still be a problem for future employers and society at large but demanding from someone to sacrifice his personal well-being for the greater good (when most others don't) is unrealistic.
One is 'income', the other is 'fulfilling societies expectations'. Nobody want's to be seen as being unethical or not fulfilling their duty. By automatically explaining away their actions and taking a fatalistic viewpoint you give away one of these two pressures, and probably the greater of the two.
Discussion regarding your first point has already begun, so I shall focus on the latter half of your post.
> If he can't tell his students are cheating without globally searching everything with this software, what are they supposedly learning?
I can't parse an argument from this sentence or the remainder of the paragraph. I would like to point out that the learning experience is being quantified in the form of a percentage-based grading system so I am uncertain of your point. Globally searching the papers is an attempt to discover plagarism -- are you suggesting that he should somehow recognize plagarism without attempting to actually compare his students' essays with each other and outside sources?
Edit: I mean, I'm honestly curious. Please try to elaborate.
Secondly, Many classes don't have in-class exams, including most English classes, some social studies classes, and indeed a certain percentage of classes in almost any field besides mathematics and engineering. Exams are, in my humble opinion, a relatively ineffective way of determining learning in many situations. For a business school class to not have exams is perfectly reasonable.
Still, the exam will be a problem. But if lots of students cheat, the lecturers will start making exams easier, because so many students struggle. And in Australia, there's a big belief amongst the education policy mandarins that exams are useless because they don't teach anything.
Still, most Math majors know their degree is useless if they don't learn anything, and they chose a brutally hard course with no set career path just to learn, so why bother cheating? But Engineering majors is another story.
That may be true in the lower level courses, but around 400 level, the work switches over entirely from calculations to proofs. Proofs are as widely varied and difficult to copy as essays, and are much harder to edit without screwing up unless you really understand them.
As I've said, many students self-enforce (somewhat - it's a continuum), because a Math degree that you didn't earn is barely worth the paper it's printed on.
With most students self-enforcing, the exams can still be rigorous. The 400-level courses can still be rigorous. And nobody will complain that the exams and 400 levels are too hard, because they still learnt enough to deal with them.
It's not a result of Math being "harder to copy". Math is easier to copy than an essay, because it's just not as unique. The difference is cultural. Most Math students don't want to cheat their way through, and so the professors are under no pressure to be soft.
Generally the homework is just meant to give you a good bit of practice, there is no way to pass the class without passing the exams.
Having experienced upper, lower, and graduate level courses in math and engineering (as well as taught at the lower level) I can honestly say that the amount of people that directly copy another student's assignments is much higher than most people think. This type of cheating tapers off as you enter the higher levels. On the other hand, I find that the "helping another student out" or "group study" type of cheating probably occurs with a 75%+ frequency among all levels of academics.
The first type (plagiarism) is definitely cheating while the second type (group think) is most likely classified as cheating but never acted against. The fact that you didn't see any cheating in your Number Theory course could simply be due to the fact that the second type of cheating is much more difficult to spot unless you are intimately familiar with the subject material and solution methods.
A student gets 80% on a 25% weighted "token" homework component, 60% on a 25% "lab" component (due to copying large portions of someone else's report), and 30% on the 50% exam (there's always a few low apples). They pass with 50%.
The lecturer sees that the exam is too hard, and makes it easier the next year.
if your homework is 1/4 of your grade in the class, that class is a "pass me" class. in some math classes the prof refuses to acknowledge that homework actually has a measurable effect on your grade, but he will use its presence to round up instead of down (i.e. 89.5 becomes a 90 instead of an 89)
Cheating doesn't happen when there's virtually no incentive.
I stand by my point that you can cheat in Math homework more easily than equivalent non-Math homework, if you want to.
If 400-level Math coures are really impossible to cheat on, but there are 400-level non-Math courses that are possible to cheat on, I'd just argue that this is because they aren't really equivalent.
Let's not let the cultural politeness here get in the way of calling it like it is. "Coward" may be a strong word, but it sometimes does apply.
Preventing cheating ultimately comes down to changing the incentive structures in the university system in America. Allowing students to take revenge on their professors by basing financial rewards and promotions on student evaluations is clearly wrong. The metric by which professors are rewarded should be as independent from what their students think of them as possible. Outside exams by an unbiased third party is one idea, but I'm sure there are others.
What surprised me more than anything was the lack of mention of any sort of organized protest on the part of the professors. The faculty at many colleges throughout the U.S. has protested a number of issues very successfully. You'd think there would be a more unified voice on this matter, but perhaps I'm overlooking an incentive that guides most professors to just not care.
Now I have a couple of problems with your post. Firstly, you attribute your lower evaluation rating of 5.3 for last fall semester solely to your lower tolerance of cheating. However, there is something very wrong with this logic. As you may (or evidently, may not) know, correlation does not imply causation. In other words, your lower overall rating was not necessarily due to your increased surveillance of plagiarism; it could have been due to other factors. As someone who was a student in your class, I can speak for myself and say that I did give you a low rating, and it was NOT because you punished the cheaters—it was far from it. To put it rather simply and bluntly, you were unkind (that’s an extreme euphemism) out of the classroom. Sure, you had your favorites (my best friend being one of them) as most professors do. However, you had, what I perceived to be, an irrational disdain for some of your students, I being one of them. When I asked questions in class, you’d quietly giggle or give me a blank stare as if the question I asked was completely stupid (forgive me, I’m not technologically inclined), which of course discouraged me from participating in class. When I stayed after class to ask you questions I was too shy to ask in class, or to just discuss the subject material in greater depth, you’d answer in a very short, annoyed tone, as if you had more important things to do. My thank you’s went unanswered. My smiles to you were not reciprocated. Sure, it sounds silly, but it was very clear you did not like me. And I had no idea why. Some people noticed, while others in the class also felt like you hated them for no apparent reason. It got to the point where we, as well as others who experienced better treatment, discussed it and concluded you were just racist. Now, I know you and many others reading this post probably think I’m just a pissed off student who didn’t get the grade he wanted and is now bashing his teacher out of revenge. However, that’s really not the case; I just figured I’d give you my honest opinion of you seeing as your perception of your students’ mentality towards you is completely mistaken. I’ll just quickly recount one experience that perfectly illustrates my overall experience with you. For the WiMax assignment (which is what your blog post is based on), after all the students had received your email demanding those who plagiarized to come in to talk to you, naturally everyone, even those who didn’t cheat, felt very uneasy and worried. I, who collaborated with a friend on one small part of the assignment, got worried and came in to see you during office hours. When I arrived, there was one other student waiting in the seating area; she said you weren’t in your office. So we waited for a good 30 minutes until you came strolling in. She then went in to speak with you. About 20 minutes passed until she emerged. You then walked out, saw me, and then said “I’ll be back soon.” 50 MINUTES ELAPSED, and you finally returned. You were munching on a sandwich. As you walked by me, you mumbled “emergency.” So, almost two hours after I had come to your office, I finally was able to speak with you. We went in, you looked up my assignment, and then you said “there’s no problem with your assignment; you’re fine.” So I left. There was no apology.
Now, aside from me having a bad experience with you, what really irks me about your post is your complacence with cheating because it’s not in your self-interest to pursue those who cheated. A true capitalist at heart, I guess. As a student who did not cheat, worked very hard, and still received a relatively low grade in your class, there’s nothing more infuriating. Is it not your job as an educator to make sure those who put in the most effort and demonstrate the highest level of achievement are awarded grades accordingly? Is it not your job to make sure the playing field is level, especially at a school where there is such a high pressure to do well as a result of a strict grading curve policy? I guess you don’t believe so. I mean, after all, you did give my friend, who consistently received a B average on assignments and exams throughout the semester, an overall grade of A (which he was very, very shocked by).
Anyway, that is not to say I did not learn a lot from your class. You were a great teacher inside the classroom. However, teaching evaluations don’t just measure your ability to give good lectures; they are holistic--meaning, they also measure intangibles, such as the professor's willingness to help students, or his attitude. And that, Panos, is where you failed.
I've noticed a growing problem with people equating effort with achievement as the parent does. Just because one "works really hard" doesn't mean that one creates something of value. I'm not sure where this belief arose from, but it doesn't apply in school and it certainly doesn't apply in life.
The point of schooling is to develop the skills that will help you in the real world. Hard work is one of those skills; it's not outside the realm of plausibility that schools should incent it. (FWIW, cheating - when you don't get caught - is another one of them. Maybe schools should incent cheating and teach you how to not get caught. Oh wait, they do. Mission fucking accomplished. ;-/)
The classroom aspects of the MBA have been uniformly criticized by the people I know that've gone through them, except for the few idiots who believe every business situation is like a case study and then run their businesses into the ground basing decisions on that. Business is just too complex to reduce to classroom principles. I think Marc Andreesen once wrote on his blog that at the time the executive makes the decision that an HBS case study will eventually be based upon, he has less than 10% of the information that the students who will eventually be critiquing him have.
The assumption you're referring to I think has to do with the question of whether it's moral to reward people for working hard (even if inefficiently). I think there are clear situations where it is moral and necessary to do so. Perhaps not always, but at least sometimes.
No, I nor my comment don't assume any such thing. You commit a fallacy by assuming that because I do not think people should expect work to be rewarded in proportion to how hard it is that therefore I think work is rewarded in proportion to how valuable it is. If only.
Work is perhaps more likely to be rewarded based on greater value, but one has to make the case for the reward. Most of the time claiming "It's hard" as the reason will not get you much reward.
If you have the bargaining power to get paid more, you get paid more regardless of your contributions.
No kidding; this is part of my point.
Unfortunately there are cultural tropes that keep people from learning this sooner rather than later.
In what situations is it a moral necessity to reward people for hard ineffective work? I'm not excluding the possibility, I'd just like to understand what you have in mind.
In my biased opinion, it is morally necessary to reward people for how hard they work at least partially when I consider what most work (jobs) consist of, which is economically disenfranchising hard manual labor. If I am younger and/or healthier and/or genetically stronger I'll be able to have higher throughput at those jobs, creating more value. However, I'm not sure that it's moral for people who are older, sicker, or not as genetically gifted to be rewarded less than me for doing essentially the same job. I'm not talking exclusively about monetary renumeration, just general "rewards".
I'm sure not everyone buys into this, but it's what I meant with my earlier comment.
Here's a theory - Panos burnt himself out trying to chase the cheats, and deal with the bad-will and tantrums. This left a lot less time and energy to deal with students who had genuine problems. Playing the bad cop is not a good way to build relations, and makes everyone a bit paranoid.
So he turned himself into a bit of a jerk, by chasing cheats, which resulted in the worse assessment by the students.
As for his complacence, would you rather be taught by a hard-assed jerk who cracked down on the cheats, or a nice guy who turned a blind eye? There's no right answer, is there.
It might be good if the lecturer of a subject was not responsible for the summative assessment. Let some other lecturer do the marking, and set the exam. The lecturer could set (and mark) formative assessment, but that wouldn't go to your final grade. Why don't universities do this? They generally treat the lecturer as "King of the class", provided the students don't complain, so it would be seen as an "insult" to bring an outsider in. Like, have you ever seen another lecturer auditing another one's class, so they can offer suggestions about how to improve it?
The guy who turns a blind eye will probably be an effective teacher to those willing and wanting to learn.
Removing a cheater from the class does not help them learn more effectively, nor does it help the non-cheaters learn more effectively.
Why waste on policing, what can be spent on teaching.
It is not like the cheaters, when confronted, realized they were losing all sorts of knowledge they could otherwise obtain.
Ethically, I have a bigger problem with a student submitting his creative works to be used in a private corporations database AND charge the student and school for the "service".
It is not only the cheating students that are undermining the credibility of the University and its degrees.
If you want to teach morality, once somebody gets to college age, it may be a bit late for reformation.
Why don't you hold the other professors to the same standard? It's not as if the other professors are oblivious to rampant cheating. But what's the point of trying to catch cheaters if it hurts the class dynamic and if those who get caught don't even get suspended? The students are clearly OK with cheating otherwise the cheaters would be ostracized by the other students. The school management clearly doesn't care, since they don't take action against those who are caught red-handed. The teachers who care are punished for it: bad reviews and bad class atmosphere in return for extra hours on top of an already heavy schedule. And yet you don't thank the professor for trying to fight against cheaters (and losing that fight) but you effectively criticize him for having tried in the first place!
> discussed it and concluded you were just racist
A teacher is in a bad mood when a significant portion of the class is exposed as having no academic integrity, doesn't want to teach the class but still, according to your own words was a "great teacher in the classroom" and "gave good lectures". How do you explain his bad mood? Why of course, he must be racist.
> all the students had received your email demanding those who plagiarized to come in to talk to you, naturally everyone, even those who didn’t cheat, felt very uneasy and worried
This exact scenario happened in a class I attended some years back. Guess who felt nervous? Those who knew they cheated on the assignment and those who plagiarized habitually but didn't remember whether they plagiarized in this instance. The students who would never, ever, ever, copy-paste plagiarize did not feel the slightest bit worried. I'm sure you "collaborated" with a friend on a small part of the assignment. Yeah, that's the word all cheaters and plagiarizers use.
> teaching evaluations don’t just measure your ability to give good lectures
If you give a better evaluation to mediocre teachers who smile and say sorry when they're late, then that's exactly the kind of teachers you're going to get instead of the teachers who are great in the classroom and who teach classes where you learned a lot.
Save your post and re-read it a few years from now. You'll probably be able to see it from a different perspective.
This exact scenario happened in a class I attended some years back. Guess who felt nervous? Those who knew they cheated on the assignment and those who plagiarized habitually but didn't remember whether they plagiarized in this instance. The students who would never, ever, ever, copy-paste plagiarize did not feel the slightest bit worried.
That isn't true at all. I've never cheated once -- from elementary school through grad school -- yet I've been accused of it twice by professors. In one case, I created something so novel and excellent, the professor assumed I had taken it from an obscure book; in another, the professor misunderstood how my software worked and thought it couldn't possibly produce the output I claimed.
If a blanket accusation of plagiarism went out, I would be very concerned that another student might have found a way to copy my work, or that I might have subconsciously reproduced something, or that there might be some other false positive. I would definitely show up to find out what was going on.
I mean, equating anxiety about being accused of something to actual guilt... that's thoughtcrime. Implying that the GP is so stupid that he/she couldn't distinguish racism from bad mood... that's a straight insult.
Note also that the student is extremely condescending. His opening insinuates that the professor doesn't know the difference between correlation and causation, which is ludicrous. The student concludes with "And that, Panos, is where you failed". Again, unnecessarily condescending.
Is he racist? How is he able to determine ethnicity and statistically link it to cheating?
In this case the professor stated that collaboration was absolutely prohibited. Cite: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2776039
Personally, I think students should be able to discuss such assignments with each other, but I don't think you've accurately characterized the situation.
How can the professor determine which student cheated (or if both students cheated), without spending substantially time looking into it and talking to both students?
I had a professor who would actually give the person who did the work the worse grade, under the justification that you can never get rid of demand, but you could discourage supply. I thought it was a pretty clever solution. If I'd worked my ass off and somebody copying me got a 50% where I got a 0%, I'd be much more careful about what I shared.
You might believe that it's morally wrong to penalize the person who did the work, but I would have to disagree with you. Both Cheating and giving others the ability to cheat undermine the credibility of an institution and harm the legitimate efforts of others.
Then again, they'll do that anyway.
You miss a test, you get a zero. You go to the office of the dean with a note or explanation, get them to sign off that you should be allowed to retake, reweight, or whatever else it is that is needed, and then you go to the professor to deal with it.
The same sort of process should probably be put in place for plagarism. The professor flags you, and if you want to appeal, you go to the dean's office, they review the possibly-plagarized paper, and if they feel that the professor was in error, or that the student deserves the benefit of the doubt, they allow some sort of corrective action.
So, what you're saying is, it's too hard, the risks too great -- therefore we shouldn't try?
You are not accounting for the fact that his ratings dropped, which implies previous classes did not have the kind of experiences you described and rated him low because of it.
I have no idea if you were graded fairly or not, I just wish to point out that grades should be based on results, not how hard one worked.
I think it is sad but telling that the author gave up so quickly on what is (as the OP pointed out) the basic expectations of his job, but it is also telling about the overall quality and current state of ECE departments that cheating is so prevalent. The solution isn't however, to pursue cheaters but to change the environment, but that isn't going to happen if every professor gives up after his or her first kick at the can.
I apologize that this partial rant isn't very constructive but I'm far to tired right now.
I am really sorry that I did not catch you. You would have received the penalty that all other students who "collaborated" received, which I guess would have brought your grade to a C-.
I also think that if you made it very clear that NO collaboration was allowed then it is true, this student cheated.
However, I would say that a no collaboration rule is something you may want to be wary of if you're keen to have a good class ethos. I have always found that classes where some level of conferring between students has seemed to bring the best out of the assigned task. Direct copying and working together is obviously outside this, here I am for instance talking about doing your work at a computer next to someone doing the same work - and discussing the task with them as you go through. The very best lecturers I've had, whose coursework I have learned the most from, have been the ones who allowed and encouraged this practice.
The end result is a class ethos and atmosphere where people learn from one another and take an active interest in the subject matter. Another result is that people can become more competitive among themselves, especially if the coursework is creative enough to allow some 'flair' to take place. (For instance in a programming task 20% of the marks are often given for extensions). A side effect of this competition is that students will not tolerate other students stealing from them. They certainly won't tolerate copying from previous years solutions. Quite apart from this intolerance of cheaters the sense of competition allows a sense of personal pride, whereby students want to hand in a good piece of original work.
I learned about this sort of thing in a roundabout way. I did my degree in philosophy, and everyone in the department actively encouraged students to be talking to each other both in and out of class, bouncing ideas off each other, etc., and it worked out quite well. We all learned to get along with each other, and we all learned a lot more than we would have individually.
Meanwhile, I had friends who were over in the various sciences, and who would talk about how that sort of thing could never happen in their classes because of strict policies against students "collaborating". One professor (and I actually got this confirmed, rather than just believing the anecdote) went so far as to state that if a student came to her -- the professor -- for something as simple as pointers to journals (not individual articles -- journals) which covered particular sub-fields, she'd bring them up on academic charges.
Depressingly, I found out later that my school's science departments were not unique in this attitude; this level of hostility toward collegiality seems to be a common part of studying the sciences in many places.
So you admit you cheated and then you turn around and say "this guy is a racist"? LOL. I guess I could make some more observations from my own experiences here, but that would make me "racist" too I guess...
I explicitly prohibited students from working together on individual assignments. There were plenty of group projects for doing so, but for the individual assignments I wanted the students to work alone.
The student clearly violated the Stern Honor Code, and he is openly admitting that.
I do remember the incident but you are greatly exaggerating the timing. The first student was waiting, I showed up at 12.30 and she was out at 12.50. Then I did run down to the cafeteria to grab something to eat. Sorry, my blood sugar was running low, the line of students was getting longer, and I could not go and teach at 2pm for 3 hours straight without food. (Usually I was getting lunch at 1.30pm but with this line of students, things were not looking good.) At 1pm, I was back, we discussed the case and I continued the discussion with the remaining of the students in line.
You were waiting for two hours mainly because you were so worried that you showed up outside my office at 11am, a full hour and a half before the beginning of the office hours. Expecting me to be always in my office, and at your disposal, is understandable from the point of view of an undergraduate. But you may need to learn that professors have other tasks they need to accomplish during their workday.
Btw, I thought that the you got the joke about the "emergency" (that I had to grab something to eat), by obviously seeing me walking in front of you with a sandwich in my mouth. You can blame it to my bad attempt at humor.
Now that the timing issue is resolved, let me get back to the core of the argument, which I actually addressed in the post. It is the fact that I felt mostly sorry about: The fact that the cheating cases really changed my mood and attitude towards teaching this class, and this also affected the class dynamics. What you felt as unfriendliness was the direct causation of the cheating cases. It is very difficult to feel like hanging out with students when feeling that a very significant fraction of the class is actively trying to cheat. This the part that I said that I hated the most: the very different dynamics in class.
This is the part for which I should apologize: For now offering you the same experience as I offered to the students in prior semesters. Go and ask students that took my class in prior semesters. Or even check my ratings in prior semesters. I did not suddenly become an arrogant bastard.
PS: About the issue of a "true capitalist," yes I am a libertarian at heart. And I do believe that people respond to incentives. And I would strongly encourage you to read the article until the end.
I have had professors that had me write huge essays and then proceeded to just put a huge ass check and never really read past the first paragraph. If I plagiarized and cited my frustration with all those other professors just glossing over hours and hours of my work, would you accept that excuse?
I guess what I am tryin to say is that your 80 students who did not cheat have as much right to be pissed at you as your right to be pissed at the 28 students that did cheat.
As for the evals, I always found them to be kind of a joke and would agree that the better grades you assigned, better your ratings would be. As for me, I was too lazy to bubble in stuff.
Now, if you are teaching a class where you have some suspicion that half of the students have cheated, one way or another, the attitude changes. I wish I could be a cold, rational, emotionless professional, and ignore this feeling altogether. Unfortunately, I am a human. And I felt that I am teaching a class full of kids that come just for the grade, and not for learning.
And I am kind of disappointed that nyustern still demonstrates this grade-seeking attitude: He learned in the class, he appreciated my attitude in the lectures but his main complaint was that I was not approachable outside the class, and outside office hours? And that, out of all things, did not return his smiles? Hint: at 5pm, after 11 hours of work, 3 hours of lecturing, I am tired, mentally exhausted and I want to go and get some rest.
From reading your blog post and your comments here, I got the impression that you cared more about your pay raise than about the students learning.
Now, I'll be the first to admit that I could have misinterpreted whats been said and that you were probably a victim of circumstance, but you blame the guy for demonstrating a grade-seeking attitude while you yourself demonstrate a they're all cheaters, who are not worth my time and I don't want them to rate me lower in my evaluation money-over-doing your job attitude - I think he deserves the same benefit of a doubt as you do.
Your comments here seem very whiney and bitter and you show no sign of sympathy to the students who didn't cheat.
FWIW, the guy didn't sound very grade-seeking to me.
I'm more arguing that the professor should treat his students under the same standards he wants to be treated and from the article AND his comments here (reading the article alone gave me a similar impression as what you wrote, kind of), he seems to be quick to blame the students without accepting his own shortcomings (not entirely true - he does acknowledge some and I do agree with how he intends on tackling cheating in the future: by changing the homework format to a more cheat-resistant form). I know I was a bit harsh in my comment, but I do get the sense that the prof is bitter and unapologetic for most of his own mistakes.
Still, I wish him luck in the next semester. I imagine the new homework format should help alleviate a lot of the problems he had and avoid this in the future.
I get the impression that most people care more about their compensation than about <insert bullshit feelgood metric>. Money is an important thing in the modern world, and I guarantee that 99.99% of people in the workforce do their work solely for the money. Stop paying them, they leave. So it's natural that this professor would want a pay raise, too. Everyone does.
My wife just finished a grueling, thankless year for bullshit pay as a visiting professor at a local branch of a state college. She poured her heart into it, ended up with health problems from lack of sleep and irregular access to food (not that she'd admit that, but I'm on the outside and could see it clearly), and didn't get her contract extended because she was so perturbed at people cheating their way through class instead of sitting the f* down and learning some really simple physics that she couldn't bear it. Couldn't sleep, really. (She's kind of an idealist.)
I loved Panos's post for this very reason, knowing the human side of academia as nyustern and GP obviously don't. This attitude that people should teach for the love of the field and that wanting to be paid for it is venal - that's sheer poison.
The triviality of the pay is just the last droplet of spittle.
Yes, most people won't work for free (note that there are heaps of charity workers, though, more than .01%) but it's not about "working for free"
Watch this video - it makes the point that money is indeed a prime motivator... until you have enough to keep you fed and housed. Then it changes - and not only is your 99.99% number meaningless, but straight out monetary rewards can reduce performance.
tl;dr: it's the respect, not the money.
Though each time you point out your former student's grade seeking tendencies, you are just highlighting the disconnect between you and your students. Many of us would love the utopian dream of going to class to learn without worrying about grades, but at the end of the day, grades matter. May be a lot, even.
It is why you care about folks plagiarizing. It is why your former student cares about his grades.
Again, I don't think you would take kindly to a student who plagiarized complain that you are still stuck up about that one incident when the student has demonstrated he's learned a buncha stuff from your class that is as reflective of him as the plagiarizing.
FYI professionals are humans first and professionals second. If think that professionals can easily turn off how they are feeling and always act properly, then I conclude that you have little understanding of humans and little experience of how professionals act.
Rather than see this as a flaw, I see this self-awareness as something to compliment the professor on. OF COURSE spending so much time dealing with unpleasantness towards students is going to affect any human's mood towards the class. That's human nature. But now that the professor is armed with an awareness of this fact, it will be easier to address the underlying cause.
I know that you do not agree with me. But hopefully after you have a few decades of experience in a professional environment, and possibly experience as a spouse and parent as well, you'll learn the truth of what I say.
You've got that exactly backwards. Behaving professionally means turning off emotion and acting appropriately. Anyone whose job involves dealing with people has to do it, from grocery store cashiers and waitresses to doctors and lawyers.
It's expected, and literally millions of people do it successfully every day.
Unless their reason for cheating is "I don't care about my studies" and the way you extend your sympathies is by getting them kicked out, your argument is bullshit.
OK, the professor sucked. You know what? Some do, thats life, and you suck it up. The academic policy doesn't say "you have a right to a teacher you love a whole huggy bunch", but it does say "don't fucking cheat".
If they truly had no choice about cheating, then I'd show more sympathy. But they do. By contrast we truly don't get to choose how we as humans are emotionally wired.
What a lame excuse. He still had as much of a choice in being a dick as the students had in cheating.
Even under his own account of the office-hours incident, he was very inconsiderate and doesn't seem to understand it. If you have office hours, know there will be many students showing up on this particular day, and yet you aren't prepared with food, compound that by not bothering to explain that you need to eat now, that's a dick move, without excuse and explains the evaluations. His fault, not the students.
The fact that the professor remembered that specific incident strongly suggests that this was one of those moments that he'd like to have over. The fact that he has come up with a strategy to avoid the problem suggests that there will be future improvement. I see a lot to applaud here.
How can you possibly say that one case of leaving the office for maybe 20 minutes during office hours explains an overall 1 point drop in evaluation averages? Many here are so quick to pile on the prof, am I the only one that read this and was shocked at the amount of cheating going on??
Also I don't understand why the same emotional wiring that can explain the professor's behavior cannot potentially explain the cheating student's behavior?
You have known many professors who are going through reporting a fifth of their class to the deans for cheating? You know how they feel and act during that event? Really?
I firmly disbelieve. I spent 9 years in a university setting, knew a lot of professors, and I personally knew exactly nobody who went through that. And from what I know of human nature, and the likely emotions that someone in that position would feel, I very strongly suspect that your judgement of how they would react is completely wrong.
I've been through multiple stop-te-cheating lectures and each time, the professors went out of their way to appreciate the non-cheats and minimize negative impact on the innocent due to the actions of the guilty minority.
The first paints you as a helpless victim of circumstances. The second one takes responsibility for ones poor actions, and charts a course to do better in the future.
There is a world of difference between the two.
>> That is a major professional flaw and a post on how you plan to control your emotion may be appreciated by future students.
Create a position (or probably department) for quality control. Automatically send "you plagiarised, warning" letters to the student and the person who paid for the course if the submitted work receives a score above X threshold for plagiarism (this threshold to be chosen by an inter-university body and preferably standardised across universities).
Obviously a student would be able to appeal and have proper analysis done by a department member. A second warning without appeal would get a student a P grade for "admitted plagiarism".
This way the teacher just teaches, just marks the work submitted and the administrative duty of notifying students that their plagiarism has been spotted is separated and codified.
Um, no. No props for simply admitting his weaknesses.
Props are for succeeding in controlling them, and for having shown that one actually does more than just going "look at these weaknesses in me these students are triggering in me with their terrible behaviours".
Props for just admitting weaknesses has a good chance of making people go complacent and "look, I'm just not good at XYZ and therefore I have to be an asshole", instead of working to improve.
This would be appropriate to anyone and everyone who is using a judgement here.
Would you act friendly, trusting, kind and natural around everyone because up to 75% of them do not deserve your fear and suspicion?
It is perhaps a bit of an extreme thought experiment, but I think it illustrates handily how the human mind reacts in this kind of situation.
Reducto-ad-absurdum is a proof only when it takes into account everything in the argument. In life-or-death examples, other normally-included portions are dropped, making the argument something else entirely. It's just a straw-man attempt, not a valid point.
I used a different situation, it is true, but only because I have found being on the instructional end of cheating feels very different than you might imagine, so I guessed my parent was not familiar with it.
As a student who has not cheated, but has had to sit through countless lectures about cheating, and a few where large portions of the class did, I ask you and (other?) teachers this question: to whom are you teaching? The ones who are learning, or the ones who are cheating?
I understand that you're stuck with both, but either find motivation in the successes or consider another line of work - it's part of the job. Otherwise you're screwing the ones who did the right thing.
I am all for using analogies to reassess my views, but the degree of comparison should be similar for the analogy to work. I can't even process for a second how cheating is anything like threatening to kill someone.
Students respond to incentives. If I give them opportunities to cheat and remain undetected, they will cheat. I do the same as a human. If I were getting a 50% increase in my salary for detecting cheating so aggressively, next year I would have tried to detect cheating even when there is none.
What I truly blame in the article is the structure of the homeworks and the overall student evaluation approach. Which is something that I use. And I criticize my approach of trying to detect cheating post factum, instead of building projects and homeworks in which cheating is just meaningless.
Just tell me: Could anyone cheat and copy the presentation on augmented reality by your fellow classmates? It was simply stunning and they fully deserved the 10 points extra that you and your fellow classmates assigned to them. That is an evaluation strategy, where nobody could cheat because nobody could cheat your own instincts for detecting and recognizing quality.
People do respond to incentives. That is an intellectual fact, and should be taken into account when designing systems. But to say that a given individual always should or always will is a moral absurdity. It is tantamount to justifying all criminal action.
If your moral axiom is "I am most important", selfishness is rational behavior. But that is only if that is your axiom. If it's "everyone is equally important" or even "other people are most important" things will look quite different.
It comes down to how you relate to the rest of humanity -- as an enemy, an equal, or a friend.
However -- So I understand that when the system encourages certain behavior, that certain behavior is very likely to arise regardless of how logical, ethical, or correct the behavior seems. For example, many students have a very unhealthy focus on grades and living up to expectations, teachers on evaluations, and administrators on high enrollment numbers, etc.
However, this doesn't mean that the incentives can't and shouldn't be circumvented. For example, if one is put in a place where performance-goals are encouraged (a focus on grades), I sincerely believe part of the teacher's role is to do their best to encourage a learning-focus and discourage performance-goals.
So this applies equally to a teacher's behaviors -- when a teacher is encouraged one way or another based on evaluations, it is the job of the administrators to either destroy whatever causes that encouragement, or in some way encourage a learning-outcome focus instead. I wonder, do you feel anything is in place to do that? And what could be?
Wow. While a 50% salary increase is quite substantial, admitting that you'd hypothetically frame your students in order to get it is ... well it's definitely below cheating in my book.
No they're not. Grades are important in moving on in academia and moving on one's career ultimately. Cheaters are hurting other students by out-competing them on graduate entry exams and job applications. They hurt their prospective employers by not learning and out-competing competent students for jobs, (possibly becoming one of those jerks you read about on TDWTF.) And, they hurt their school's reputation by lowering the average quality of the graduate. Cheater's hurt everyone else in the system.
I think employers using grades as a basis for a hiring decision is every bit as silly as professors worrying about their students cheating, precisely because you can cheat for grades. Don't do that.
I didn't say that. But the whole world is not the Bay Area. I've known folks for whom this was an issue.
My brother went to West Point and got a degree in CS. At West Point people with higher grades get first pick the corps they go into. People with exceptionally low grades get saddled with chem-corp or transpo.
I have a friend who is a librarian. Librarianship has a huge bias towards degrees and a qualified individual without a degree will be routinely passed over for an unqualified individual with a high level degree, even if that person is antagonistic to the project.
I have another friend who is a school teacher, his academic credentials are checked whenever he has to change jobs and they are the major limiter in his ability work for better schools.
The people on this forum mostly belong to an exceptional segment of an exceptional industry. I agree that academic credentials really shouldn't matter as much as more objective evaluations of ability, but for most of the country, they do and not realizing this implies a certain myopia and failure to think outside of one immediate condition.
Employers only base their hiring decisions on grades for recent graduates, but nearly all employers base their hiring decision on the student's degree and the institution it comes from.
False, I am a walking talking counter-example, but it's the same for all of the companies at which I have sat on recruitment interview boards, and also true for every company that has ever hired me. Nobody has ever requested to see my University transcripts (in fact I've only had one employer even verify that I have a degree). Grades just aren't a consideration. Your ability to respond to questions that we ask, your history of code for open source projects, sample code that you present, your overall demeanour/character - these things are looked at very closely.
I'm curious as to how you explain the very best tech employers recruiting before students have even graduated? Whilst I agree that there are employers out there that do care about grades, the people that are actually the most able to honestly obtain good grades are probably not terribly interested in working for them. I know I wasn't.
A single counter example is not a trend. Your experience is not the entire industry and the tech industry is just a small portion of jobs available to college graduates across the nation. Many, many industries care about degrees and how well you did. Just try to get a job at a major law firm without one. I've had friends apply for jobs as AAs and their grades came up. The tech industry is the exception, not the norm.
So, grades matter. They just didn't for you.
This is just flat out wrong. Not all companies use grades, or care about the institution you graduated from. But there are entire industries where your main ticket for admittance is your pedigree. Cheaters water down the degree affecting everyone who didn't cheat.
Also, over time, such cheating leads to a disaster. Assignments start to become harder since obviously students don't have problems with them, those that really try to be honest are finding it is more difficult to do well, while they see cheaters zoom right by them, getting As and Bs.
Not all classes are viewed as core classes that one needs to understand or they'll fail some future test during their interview. There are lots of requirements, and elective classes which end up contributing to the final GPA score. So again, it is not just about students cheating themselves, as much as screwing everyone else.
Yes, in real life, often cheaters, manipulators, and liers do get ahead, but I don't think we should become complacent, and at least try to somewhat push back against dishonesty in the academic world.
Perhaps much of the "pattern of treatment" that you observed could be equally explained? When we interact with someone in a bad mood, we tend to assume it's because of us, but it's often likely to be external factors. Having taught before, and held office hours, I can tell you how absolutely exhausting it can be. Maintaining a fair demeanor gets increasingly more difficult.
Also consider how a professor feels when meeting students outside of office hours, and the student has not made a prior appointment. How would you feel if the professor showed up at your home and said they had to hold lecture now? It's obviously not the same thing, but it may give you an indication of how it feels.
Libertarian, maximum personal liberty. If you were a libertarian, you wouldn't care about the cheating. Let the little bastards screw themselves.
Libertarian doctrine (such as it is) says nothing about incentives.
Getting worked up about the cheating, you assume society (or at least your class room) should be merit-based. Pretty much the opposite of libertarianism.
A clever teacher would figure out a way for students to police each other. I've seen it work to great effect. No one grades harder than a peer.
Edit: I was being a dick, comment about whining removed.
I could not agree with you more. This assignment, in which students get to teach "emerging technologies" to each other, and grade each other, is the highlight of my class. The whole point that I wanted to make with this post is that cheating is something that needs to be structurally avoided, not something to be detected and penalized.
Btw, touché on the libertarian point.
Not when there is an existing agreement in place otherwise, that being the one between the honest students, the school, and the teacher calling for the teacher to fairly assess performance and grade accordingly. Unless the policy of the school on cheating is "whatever, no problem" (which doesn't seem to be the case), then the libertarian position is to stick to the contract he signed on for. Or is the new libertarian position something more like: honoring contracts is for suckers, screw everyone who hasn't caught on to it yet.
As you may (or evidently, may not) know, correlation does not imply causation.
Having students do individual research projects and then presenting can also be very hard on the students because one badly done presentation, if the material is never retaught, can create gaps in a student's education. This is particularly difficult for classes which are part of a sequence, where this lack of knowledge will impact a later class. You are creating work for yourself too, as the lectures which you teach which build upon these principles will frequently have to be adjusted to cover material which was not adequately expressed, and make it harder for you to recycle and perfect your slides.
Additionally, students in classes based on rotating presentations tend to specialize in what they presented. This gives them an unusual advantage on the test: the optimally localized behavior for a class on a curve is to learn the material, convey as little as possible while making the class feel well-informed, and then ace it on the test, thus lowering the curve. If you do insist on doing this, you should have the class' average success on the exam reflect in some way on the presenters.
This is the solution that I know http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2774695 I posted it on your website as well. I respect your desire to not have your class be fearful of you. Perhaps you could trade with another professor: you address his cheaters and he addresses yours.
I think the comparison would add a lot of valuable info to the debate.
I was detecting some cheating in Excel assignments, but I was only pursuing the very obvious cases. At most a couple of cheating cases per semester.
For essays, it was pretty much impossible without the use of Turnitin, which I used for the first time in the Fall 2010 semester.
You're getting downvoted quite a bit in the comments in this thread I see, even for this one which seems very factual and without any reason to downvote. I guess it's because the average age of the audience of HN has gravitated downwards over the last year or two, and that many readers are still students who identify much more naturally with your students than with yourself; causing you to start with a disadvantage in the pathos department, so to speak.
I guess it's the same dynamic that is causing the discussion on the business-type articles to be much more, well, anti-business nowadays.
Anyway, just to say that I feel sorry for you for having to work in a system that is set up in such a way (by no individual's fault, btw) that those with the best intentions are destined for failure. It reminds me of my experiences with doctors in a hospital I've been interacting with a lot lately, who share your fate - they all mean very well but the deck is stacked against them in the form of a dysfunctional system they have to work in. My wife is a professor too and I recognize your dilemmas all too well; I've posted about it here in the past, but back in those days I still got upvoted for it ;)
If I write extremely poorly, the pain of reading through it taints what data exists. The irritation lowers the perception, which lowers the grade. It's a pretty well known phenomenon, lots of studies supporting it, probably most classically known as: sitting in a hard chair makes you more "hard" in your dealings with people.
Note that your example with the presentations only supports the belief that the delivery of the proof-of-learning matters. Not that there's a way to fix it, of course - awesome results are awesome, and should be encouraged. It's simply that I wish more professors were (more acutely?) aware of it, so it would (hopefully) have less impact. I would think that there would be a bit less cheating if delivery didn't matter.
One of the university degrees I did (effectively an arts degree) involved doing a lot of essay writing as part of the major. While I don7t really use the field knowledge I studied in the degree I credit my reasonably ok writing ability to all essays I wrote - which I have put to good use in writing technical reports and user documentation that no one else wanted to write because it was seen as beneath them.
Even with the ability to catch copy-pasters with tools such as turn it in, there is always private essay/thesis writers you can hire (there was an article from one of these writers sometime last year).
I just have to trust that despite a fancy degree, the cheaters get caught out in the place where it really matters - the workplace.
Not that I think "standardized" tests are any better. Just that increased awareness of this kind of effect on perception might decrease its impact.
What the HECK is that sort of system for? Students rating teachers and those ratings have an effect on the teacher's annual review?
I hope I'm wrong but if that's how it works in that particular school there's no chance for professional integrity if the teacher has to keep the students happy. A teacher should always be in a position where he has an unchallengeable authority over students (with regard to the class, of course), and thus being able to be harsh when necessary without having to self-correlate his behaviour in fear of being financially punished. Otherwise it'll be screaming for A's for everyone.
Yes. And with adjuncts (folks brought in to teach one or two courses per semester), getting low scores on the ratings means you don't get your contract renewed for the following semester.
For tenure-tracked teachers, your ratings are included in the things that they look at for tenure review.
> and thus being able to be harsh when necessary without having to self-correlate his behaviour in fear of being financially punished
You can only do that after you're achieved tenure.
Your post just sounds like someone who was bad at the class and wants to blame someone else.
The cheating, although not excusable, could very well be partially blamed on the professor.
I don't think the analogy holds well. The point is that a professor is supposed to help his/her students when they have questions. If they don't do this, they increase the probability of cheating occurring. It's less of "blaming" and more "noting" that this happens. If the professor is partially ignoring this duty, he/she is partly to blame. (I'm not saying that happened here, just explaining what I think @reason's logic is).
Panos has provided documentation, reasonable theories, refrained from naming students, and put his own reputation on the line. "nyustern" has simply whined about perceived slights, thrown anonymous accusations of racism, and vaguely claimed that other unnamed and unnumbered students felt the same way.
nyustern is free to voice his thoughts and feelings, but I don't think he should be free to anonymously throw serious accusations at Panos with no evidence.
There might be a serious personality conflict here, it's also possible Panos was a jerk. But at this point we have only the inherently biased word of a purported student who feels they didn't get the grade they deserved.
to detect the cheating. Maybe you can circumvent it if you're smart enough. Personally I have better things to do with my time.
Business majors, on the other hand, already have a reputation as the "bullshit major". You curriculum is a joke. You study for exams the day before. You party on finals week while the rest of us study. It's the major you go to when you want the easy ticket through life. And the blatant cheating they get away with just serves to rub it in the face of all the majors who actually have to gasp work for their degree.
More reading here:
When my roommates are done with college, they'll be screwed. I'm not disputing that. They have a degree that won't be worth the paper it's printed on, in a heavily oversubscribed major (25% of all US undergrads are business majors), with no marketable skills, and a tendency towards laziness and dishonesty.
Why do Business schools let this kind of stuff go on? I've talked to people in other schools, hell even business majors themselves, and they all acknowledge it. Don't people realize that they're just screwing themselves over in the long-term while accumulating the animosity and disdain of their peers? It's crazy, self-destructive, sad, wasteful, and it's ruining lives.
The entire system is broken. Cheating is just a symptom.
I went to Purdue. I started as a Physics major and switched to computer science. I had several friends who started as an engineering or science major and then switched to other majors.
The academic standards in the Physics program were significantly higher than in CS, and liberal arts was a joke. There is a reason for this more than just Physics > CS > Liberal Arts:
Let's say you're a quality student who has decided against a private college for whatever reason (e.g. you don't want 6 figures in student debt) in Indiana:
If you want to major in liberal arts, you go to Indiana U.
If you want to major in CS and you don't mind the medium increase in cost, you go to the University of Illinois
If you want to major in Physics, you go to Purdue.
So there is some selection bias here. I don't know much about business schools, so I don't know if your generalization is valid or not. This is just something I've noticed in my own narrow experience.
All I have to say is THANK YOU. The sense of entitlement in Stern classes at the undergraduate level is ridiculous. I'm glad to see someone cracking down on cheating at my university. Even though I know how prevalent cheating at Stern is, it was still shocking to hear some of the numbers (1 in 5 being admitted cheaters).
I'd like to add that as a student who genuinely enjoys learning (in certain topics that I'm interested in, of course), those "creative" or "open ended" assignments that you mentioned are way more fun as a student than the typical stuff you get in an intro Info Tech class.
I took Info Tech last year with another professor and absolutely hated it. The professor was clearly "checked out" and working on other projects. It certainly does nothing to help the atmosphere of Stern (if you don't go to work at a big financial firm, you're worthless) if the IT intro class is so boring and bland (when there's so much interesting shit going on right now in IT!).
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Disgruntled students could abuse a complaints system, but there's tonnes of ways for them to create trouble already, so I doubt that's a big downside.
I wonder why there's such a huge gap between my experience and this professor's; undergrad vs. graduate school? CS vs. business school? Moss vs. Turnitin? Arizona vs. New York?
An engineer pal of mine eventually went back for an MBA at a top-tier business school. He said that in 2 years, he learned exactly one thing that he wouldn't have figured out on his own with a little thought. (It was the law of comparative advantage, which blew my mind as well.) The rest was building a rolodex and gaining skill in presenting smoothly.
His experience made me pretty suspicious of the intellectual content business schools. Given that, cheating makes a twisted sort of sense. And of course, if one plans to go on to create mortgage-backed securities or asset-stripping leveraged buyouts, one probably has an ends-justify-the-means attitude by the time graduate school rolls around.
Many years ago, when I first started grad school in CS, I wanted to learn graphics programming and enrolled in a course cross-listed between undergrads and grad students. I got the first assignment and was shocked at the amount of code needed to be written (and I consider myself to be a strong hacker!). I only got 80% of the functions working and got a lame mark for the assignment. Then assignment 2 comes along - even more complex and code-heavy than the first! During this time, I happened to go to the undergrad lab for something. What do I see? Multiple groups of undergrads (fours and five students per computer) with what seemed to be like copies of the assignments from the previous year. I subsequently verified that the prof had been using the same assignments every year. It was also a reality check for the amount of plagarism that happens in CS labs (during my undergrad days, I thought it was extremely rare). I was pretty disgusted by the state of affairs and ended up dropping this particular course. My loss.
You've identified a very real and very serious problem, and come up with some ways to beat it. You tried doing things the 'normal' and 'right' way (e.g. to pursue cheaters) and found the system to be a total failure in this regard. People read your title, however, and think you're giving up. They started skimming and didn't make it to the end where you explain that you aren't pursuing cheating because you are going to change your assignments to prevent it entirely. This isn't a matter of criticism - it's a matter of applause.
Simply by reading a lot of the comments here, I'm particularly bothered by people's attitudes and understanding (or lack thereof) for your situation. Your capacity thus far to proceed with calm conversation has been impressive, and I hope all the negative feedback doesn't get under your skin. I know that having thick skin is part of being a teacher (though should it, really?), but we're all human on the inside - something most people never think about the teachers they've met.
I cannot even imagine that someone caught doing this wouldn't be instantly suspended from school and possibly expelled. Why on earth are you in college if you want to cheat?
Even worse is a teacher that thinks it's "not worth pursuing".
That said, I do like his ideas of changing the assignments to deter cheating, but that doesn't make it right.
With such creativity to try to "fix" cheating, why wasn't one of his suggestions to have the teacher evaluations exclude scores from students that were caught cheating? This would stop the mis-aligned incentives that caused him to find a way to not report cheaters.
While you're busy doing actual work, building something, they're building networks of support in your employer's structure to enable them to rise.
So when you explain something to them and get a blank look or questions that make it clear they haven't understood anything, you'll know why.
But hey, they have a Business Degree. They win, not you.
Me, bitter? maniacal laughter
I made more than that straight out of college, and now make much more than that. So no, they didn't win. Technical skills pay if you're good at them.
Also, remember that that includes an average of 5 years work experience. How much do engineers with 7 years of work experience, or 5 years and a master's degree, make?
Re: 150k, outside of the Valley & NYC, significantly less.
The bulk of the NYU grads cited in the statistics above were working in the Northeast (presumably NYC), so again, comparing them to Silicon Valley engineers is totally apples-to-apples. If anything, it's unfair to the Silicon Valley folks, as cost of living is higher in Manhattan than SV.
 150+ is still rather unusual, as far as I know. Glassdoor.com says that, for example, at Fog Creek (a company that is quite famous and brags about how well it pays its engineers; and has offices in NYC) the one engineer who filled in his salary makes between 92k and 100k. That's a long way off from 150k, and I'm highly skeptical that even 'skilled' softwared engineers will can easily make more than 150 as an employee.
(EDIT: Median software engineer salary in NYC is 80k according to glassdoor.com.)
(When I looked at it last, there were actually a lot fewer responses in the <$60K and $60-100K range...maybe all the students and junior devs responded over the weekend.) This is for base salary, so it's comparable with the $100K number. There are roughly 700 respondents that make over $100K base in the poll, and close to 200 that make $150K+ base, which I would consider a fairly decent-sized chunk.
The citation in the poll says that StackExchange's top end is about $200K.
150k+ is the 93th percentile in that survey, and the whole survey is I think biased towards the upper end. But even without that, calling the 93th percentile something that a merely skilled developer can "easily" make is a stretch, to put it mildly.
All data contradicts it - not just this poll, glassdoor.com, other informal surveys, but also e.g. the bureau of labor statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos303.htm)
Don't be fooled by people reporting ranges and then taking the top end. By that standard, if you go work for a Fortune 500 company people make 'up to 15 million' if that's what the CEO makes. Professional basketball players don't make 'up to 50 million a year', there are maybe a few who do that, but that doesn't make it attainable for the regular ones, or even the 90th percentile.
I suppose a lot depends on your definition of "easily". Yes, the poll is biased towards the high end - because it's on Hacker News, and typically people who aren't passionate about programming don't visit here. But what's the question that readers of this comment thread are asking? My guess is it's whether they can be making $150K+ after being out in the real world for 7 years or so.
And I don't think that's all that unreasonable. They're already part of the self-selecting group that the poll is being drawn from. We know from other HN polls that HN skews young: I don't remember offhand the proportion of readers that are over 30, but I believe it was only 15-20%. If we assume that experience and salary are pretty sharply correlated, that's a pretty large chunk of the older crowd that are raking in the big bucks. It's not a lottery ticket; it's something that a good number of the people you're talking with have achieved.
If you're going to look at the top of the financial industry (who are probably not NYU students, sorry), you've got to compare them to the top of the tech industry, the guys who found successful startups.
Additionally, has anyone thought that people cheat because of financial reasons? I know at my alma mater people were given a grant up to 15 thousand, half of tuition, if they maintained a grade point average over a 3.0.
Which is not to say that one couldn't make such distinctions, I think - but blogging about that would be sure career-suicide.
(By the way, I used to work in Karlsruhe.)
Holy smokes, that's the first time I heard anyone describe their PhD experience with positive words; and not just any, either. Congratulations.
"No, I am not in favor of deception, trickery, fraud, or swindle. What I wish to change are the curriculum and examination practices of our school systems that insist on unaided work, arbitrary learning of irrelevant and uninteresting facts. I'd like to move them toward an emphasis on understanding, on knowing how to get to an answer rather than knowing the answer, and on cooperation rather than isolation. Cheating that involves deceit is, of course wrong, but we should examine the school practices that lead to cheating: change the practices, and the deceit will naturally diminish."
Get rid of grades.
Let's think about the consequences of that for a minute. You still pay for college. There are still classes. There is still homework. Exams are unnecessary. Do away with prerequisites. In this system, everybody in class is there because they want to learn. It is the only motivating force.
And what do we lose? Companies might look at grades for determining how well suited a possible employee is for a job, but it seems to me that other qualifying material such as previous jobs, skills, extracurricular activities, and projects are equally important. And besides, you wouldn't want to hire someone only based on their grades, you would want to interview them first.
Anything else? It might be a worthwhile trade off.
Remember also to include advanced studies in your list. It was 'common but unconfirmed knowledge' that students from UCSC (where they have a 'narrative evaluation'+Pass/Fail option) would be passed over by medical schools since you couldn't reduce a student down to a GPA for the first-pass of application cuts.
I'm actually rabidly anti-grading, but I think it also has to start much, much earlier. I've literally gotten into shouting matches with (undergraduate) students who couldn't conceive of how they could function in school without grades. I found it even harder to explain to people how it could work than explaining how homeschooling/unschooling works.
(Not only do schools have their function to produce professionals who'll jump through hoops on command for a letter. But also some particularly career-oriented students may complain that this makes it harder for them to outrank other students. Students don't have that much power, but these students help the school build a case against the offending teacher.)
> One of the offenders was actually a repeat offender from the prior assignment and was also dismissed from the class.
This tells me that this professor who posted the blog entry may not quite understand the problem.
Ethics aside, students cheat because they believe that there is a positive utility in doing so. That is, they believe the expected likelihood of cheating is better than the expected likelihood of turning in their assignment cheat-free, even for a zero. Ultimately the only way to curb cheating is to make the utility negative. And not only negative: it has to be so obviously and publicly negative that it shatters the students' own rosy visions of cheating and getting away with it.
So what did he do wrong here? He allowed a student to cheat not once but twice, and then the only punishment was to fail him. Let us presume that turning in a zero twice, plus average work for the rest, will land you an F. If there is even an infinitesimal chance of cheating and getting away with it, this tells a desperate student that the net utility of cheating on two assignments is positive. If you need three zeros to land an F, you still only need a small probability of getting away with it. And so on.
Basically he slapped the students on the hands. He's part of the problem.
My recommendation to his institution would be as follows: a minor offense (as ultimately decided by an Honor Court, not the faculty member) would be course failure. A major first offense would be course failure plus community service. A second offense would be dismissal from the University with no readmission. And whenever a student is failed or dismissed, the department lets their students know that such an event occurred (with no details). Students should be made aware of how often they get caught as a group.
Then there was this sentence:
> Students would come to my office and deny everything.
It sounds to me that he was handling cheating on his own. This has two very high negatives. First, it sucked up enormous time on his part when there's a perfectly good institutional mechanism (the Honor Court or whatnot). Second, punishing such cases on his own opens him up to direct liability. Faculty can and are sued by students for doing such things. One of the purposes of an honor court is to have his institution take the liability since they made the decision. He should have simply written the students up, submitted to the honor court, and wiped his hands clean.
I think you also ignore the chilling effect this had on the class itself. It's quite possible that the students who did not cheat experienced a worse class because of the change in atmosphere.
Setting the expectation for academic honesty in the syllabus and directing students to university policies is more than enough. In any event, it should just be handled privately. There's no reason to jump up and down and hold your breath in front of the class.
There's also the aspect of a student being falsely accused of cheating. I was unfortunate enough to have experienced this during my college career. A fellow student, whom I didn't know outside of class, copied my answers exactly on a German exam. I don't know why he did this, because there were only 15 students in the class and the professor knew us all fairly well. To think the professor wasn't going to notice was a stupid assumption on his part.
I was called in to her office and shown the two tests. The answers were the same down to the punctuation even. It was clear the other guy was very bad at cheating and probably did it out of desperation. I was initially shocked and feared I was going to fail the class despite my innocence. She had to refer the incident to the honor board due to university policy. When I left her office I was so furious that I looked up where the other student lived because I wanted to fight him. But I took a walk, cooled off and decided against it.
I was ultimately cleared by the board and there were no marks on my record. After the proceedings were over, the professor apologized to me and said that she never believed for a moment that I had cheated, or that I had helped him cheat. She pleaded with dean to avoid sending the matter to the honor board, but she had to follow policy.
She said she never had any cheating incidents in the past, and that it was personally distressing for her to handle the situation. It was definitely stressful for me as well.
To put it another way, a professor should focus on teaching and let those tasked with investigating cheating and listening to excuses sort it out.
And yes it can and should be as impersonal as a parking ticket. Cheating is a simple violation, and it behooves a teacher to forgo emotional investment in each case. Avoiding interrogations and Perry Masonesque cross-examinations would seem like a good way to avoid such an investment. When 1:5 students in a 100 person course is doing so, reporting cheating is a purely administrative matter of the same sort as turning in low grades for poor students - which hopefully is something the author still does not find to be too much bother.
A Turnitin report as cited in the article would be about as much evidence as would be needed. Particularly when Turnitin is the institution's official means for combating plagiarism...not to mention the level of matches described in the article would make it appear open and shut.
Yes, it might require some involvement from the professor - but the implications of complaining that such involvement is too much work is the basis of my criticism of the author's position.
Regarding your second point, if any one thing becomes a trend in a class, you bring it up with the class.
As for your second point, preaching to the choir is a waste of time and just makes them uncomfortable (as this case points out), the come to Jesus talk is a one on one affair.
 - If your method is 99.9% accurate, you've got a 50% chance of a false positive after 700 submissions, which for a 100 person class is a milestone you could hit in your second semester.
By your logic, one could make the case that academic standards should never be upheld - 700 submissions is arbitrary and could just as easily be 7000 or 7,000,000 and the same rationale would apply.
So at best, you're looking at 10% unpaid overtime for a job that already requires a lot (maybe up to 100%) unpaid overtime.
FYI, I get paid to teach 17-20 hours a week, but with prep time and marking it ends up taking about 30-40 hours a week.
...or maybe it's just that people copy from their friends?
Especially the Koreans. Most tight-knit group I know.
Way to bias ratings. Students caught cheating should certainly not be rating the professor who caught them. I won't say "problem solved", but that would make a fine start.
If by any chance you hire 2 TAs and if they got to catch plagiarism, they're cooked since they can't distribute work and have to go through each submission. No point in doing that.
And I am an Indian undergrad and I've seen this ethic cheating first hand - it is fucking disgusting and destroys the educational experience for everyone in the class because the honest guys are competing individually against the efforts of a 5 - 6 person team.
PROFESSORS and TAs : If you see a group of same-race people sitting together in an exam, fucking break that group up ASAP.
In retrospect, most of my friends from college are still unemployed.
Additive sum, I think academia is doomed. It's done a worse job adapting than politics and religion, equally baroque and antiquated fields. I long for something like Ars Digita or Kahn Academy to become the norm. We need to push education out to the individual and get rid of the institutionalized cookie cutter bullshit.
People either want to enhance their understanding of the world or they don't. A credential or piece of paper doesn't do that, and that's all the vast majority of people in education are going for. We need to cut down to the root and find ways to instill genuine thirst for knowledge and then let people pursue that in much less rigid ways at their own pace.
As an anecdote: I went to The Citadel. We had an honor code. Lie, cheat, steal -- you're gone. The honor court is run by students. Regularly, they'd expel close friends. Point being, you can hold people to standards if you hold people to standards.
My GPA was dismal but I can say sure as shit I never cheated or plagiarized to earn it. Only people who know what the school was all about would even account for this, which is kind of depressing.
what? how can there be cheaters to detect if the assignment is completely different?
The author misunderstood what his colleague meant (Or at least, only does a half-measure), which is why he says that "He is" changing them.
No the suggestion was not to create entirely new assignments every year. This is problematic, not because it takes time, but because is it hard to "debug" the assignment, and make it to be not too hard, not too easy, and not ambiguous. You cannot know this before actually giving the assignment out to students.
The senior professor was just suggesting to change the numbers, or small elements of the assignment. A thing that I was doing already.
I later found out the reason for this, the high population of foreign students. I'm generally not one to stereotype, but to have thought otherwise was to simply be living under a rock. It was pretty obvious that they tended to work together in fairly large groups or between several groups on their assignments and projects, and that the rest of us who were not were at a significant disadvantage. And while generally, I didn't /really/ care, as my grades tended to be good enough, and I am not the type to shoot for the A+, it really did make doing the assignments on my own very frustrating when I would get stuck. Spending all that extra time to figure it out on my own just wasn't as satisfying when I knew the class average for the assignments would just be artificially high anyways.
But in the end, i'm really going to grad school to learn, and not so much for amazing grades. It just would be nice to not be penalized for doing my own work.
The professors knew who the cheaters were and the cheaters knew what they were doing but when it actually came time to present the evidence to the academic review board the accused had a lame, but valid, excuse or tried the emotional appeal (death in family, drug abuse, child abuse).
The very first assignment I did in college was my own, some code I wrote for a programming class. I turned it in, but my friend was in the class didn't do his assignment. I figured it was a basic enough problem and I really just turned in the assignment for him. We both got slaps on the wrist, but I never blatantly plagiarized again. I'm not saying I've never reused a sentence from another document on occasion, but usually it was either cited or more unconscious.
The big bummer in college was exactly what he talks about though: the propensity for students in some sort of group to help each other out. The fraternities and athletes were always the worst offenders. For the general eds, everyone in class knew that so and so had a copy of this professors test which he barely changes from year to year, or this fraternity keeps all their papers from previous classes categorized(!) so other members can use them, and that sort of stuff.
I didn't use turnitin or other mechanisms. I figure, if someone is smart enough to cheat well enough that it's not detectable, it's okay to pass that person. It's not "great", but it's not unleashing a total disaster onto the world.
The cheating I detected was usually because those students were moronic. I am not talking "slightly different". I'm talking, copy-pasted from prior semesters, with 1 modification: the name. Or copy-pasted from the other person in the class with 1 modification.
EDIT: I just read where he teaches. I'm still surprised there's no policy or that the policy isn't enforced.
Panos, I think your conclusion is the correct one - and you should stand by it. I came to a similar conclusion (different setting) about cheating, and whether it's worth it to pursue it. In more than just teaching, switching strategies is often more effective than enforcing the original strategy.
I hear you're a good lecturer - take pride in that. There aren't many, really.
This article really shines light on why cheating is still so pervasive despite how it damages the learning process. For students, the risk tends to be low while the reward is high. For teachers, the process of eliminating cheating is draining and is often met with negative feedback.
This only leads me to think that cheating will continue to infect our education, until there is a fundamental change in the rewards/feedback system (for students and teachers) in our academic system.
I'm not sure this will work, but people have strange behavioral motivations and incentives. It reminds me of the daycare that wanted parents to not pick up their kids late (as employees had to remain to watch the children). Their solution was to impose a penalty for any extra time over the scheduled pickup time. On the surface, you would think this helped, but instead it had the opposite effect. Parents now understood that it was OK to leave their kids longer because they were being charged for it, whereas before there was a social stigma of arriving late and inconveniencing the daycare center.
With students, it's possible that making plagiarism acceptable on the surface with well-defined penalties may have the desired (and opposite) effect of reducing total cheating.
Also, couldn't the grading structure be established in such a way that it is impossible to pass the class without knowing the material demonstrated through exams? If the only (or most significant) portion of the grade comes through reports and take-home, cheater-friendly exercises, then the grade structure would seem to be broken. Cheating on the homework should only hurt the students, since they won't be able to cheat on the tests, and obviously haven't learned the material enough to do the homework on their own.
But I guess school is now just a status thing that you do to satisfy other people instead of yourself (or so everyone says), so why should anyone care about doing it honestly?
I've often heard that from professors in the US, but in my university in France we had a rule forbidding professors from reusing exams and things were fine... Now one thing though, exams were made so that the average is around 10 or 12 out of 20... In cases where the gaussian curve was centered too low, the teachers would decide to grade out of 22 or 24 points...
I have to say though that the idea of using public project, competitions and peer reviewed projects is a very good idea and worked well when I was a student...
My university has a lot of rules too, and the majority are worthless.
I know for a fact that no exam were reused because the previous years exams were available at the library for students who wanted to study... Since most of the exams were open book, with a world problem to solve in about 3 hours, they were actually fun to study from.
Another course I took that term was statistics for economics, for some of the assignments the data used for the questions were chosen by the students themselves (limited to a specific time frame to prevent plagiarism). In the end I think the professor and TAs only checked our formulas rather than our answers because of the time it would have taken to find the correct solution for each problem but this is an interesting way to combat plagiarism.
I had a professor in college who had used the exact same test for 10 years. It was so well known that a "key" had been cobbled together over the years with all of the correct answers and you could readily get n-generation photocopies of this "key".
Only a few of us declined this tempting document, wanting to actually learn the material. It eventually became known that the test itself was a copy of a test from another professor at another school.
Later in my grad program, we received quite a bit of instruction from professors who were clearly just using the slides that came with the textbook as their lecture material.
I've always wondered if one could trace assignments and exams and answers through some very large citation graph...even better over time, seeing how one ancient paper has provided passing grades for generations of students.
On the other, I'm really disappointed you aren't sticking with it. Never mind anything else, isn't it your obligation to protect your honest students? I appreciate that your colleagues aren't supportive, but that doesn't change your obligations.
And I suspect it's a short-sighted view. Word gets around, in a couple of semesters you'll drive the cheaters out, and probably attract more honest students who are tired of them.
Finally, I question the value of a course that doesn't generate core skills susceptible of demonstration. I've got an MBA, and I learned a lot getting it. But most of my courses were finance and accounting. I took only a couple of strategy and accounting courses, when I was sure that the qualitative material would be handled with rigor, and in some framework that prevented the vague concepts and buzzwords from dominating the conversation. Every time I probed the "soft" courses by less rigorous teachers, I came away convinced they really weren't teaching much that would last. And I'm afraid it's my opinion that most MBA coursework is of this limited value. It is _possible_ to rigorously study qualitative subjects, but it requires considerable discipline.
If your students aren't distinguishably improved by the end of the course, just what was the point of the course? If you aren't enforcing the discipline of the honor code, why would you be expected to enforce the discipline of field? By all means, go after the cheaters -- and go after the fundamental questions of why it's even possible to cheat in your course.
For all those misgivings, I have to credit you for bringing up the issue. There is a lot of rot in our academies, and they urgently need people to demand more of the students. You've already tolerated a lot of controversy to come to this point. But don't stop now, and don't stop with students. Demand more of yourself until your course is something that changes your students in ways that can't be faked.
Thinking a bit more about it, I think that plagiarism is in big parts a symptom of another, bigger problem: making education a competition.
Think about it: would stundents cheat so much if it wasn't for the pressure of getting good grades?
The pressure comes from parents, peers, from the students themselves and from the fear that they won't get a job with bad grades.
Grades serve multiple purposes as well: they give the students a feedback how well they performed, they determine pass/fail, and they tell a possible employer how well the student performed.
Maybe detangling these purposes in some way (though I don't have a good idea how) might be a good way at reducing some of the pressure, and alleviate the pressure for good grades and thus cheating somehow?
Reading the article and see the greater and greater extents the students were going through to cheat and the arms-race occurring between the teacher and the students, he leads you to his ultimate conclusion: the game has to change.
You can see the writing on the wall as you read through. Written "brain dump" style assignments, unless changed every year, aren't going to yield great results. Interactive, group-driven projects, competitions and discussions are all things that are much harder to plagiarize, are more fun and will (hopefully) teach the students more.
Not to mention more fun to teach.
I have a lot of teachers in my family (midwest) and none of them glow when they talk about teaching... they describe it like a war of attrition between the teachers, the students and the administration... like there is some clock ticking away slowly in the background and everyone is going through the motions just trying to outlast everyone else. I am talking about 2 separate generations here, like 40 years apart saying the same thing.
I can't imagine a shittier experience.
On the other hand, I am friends with a few (younger) teachers out here in the west that are rabid about how exciting their class is and how much fun they have.
The common denominator here is that the ones having a blast frequently do highly engaging and custom events in the classroom like re-enacting scenes from a play in drama on-the-fly or the poly-sci teacher segregated his class for a week while teaching about separate-but-equal.
Those are micro-examples, but what I'm getting at is that the teachers that recognize that the game has changed are still having a great time teaching.
Just like /cgi-bin shopping carts and "DO NOT HIT 'Purchase' TWICE!" buttons are dead on the web, so is the schooling experience of yester-year. If school wants to stay relevant, it has to compete with the allure of these extremely fast lives we live now. People cashing in $100,000,000 companies at 22 makes it tough to argue why your kid should stay in school until he's 73 so he can make $80k as an architect.
I wouldn't want to go to school now, a lot of things seem in flux. Notice how popular the "Why go to college?!" conversation is now adays?
I think in 10-15 years it will be much different/more effective with a different outlook though; that'll be a more engaging and compelling experience I hope.
I can assure you that conversation (in the context you mean) is not happening all over, but rather limited to a small subset of Internet echo chambers.
My kids still get the same rhetoric from all directions. Unfortunately, that rhetoric doesn't include a cost/value justification. Education is an investment and a means to an end, but most people don't see it that way.
'people' cashing in 100M companies is as common a career path as "NFL Athlete". It works for a very few, special people, but not the broader population.
I know a lot of the CS people on here look down on business education, but the real value in it is not learning specific facts like "what is WiMax" but instead being able to work on a team to create something and being able to communicate and discuss business problems intelligently.
The team projects and case study discussions is really where I learned things. Traditional assignments in a business course don't really make a lot of sense.
This was the reason that, initially, I did not bother penalizing the copy & paste behavior for these questions. But, unfortunately, this was just a signal of a deeper problem with the student. After going through unharmed in the first assignment, the student cheated again in the second, Excel-based assignment.
In addition, the turnitin service itself has its own quirks. I remember when we used it back in high school, it would pick up direct quotes even if they were in quotation marks and use those matching strings to contribute to the total "originality score."
(Clarifications. To stay enrolled, I have to maintain high grades, which means homework is an obligation. And yes, I have other motives for attending uni beyond someone telling me what I should learn next. There's the value of a degree outshining being self-taught and how close to 99% of students from my highschool take higher education. University is part of the culture here.)
In my engineering courses (both as a student and TA), assignments were worth very little, or sometimes not handed in at all, and were instead a tool for the student to learn the coursework. Marks were largely based on quizzes, midterms and finals (usually worth 80 to 90% of the course grade). It's not an ideal solution, as there are skills that cannot be tested in these conditions, but it eliminates the need to spend time on detecting cheating on assignments. Of course, it is important to prevent cheating during examinations, but this is a much more tractable problem.
Pretty much any question can be answered by copy/paste from the internet. That doesn't mean it would be a good or acceptable answer.
I don't. I think that the internet contains information that can be used to assemble an answer, for pretty much any undergraduate question you can think of. (That assembly can be done using copy/paste, if you are lazy, and that will generally result in the answer being in substandard language. But it would still have all the relevant information and it would be hard to disentangle a copy/pasted answer from whether someone is just a poor writer.)
In my opinion this is one of the primary issues with a lot of teachers: I don't believe a teacher's job is specifically to narrowly teach the subject matter at hand, but more broadly teach the student whatever it takes to assist the student in succeeding in life, and especially within their given field. This would include cheating. Ignoring cheaters is contrary to this purpose.
What I mean is: You do what you can within your means and within the reasonable timeframes given to you by the course, and not necessarily carry the complete burden of their success on your shoulders. In my opinion it's the responsibility of everyone -- parents, peers, the community, teachers, administrators, and whoever else -- to teach, and foster the learning environment in such a way that maximizes the chance of success to the younger citizens of this world. If you view the responsibility as being shared between all, the pressure naturally significantly decreases as you know you directly can't be blamed if things don't work out for your students. It's a complex system.
At the simplest level, don't people attend school to assist them in being successful in life? Assist them in growing and developing into whatever they want to be? If that's so, and being that teachers are the most important parts of the school environment (other than the students themselves), isn't one of the teacher's primary jobs to assist in this success? Because teachers spend so much time with students, they naturally have tremendous (though varying degrees of) influence. If a teacher is lazy, naturally students will be encouraged to be lazy. If a teacher acts like it's OK to cheat, naturally students will be more likely to think it's OK to cheat.
There are bigger questions at hand than the direct and concrete subject matter of an individual university course, and in a lot of cases I believe these questions are just as important, if not more important. Most importantly, keeping these larger questions in mind assist students in staying properly focused and motivated, and thus increasing chance of achievement.
So yes, I do believe you should do what you can to bring success to your students.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this:
At the simplest level, don't people attend school to assist them in being successful in life? Assist them in growing and developing into whatever they want to be? If that's so, and being that teachers are the most important parts of the school environment, isn't one of the teacher's primary jobs to assist in this success? Because teachers spend so much time with students, they naturally have tremendous (though varying degrees of) influence. If a teacher is lazy, naturally students will be encouraged to be lazy. If a teacher acts like it's OK to cheat, naturally students will be more likely to think it's OK to cheat.
I think students in this country respond to this, and thus internalize this dynamic. If they get a bad grade, it must have been because the teacher was boring, or the subject wasn't interesting. This idea is pretty unique to this country from my understanding. The sense of entitlement is just astounding.
>isn't one of the teacher's primary jobs to assist in this success?
Ideally, this would be true. I just think its an unfair burden on a teacher to be expected to accomplish this, no matter how ill prepared or unfocused a student is. I believe the student has to come to class prepared to learn. The teacher cannot be expected to mold an unwilling child into a willing one.
The situation changes even more at university. The professor's main job isn't teacher. He can no longer be completely focused on helping each student succeed. He's there to impart his knowledge and experience. Its up to the student to get as much out of it as they're willing. Somehow the growing responsibility of teachers in a K-12 setting has crept up into university as well. Probably because the students and parents carry that expectation along with them. We're no longer seeing the students as adults who are there because they want to (I guess this is actually true these days with social pressures making college an extension of high school). Simply put, the burden is just too much for a teacher of possibly hundreds of students. The coddling and babying has to come from elsewhere.
So let's assume for a moment that students, as they should, take that responsibility. What then is the role of the professor?
Even here, my belief is that it's still the professors duty to seek to create the ideal learning environment for each student (or the majority). This includes trying to maximize learning outcomes by making the course as interesting as they can. Wherever possible, this includes learning about each student, learning where they are mentally in their journey (through personal time, tests, projects), and wherever it benefits the student, be open to that change wherever it makes sense.
At research universities I agree professors have a dual duty. However, I disagree that these duties are and should be separate, and rather often (again, not always) should and can be reciprocal and build off of one another.
> The situation changes even more at university. The professor's main job isn't teacher.
> He's there to impart his knowledge and experience.
Studies show over and over again that knowledge isn't "imparted". You can have a professor stand at the front of the class and talk for 50 minutes about what he knows. Is that "teaching", even if 0/100 of the students are listening, or if 0/100 can comprehend what the teacher is saying? Why is the focus on lecturing, or "imparting knowledge", rather than on enabling learning? I believe this shift in mindset would change nearly everything. Anyway, I sat through numerous classes like described above, and the amount I learned from the lectures ranged from nothing to very little. I agree I would've learned more if I would have taken responsibility for my learning, however I fear I would've faster quit or changed schools/courses than go to another one of their classes because of the incredible inefficiency of it. Teaching/lecturing can be worth while, even for an autodidact, however not unless the teacher deeply cares about learning outcomes in addition to lecturing.
One last point: Students/parents pay ridiculous sums and go into ridiculous debt for a university education. You have to understand that saying that the professors (the core of the university experience) main job isn't teaching is something very hard to grasp for both students and parents. Perhaps for a good reason?
Unless things have changed, the amount of cheating in Stern is astronomical compared to courses from the other schools within NYU: Of course there were cheating problems elsewhere, but nowhere else was it done as brazenly or as part of the shared culture of the student body.
Asking students not to open a browser to hunt for information is akin to not opening text books. not going to happen. when you are asking for an proven explanation the best you can expect is modified regurgitation of a know existing explanation. there are times when this is not as straightforward as it seems and there is effort required to do so.
the person really getting the short straw is the student. after paying a hundred grand, to sit in a class, they spend time understanding others opinions, instead of coming up with an original/fresh understanding of the problem.
'studying' or working on problems as a group is not going to go away. working as a group is the best way to stay motivated and focused when you are have 20 + course credits a semester. the best classes i have been in are those where the instructor divides the class into work groups and them adjusts the score by the individual members scores based on their contribution to a group ( much more real word scenario)
the authors efforts to creatively test the students and his success in dong so underscores my point. the system has the wrong incentives. more so for the students by not testing for their ability ,creativity, skills and understanding.
i really do feel for the author. i feel his pain and dissapointment and i hope things get better for him and his class. there are more uncaring/misguided teachers than bad/hopeless students.and i hope this teacher does not turn that dark corner. and we all know , there needs to be just one great teacher to set a student in the right path.
good luck .
What are his students supposed to be able to do, eventually? Navigating around the limits of legality to maximize profit; understand, exploit and tweak incentives (the ones they're subjected to, and the one they impose onto others) to get a maximum result out of a minimal investment; bullshitting their way out of avoidable or unrewarding workload; getting as much personal credit as possible, deserved or not, in corporate political games; etc.
They're not expected to value hard work, patience, friendship and fair play; it's their future job to commit as much "aggressive optimization" (which might be called cheating indeed, and would be bad in many other contexts) as they can get away with. These are the rules of the game; you're welcome to dislike them, but then, pick another game.
I believe the author had the choice between embracing these values, or go and teach somewhere else. He's here to maximize the school's bottom line, by juicing out as much money as possible in tuition fees, after all.
Why? The university should not pursue cheating. It hurts the credibility. All the teachers do so. On your own, it makes no sense to waste your time, others will take care of. Once announced, the news spreads and everyone losses.
I know I'm exaggerating, a little, I'm just trying to make a point. Schooling other people and forcing them not to "cheat" just for the sake of, well, schooling, doesn't have any benefits and it's nothing like what happens in real life. We're all trying to build things on the shoulders of giants.
Not sure if I'm feeding a troll here, but the amount of 'why do I have to read this book, I will never need what's in it anyway'-style failure to understand the purpose of deliberate practice is high so you may actually believe yourself that your argument makes sense.
(Cheaters, you should be figuring out how to crib a nice github account, not how to pass exams.)
A pilot study compared the reported rate of cheating among 47 upper-level mathematics students and 46 mathematically underprepared students using direct questioning and the randomized response technique. The forced alternative randomized response technique was employed to assess attitudes held about cheating and to estimate reported rates of cheating among 298 community college mathematics students. Factors related to cheating such as age, gender, birthplace, religiosity, membership in a religious organization, involvement in extracurricular activities, and self-perception of honesty were also explored. Hypotheses were tested using chi square tests of independence, frequency distributions, z-tests for significance, and a randomized response formula.
The estimated percent of mathematics students who report that they cheated while attending M-DCC was 31%. The forced alternative randomized response technique was found to have utility in a group setting. Direct questioning underestimated the reported rate of cheating; however, differences were not statistically significant.
Upper-level mathematics students reported they cheated at the same rate as mathematically underprepared students. Calculus students were less likely to report someone for cheating. Males, students under 25 years old, and students born abroad also agreed that reporting cheating was worse than actually cheating. Students who reported they had cheated were more likely to be formally affiliated with a religious organization. Reported rate of cheating was inversely related to self-perception of honesty. Students over 25 years of age were the least likely to cheat.
Recommendations included: further investigation of the randomized response technique, particularly where the actual incidence of the sensitive behavior can be determined and compared with the estimated proportions; a comparison of cheating behaviors and attitudes among younger students and older students; and research to clarify the relationship between cheating and religiosity.
This professor is considering only what path will avoid the most hassle and difficulty for himself. Any duty he might owe honest students, fellow faculty, or even society at large doesn't seem to figure into it. He seems to see no problem at all with effectively selling high grades to cheaters, so long as there's no risk or hassle involved for him.
And because he gets to use a term like Nash Equilibrium to describe it, he's not even ashamed.
An example of what you are doing in your job for coworkers and society at large while being penalized for it by your employer would be appropriate here.
Because it is the right and honorable thing to do in his position. If doing the right thing were always easy and profitable, we'd have no need for morals.
There are lots of situations where people are encouraged and rewarded for doing the wrong thing in their line of work.
There are state prosecutors whose compensation depends on how many criminals they successfully prosecute, so they take cases where the law is obviously unjust but they can win (when using their discretion to safeguard justice is supposed to be part of the job).
There are salesmen whose compensation depends entirely on how many units they are able to sell, so they lie to customers.
There are soldiers who are ordered to engage in immoral acts. It is an essential part of their duty to refuse those orders, but that decision certainly does not come without stress and cost.
I worked in defense contracting, and sometimes served as an engineering liason to various national defense organizations. There was occasionally immense social pressure on me to make our products look better than they were . . . but--and never mind that it would have been in my employer's interest--that would have been wrong.
I could go on. The point is this: in most circumstances in life, there are ways to make money or make life less stressful by doing the wrong thing. You can argue that that's the fault of the people at the top of the system -- they've set up the incentives wrong. I agree; having a just society literally means that the incentives point toward right behavior. But that is their problem, not yours. Your duty is to do the right thing, regardless of the circumstances.
Academia has a role in both teaching and certifying knowledge, and is paid by students for the certification, not by industry for its accuracy. There is certainly moral hazard in that, and it deserves a systemic fix. That is no excuse for succumbing to it, for throwing up one's hands, blaming the system, and unleashing remorseless cheaters on fellow faculty and society.
(I do think the strategy he described -- spending two hours per student trying to force a confession -- is unreasonable. Detection, notification, and escalation to school enforcement is a reasonable approach. Giving up and blaming the system is not.)
I agree that it is the responsibility of the school to have systems in place that provide the right incentives. But it is also the responsibility of the professors to defend the academic integrity of the school as much as they are involved with it.
Moral responsibility does not always add up to 100%.
I guess it depends on the circumstance. If the school knowingly encourages cheating for profit, I would think integrity demands playing whistleblower. In fact, I'd apply that to any organization knowningly doing something shady -- bring it to light or accept guilt as an accomplice.
If the school believes in academic integrity, but the compensation for teachers results in perverse incentives, it is important to do the right thing anyway--defend the academic integrity of the school, work on fixing the system, and in the mean time put social pressure on other teachers to do the right thing until the system is fixed.
I agree that it's not the professor's responsibility to pursue the matter beyond his influence at the school. If there's an office of academic honesty, but it's lax, the best he can do is lobby to improve it. But inasmuch as professors have absolute control over the grades they distribute, I do think they have a responsibility to be fair with them.
I can see leaving an institution over a lack of academic honesty. I can see working to reform or improve one. I can see failing a student for cheating, but washing your hands of it when the school does nothing further. What I cannot see is saying to society at large, "On my reputation as an expert, this student can do calculus," when you aren't sure it's true, for the sake of a less stressful workplace and a higher salary.
Similarly for a teacher who puts in a commendable effort to weed out cheaters only to be essentially punished for it by the administration. It's his job to make note of cheaters, but the responsibility for doling out consequences is a cooperative effort between the professor and the administration. If the administration isn't doing their job, and exposing this risks his own career and livelihood (for a professor publicly going against his administrations this might actually be the case), I don't think he has this responsibility.
I can respect a principle of proportionality -- I don't think it makes sense to risk a life life to stop a petty theft. But I absolutely cannot agree with the line of thinking that says because something is one person's moral responsibility, it isn't another's. To my way of thinking, any evil you know about is your responsibility to fight. Or at least not cooperate with. Personal cost doesn't enter into it.
I think sometimes life doesn't offer you a middle ground between heroism and cowardice.
I am all for embracing structurally cheat-proof methods, but his focus is on personal efficiency first.
These were not math or language tests. The Spanish word for test is “examen” but if all I have done is copied the answer from my neighbor during a test I will not have made any progress in learning the language. Cheating is penalized because the student is cheating himself out of the opportunity to learn. I do not see how students who do research on the Internet and compile that research in answering a question have cheated. If you want to demand more rigorous citations from your students, demand them. If a fraternity brother has answered the question, give him credit. Improve on his work if you can. These are real world skills, and to the extent that business school insists on archaic essay writing the students are being done a disservice.
Copy paste demonstrates or develops none of these, other than "report composition", and possibly "identifying worthwhile sources".
If you think consultants, such as McKinsey, require the later skills only, and NOT the former, you are rather misguided.
You really think so?
The more diplomas you give to students who learned nothing, the more the rest of the world will pick up on it and refuse to hire anyone from your University.
People such as your parent post make my life easier, I guess: when in doubt, I can get lazy and throw the résumé in the trash. Otherwise, I think that it's way past time for universities to start caring about grade inflation, whether it comes from widespread cheating or from lazy professors.
So the diploma is worth more, for the students who just scrape by. Unless diplomas start to lose all credibility.
Actually, everyone suffers. Fellow students suffer, as some are compelled to cheat to compete because their peers do. Alumni suffer as students grades lose their value and the university is seen as less rigorous. Similarly for academia as a whole. Finally, society has to deal with whole cohorts that have been formally rewarded for making poor ethical choices.
Do you think after succeeding with cheating through college, they can turn it off like a switch when the stakes are higher?
At the very least, it matters, if only a little, to the reputation of the institution. If they start turning out plagiarizing idiots, eventually they become unable to charge as much for that education.
Unless it turns into a complete party place, the university will do just fine and employers don't really care what your grades are and how you got them.
"habitual plagiarism ... can have very serious consequences in their professional life"
This is something academics believe because it justifies their policies, but it isn't true, at least in entrepreneurship. Those who can "cheat" without violating the trust of those who matter or facing legal consequences are those who succeed. Those who play by all the rules bitch on HN about "stolen ideas" and cutthroat business practices instead of synthesizing ideas and looking for unfair advantages.
Cheat if it suits you, learn what you want to learn, get the credentials you need, cover your ass, and build the life you want. Life is not a your grade, but neither is it the opinion of a professor over what you should be doing with your time - copying or writing.
I would never hire someone for my startup who came to me and said, "I cheated through college, so I know how to be cutthroat in business." If you don't have the personal integrity to manage yourself, why would I ever think you would manage something of mine?
The goal of the scholastic experience is so that you, the student, learns something.
If the school turns out people who didn't learn, they are producing worthlessness.
It is a lie to say that you have a degree, when you really have a collection of credits that you cheated through. The degree is worthless and should be sent back.
"Cheating" for me means getting one or two hints at an exam and with the exam situation being what it is, those hints typically only really help to jog your memory if you did study. It does not mean downright plagiarizing your thesis and 90% of your studies.
But US Americans seem to be offended even at the idea of getting or sharing a single hint during an exam. Here in Europe you could easily loose "street cred" and be forever labeled as the worst kind of "nerd" if you did NOT at least try to help a fellow student on purpose. Again, I am not talking about writing 100% of homework for you but sharing a hint or a small piece of help during an exam.
Funnily, we had a few very, very high profile cases of plagiarized doctorates amongst politicians here in Germany. Their degree was taken away from them of course.
I assure you, what you describe is considered cheating, but the cheating that usually takes place is far more comprehensive.
20-95% of the content in some of these papers was being copied straight off the web without even a citation. It's plagiarism, just like the high-profile cases you recently had. How is that not cheating?
Pupils in school would try it, also students later on might try to... generally it is the duty of the teacher or professor to keep students from cheating here and 95% of the time they are very successful at it. The remaining 5% are considered fair game by the students.
Most tests (as in over 90%) do not allow you to use books or any other material; sometimes students would try to hide notes or get an answer from a fellow student but ultimately with the teacher watching and the situation in the class room being really quiet, in most cases there is hardly anything you can really do or find out anyway but maybe you can get one or two hints tops.
Also, most exams (at least where I studied) did not have multiple choice tests instead you would have to write a proper answer and apply knowledge. So at best someone could whisper a clue or hint you in the right direction
In case you got caught talking/cheating you might get one or two warnings and then your test is taken away from you and maybe also from the person you were talking to, depending on course and professor.
The difference for me is: amongst students, it is not a "crime" here.. you are trying to help your fellow colleagues mostly "against" the teacher and while still covering your own ass. It would be considered rather offending NOT to help on purpose when you have the chance to.
Another difference might be: I did not have to pay upwards of 100k to get a decent education. So maybe studying is more a "commodity" here in Euroland.
Unfortunately America has also become infested by the idea that punishment creates virtuous people, especially among those with an authoritarian bent. Attempts to outlaw decentralism fail, so they pack all the authoritarianism into those cases where centralized intervention is needed. Hence the rise of zero-tolerance policies for everything. That's how we reach the point where a university opens up a can of ass-whip for a essay that forgot a pair of quotation marks (you can't swing a dead cat in the English department without hitting a sanctimonious liberal).
The rules governing cheating are even sometimes called "Honor Codes".
Finally, from a Christian perspective, putting your name on work you did not complete is a form of lying and is immoral.
I suspect that the HN majority is atheist, but it's still no excuse.
Really? I get a sense that there's some outspoken atheists here, but I don't see it as a majority.
I guess that would make an interesting poll.
When curves come in to play it means the honest students are getting lower scores than the dishonest ones even though they are learning more. This can suck in a lot of fields where grades matter.
The refrain that it only hurts the cheater needs to stop being something people say when this topic comes up. It is a serious problem that is undermining learning in our classrooms and it needs to be addressed, it is not a victimless act. It certainly does hurt the cheater, but it doesn't only hurt the cheater.
Don't fix it for the sake of the dishonest students, fix it for the sake of the honest ones.
Makes sense, really - I've found that your actual skills are the primary limiting factor on your salary, and credentials just make it easier to get the jobs you're already qualified for. While some folks try to game the credentials, the rest of us are working on skills so we can hit the ground running, and actual, tangible accomplishments speak much more loudly than degrees.
And, this is the fundamental problem: the schools really aren't in the teaching game. They are in the successful enrollment game.
As a result of the cheating, grade inflation becomes worse and a possibly highly able candidate with a 3.4 GPA may completely miss the "GPA filter" on a resume sorting algorithm for a cheater with a 3.6.
As long as you work for someone who doesn't actually know what you're doing, it's not that hard to hide the fact you don't know either ;)
"One interesting observation: Almost all cheating happened within ethnic lines. Koreans copy from Koreans. Indians from Indians. Greeks from Greeks. Jews from Jews. Chinese from Chinese."
This would appear to show some form of bias, or at least a lack of cultural understanding by Panos Ipeirotis, who I'm assuming is of Greek origin based on his name.
With that disclaimer in mind, the vast majority of Jews - due to traditional prohibitions against intermarriage and low numbers of converts - originate from the general area where the State of Israel is today. Here, both the founding myths in the Torah and modern genetic testing are in agreement.