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.