200 Students Admit To 'Cheating' On Exam... But Bigger Question Is If It Was Really Cheating Or Studying

from the wait-a-second... dept

A friend passed on this Telegraph story about how 200 students in a Strategic Management class at the University of Central Florida came forward to admit to "cheating" on the midterm exam after the professor in the class, Richard Quinn, gave a lecture where he noted the evidence that about 1/3 of the 600 student class had "cheated" on the exam. He then gave them an option: saying that, if they admitted to cheating within a week,re they would be able to complete the class and the incident would not go on their record and they would not face discipline (they also had to take an ethics class). If they did not, and they were still caught, then they could face expulsion for violating academic integrity policies. You can watch the video of the lecture here:
Not surprisingly, the story of 200 students "turning themselves over" made all sorts of headlines. It's a good story of "cheaters" being pressured into 'fessing up... right? It's leading to typical hand-wringing stories about what should we do about cheating in schools. But, as I watched the video, the whole thing started to feel just a little bit off... My main interest was to learn two things: (1) what the students did to cheat and (2) how the professor was identifying who cheated. Both points seemed like pertinent details.

The answer to that first one surprised me. The "cheating" was that students got their hands on the textbook publisher's "testbank" of questions. Many publishers have a testbank that professors can use as sample test questions. But watching Quinn's video, it became clear that in accusing his students of "cheating" he was really admitting that he wasn't actually writing his own tests, but merely pulling questions from a testbank. That struck me as odd -- and I wasn't really sure that what the students did should count as cheating. Taking "sample tests" is a very good way to learn material, and going through a testbank is a good way to practice "sample" questions. It seemed like the bigger issue wasn't what the students did... but what the professor did.

In looking around, it looks like a lot of the students agree. They're saying that the real issue is that Prof. Quinn simply copied questions from the publisher, rather than actually recreating his own test, and noting that this seems like a massive double standard. The professor is allowed to just copy questions from others for his tests? In fact, some of the students have put together a video pointing out that, at the beginning of the year, Prof. Quinn claimed that he had written the test questions himself. As the article notes:
Can the UCF students be blamed for using all the available tools to study for the test? How were the students to know that Quinn would take his questions from the test bank, when he explicitly said that professors do not do so any more? Moreover, why did Quinn tell his students that he is the one who creates the mid-term and final exams, when in fact it wasn’t so?
The students have put together a video pointing out where he said (in the first lecture) that he writes the questions himself:
The local student news operation sent a reporter to speak to Quinn and ask him about the double standard and his copying of questions, and Quinn totally ignored him:
Now, there's a pretty good chance that some of the students probably knew that Quinn was a lazy professor, who just used testbank questions, rather than writing his own. That's the kind of information that tends to get around. But it's still not clear that using testbank questions to study is really an ethical lapse. Taking sample tests is a good way to practice for an exam and to learn the subject matter. And while those 200 students "confessed," it seems like they did so mainly to avoid getting kicked out of school -- not because they really feel they did anything wrong -- and I might have to agree with them.

We've seen plenty of stories over the years about professors trying to keep up with modern technology -- and I recognize that it's difficult to keep creating new exams for classes. But in this case, it looks like Prof. Quinn barely created anything at all. He just pulled questions from a source that the students had access to as well and copied them verbatim. It would seem that, even if you think the students did wrong here, the Professor was equally negligent. Will he have to sit through an ethics class too?

Filed Under: cheating, ethics, students, tests

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  1. icon
    AR (profile), 20 Nov 2010 @ 11:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "F" for Ethics 101

    "It was reported that the exam key was take"
    "Which is very different from using a test bank or test sample to study."

    The links you provide just lead to the "official" school report/statement. Keep in mind that the school is in damage control mode and is trying to cover its ... They wouldnt want the quality or integrity of its teachers brought into question.

    Now with that said, go back and watch the video again. Quinn admits that it was a test bank that was used. The school used the term "exam key" in order to confuse and influence opinion in its favor against the students. Like you said, if an exam key (which I interpret to be "the exact answers and only those answers") was taken, thats a totally different story.

    "that is why none of the students challenge the professor."

    At the time of the first video, the students are going through the accusation and threat phase. they are being told that if they dont admit guilt within so many days (extremely limited so as not to garner support) there lives and future careers will be forever ruined. That is the aggressive terror tactic used to force submission and redirect attention. So of course they are not going to confront him right there when he is saying if they do, he will destroy their lives. Again, re-watch the first video.

    This is going to lead to students who didnt use the test bank to admit their guilt when there was none. Just to protect themselves from this tactic, It will also give the school, and Quinn, higher numbers to quote as proof that they were right. Further convoluting the truth of what is really going on here.
    If Quinn would have done his job in the first place, as he states in the second video, none of this would be an issue. But instead he lies to them, only teaches the book, and uses the book publishers questions for the exam. Anyone with common sense could see that because of this, his classes are just "fluff" and to pass his class the only thing you need to learn is whats in the book. Not worth the large sums of money the student are paying.


    The second video IS their challenge to Quinn and his accusations

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