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. identicon
    darryl, 21 Nov 2010 @ 1:20am

    Re: Cheating in real life

    If you get a job at a restaurant, based on the result of an exam that says you are able to make soup, and when you start your job, the first thing you have to do is look up how to make soup. Then YES you are cheating, you empolyer, yourself, and everyone else.

    You are claiming you are something you are not, because you passed a test to that effect, sure you cheated in that test and you do not know what you claim you know, so you are cheating, and lying as well.

    If it was not for people cheating there would be no requirement for job interviews, that is a requirement for a job interview, for your employer to determine if you are actualy what you say you are, or if you are cheating yourself by claiming abilities and skills you do not have.

    If you do not that that is cheating, then what do you think it is ?

    Also cheating, goes far further that cheating yourself, you are cheating against everyone else around you, you're supposed 'friends'. So you cheat so you get a better score, so you get a better position or a better school, or a scholarship, when the person who is actaully better than you misses out..

    So you are cheating on society, and you are doing it with out tax payers money.

    And you have Mike up there saying its all the professors fault, and the students are right to cheat because it was made available to them.. what a joke..

    I would be horrified if my kids ever turned out like Mike, self serving to the extreem, with a what's your's is mine and what is mine is mine..

    At least some people here see how stupid it is to try to defend cheating of this kind in any situation, and how petty it is to try to deflect blame onto the teacher.

    As if it is the teachers fault that his students decide to cheat themselves and their friends and family, expecially their family who are probably paying alot to get them an education, that they are taking as a game, a 'system to be gamed' for our own personal gains.

    what are we going to end up with, a generation of Mike santioned dolts who do not know anything, but think as they passed and cheated on exams that they do know somethings.. (how to cheat and steal)..

    And that is all they will have, they like mike will spend his days talking about subjects that clearly he has little knowledge off, but talks anyway, as if 'if mike says it enough then somehow it must be true'.

    But trying to blame the teacher because the students made a decision to cheat is a new time low..

    its not like the level of education in the US has ever been or is at an all time high..

    Last I looked the US educational standard was somewhere behind brazil, and well out of the top 10 world wide.. but cheating is ok, lets just blame the teacher.. there done..

    head back in sand time.

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