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 @ 7:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: Cheating in real life

    So you are equating mechanical engineering with having to memorise part numbers !!! ??

    Really, that is a bit silly is it not ?

    If you had to look up what a sporlan ball valve was or what a 1-1/8' ODF line is then you would be cheating..

    See the difference ?? obviously not..

    So if you start your new job, and your boss tells you to look up the part number for a sporlan ball valve for a 1-1/8" ODF line.

    And you reply to him.

    What the fuck is a sporlan ball valve? would you consider you got that job on being honest ?

    BTW: storemen look up parts numbers, engineers design parts. If you are being asked to look up part numbers, dont be calling yourself an engineer.

    I think it is sad on many levels if you believe education is just where you are given a certain number of facts and sent on your way..

    Because its not, education is supposed to teach people how to learn.
    And you learn by studying, research, thinking about things, working things out.

    You might gain some facts, if you cheat, ie the specific answers to specific questions, but that does not help you to learn how to learn.

    So you are unprepared in the real world, when you are asked to take on new skills and tasks, you do not have to ability to gain the information you require to get the job done..

    You dont know how to learn.

    Im an engineer as well, and electronics/systems engineer, as an engineer I would NEVER be asked to someone to look up a part number. Thats not my job, I will be told some like.

    "here is a list of specifications for a system, design something to meet those specifications".

    Quite often you have to learn new things, new techniques, things you did not learn in school.

    And if you do not have to ability to learn, research, study, and grasp the concepts. Then you have cheated, and you failed to learn the most important lesson you ever needed.

    And that is the ability to learn, reason, and think, create for yourself.

    Because most questions in life, do not come from a test bank, nor do they generally have a readilly available answer.

    Again, justify it all you like, you are only hurting yourself, your country, your society, your friends, your empolyers, you're government, every tax payer. but most importantly yourself.....

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