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 @ 8:47pm

    Enough with the spin..

    So watch out for anyone who attended his class, and did the exam, and also attended an ethics course.

    Its a fair bet, they are the self admitted cheaters..

    I hope that also includes a FAIL, for that course, and a re test of all those dirty cheats..

    Sure, the students robbed the bank but its the banks fault, as they had all that nice smelling money there..

    What is the difference ?

    Testbank and trial exam's are for those who study the material THEN try some example questions to test their ability and understanding of the subject.

    Not to give you a bank of questions that will be ask that you just have to memorize..

    Trying to deflect the blame in any way onto the teacher is just silly, really its not the teacher that has to find a career, a job, and live their life, actually knowing things, but more importantly, knowing how to learn things.

    Thats what you're tax payer funded schools are for, you pay them to teach people how to learn, not how to cheat and game the system.

    It hurts everyone, if you are not capable of what you claim you are.

    Ofcourse, Mike works on this principle, if you dont want to think for yourself, Mike will happily give you all the idea's and thoughts for you. But Mike is the product of this problem, it appears he does not think about any issues, just copies what others are saying. When mike does put forward an opinion, he clearly displays little or no real knowledge of the subject matter.

    (like copyright, or freedom of speech, or the Consitituion).

    Because it takes almost ZERO time to check Mikes statements for truthfullness and most if not all the time, I find what Mike has said is a mis-representation of the facts. Or just outright wrong.

    Here is a test question for you Mike, open book.

    Write an article with the heading:

    "Copyright and the first amendment, and how the Constitution relates to copyright, in in consideration the 14th Amendment".

    You might want to include a section on how it applies to the law, both Federal and State. And to the Surprime Court.

    I could give you some help, but it would be interesting to hear what your opinion of Free speech and copyright relate.

    That would also have to include an analysis of what free speech means, and what it applies too.

    It would be interesting to see what you have to say Mike, but I do not expect great work from you, but have a go, if you are game.

    If you have all this knowledge, experience and so on, you keep saying you have.

    Then give us your opus, your "E=MC2".

    So show us all your expertise, your experience and deep knowledge of this subject. Give us some substance please..

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