Sunday, January 30, 2011

My new conundrum

(I just checked to make sure I spelled conundrum right.  I did.)

I was grading a precalculus assignment last night that involved some analyzation of sine and cosine graphs and equations.  Nothing hard mathematically, but it did involve some thinking (which for some of those kids is hard!).  I noticed as I was grading that there were several papers that had some of the same wrong answers.  I pulled those papers out and compared.

Word for word.  Number for number.  Identical.

The first two I saw didn't surprise me greatly.  But then I kept grading.

Two here the same.

Three here the same.

Two here the same.

From what I could tell, there are three different groups of identical papers.

Here's a couple:

One pair:

And another:

See what I mean?!

My first instinct was zeros all around.... but then I know someone actually did the work and though I want to punish them for cheating, I also want them to get some points for doing something.  So then I thought I'd see if the cheater(s) of each group will confess, then maybe I'll give the actual doer half credit.

I tweeted out my situation last night and got a few suggestions:

me:  How do you deal with cheating? Just graded precalc assign and had 11 identical papers. Ugh.

From @PamLPatterson: Sorry,hate when they do that. Major assgnmts get referred to our Ethics Council. HW I usually talk w/individually&policy is to give 0

From @mackrellr: I'd go all Judge Judy on em 2 get them to admit their wrongs-like get em 2 confess why you'd even suspect them of cheating.  still, they deserve due process & the punishment (student handbook) should fit the crime..

From @jamestantonGive them completely different grades. How can they complain?

From @PamLPatterson:  I like that idea! Give the first the grade it would be, then progressively lower the scores & observe. Are they jr & sr?

From @misscalcul8Class discussion: compare and contrast group work with cheating. See what they come up with and write a rubric/guideline? Try it out.

From @whiteley:  What is sch policy? Ours - 1st offense = zero + call to parents + 3 hrs detention. 2nd offense in same class = failure for the year.

Here's what our student handbook says:
Cheating/Plagiarism
1st Offense: No credit (zero) on the assignment and parent conference.  A disciplinary referral will be placed in the student’s file.
2nd Offense: No credit (zero) on assignment and parent conference. Student will be referred to an Assistant Principal for additional disciplinary measures, such as Saturday school, and/or suspension from school.

I guess I know what I need to do.  Just hate to do it.

This change worked for the majority of my students. No guarantees it will work for you, but thought I'd share my experience in case it helped.

2. At my college, if a prof catches academic dishonesty, s/he MUST investigate it and report it to the Dean. There is no turning a blind eye or working out deals with students off the record. I hate doing this kind of thing too, but when the students make it totally obvious like this, at least you can say that your hand was forced by their obviousness -- you were left with no choice but to follow the policy. That doesn't make it more palatable but it's something.

3. Ugh is right. I am in charge of our disciplinary body (8 students, 3 teachers, 1 vote each), so I think a lot about cheating. I also have had kids in my class cheat (not this year, knock on wood), and it feels AWFUL.

You said: "My first instinct was zeros all around.... but then I know someone actually did the work and though I want to punish them for cheating, I also want them to get some points for doing something. So then I thought I'd see if the cheater(s) of each group will confess, then maybe I'll give the actual doer half credit."

Personally, I would agree with the 0s all around bit. To me, both students are equally culpable. One student let another person copy their work. They took away that other person's opportunity to learn, and was acting unethically. They were helping the other kid copy. For me, this isn't a matter of doing the work or not doing it -- it's a matter of integrity. And both students didn't have it, if one let the other copy.

Another way to put it... if a student asks another student if he/she can copy off of their test, and they go through with the plan... and they admitted to the plan when talking with them... wouldn't you give both 0s?

The good thing about SBG (a la @Matt) is that there isn't as much incentive to copy homework if it doesn't count. (There is still some incentive... not looking dumb in class... not disappointing the teacher... etc.).

Sorry about having to deal with this. The conversations with the kids are really tough.

Sam

4. I also like misscalcul8's response in your tweet conversation. Have the discussion: groupwork and cheating, compare and contrast.

That way, everybody knows you noticed, but you're cutting them one (but only one) inch of slack. And with that inch, you get them to articulate for themselves why one if great and the other is completely counterproductive.

5. When I was a junior in HS, I let a "popular" boy copy my lab report (a major grade). Our teacher caught us and gave us both zeros. The experience still affects me. I never again gave anyone my answers. What I did was wrong and I am glad now that I was caught and punished. BTW, that zero resulted in my one and only C in HS. It really stung as I was a straight A student.

6. Thanks for all of your advice! I had a talk with my classes today about the difference between working together and copying. They told me there was a big difference and described them for me. I said that I felt disrespected and anyone who shared their homework should also feel disrespected.

I ended up giving all of the students 0s - it would've been really tough to determine who did what. I sent the parents e-mails today about what had happened (including the portion in our student handbook that outlines cheating and the punishment)... so far I've received 3 e-mails supporting me, one as a "wait and see", and one saying that they didn't cheat and "if you did not want them working on it together then maybe it should have been made more clearly". (And her student was one of the pictures I posted.)

This one could get interesting.

7. Whenever I encounter group cheating, I make copies of the offending work and show them to my administrator with a sarcastic “So what do you think about the similarities here? Coincidence?” If there is anything less than mutual outrage, I make it very clear how I feel about the cheating and that I expect my admin to back me up should any parents try to get the zeros washed away.

I’ve learned the hard way that you will ALWAYS get one or two parents giving the “maybe you should have explained more clearly what you consider cheating” defense of their kids. And those parents WILL call my administrators with their version of the truth. So I’ve learned to talk to my administrator about the cheating before they do.