Tuesday, August 9, 2011

CCPhysicist channels Dean Dad

I never post or comment over on College Misery, but it makes a fun read once in a while to see what a wide spectrum of faculty and adjuncts are thinking. Last week there was a real eye opener that reminded me of what a nightmare it must be to be Dean Dad or my Dean dealing with spineless snowflake faculty.

I'm talking about Candy from Casa Grande on Plagiarism. Sigh. Talk about a failure to think before you write.

When you've put your policy against plagiarism in your syllabus (namely, plagiarism = FAIL), ... (much snipped) ...
WHAT DO YOU DO...When a student STILL decides to plagiarize?
What is your process for dealing with plagiarism?

What do you do? You do what you said you were going to do!

The time to ask this question is before you put it in your syllabus. Did you seriously think that no one would ever cheat in your class? That you would never have to confront a student in something other than a passive-agressive way with just a warning about cheating?

Can you imagine that nightmare that is your Dean's life when students show up complaining that you didn't enforce your policy, or treated two students differently at different times, or violated college policy on plagiarism? Trust me, the cheaters know the rules. Many have been caught more than once and know the system inside and out. You should also.

I'm not really channeling Dean Dad. I'm channeling my own Dean. He always reminds the new adjuncts and the old faculty of the importance of having uniform grading policies in your syllabus that are uniformly enforced, ideally with a clear rubric that is built into how you grade but need not be in your syllabus in our science classes. What goes in your syllabus is what you are going to do.

If plagiarism is an important part of your grading system, you need to decide what you are going to do -- consistent with college policy -- and then put what you will do in your syllabus. Then just do it.

There was a lot of good advice and some bad advice (to me) in the comments. Some of the bad advice (to me) might simply reflect the different policies in place at a different college. For example, I don't think an F for the entire course would be enforceable at my college for plagiarizing an essay that makes up no more than 10% of the grade, but I'm not in that business so I don't pay attention to that detail. YMMV.

I rather like our system, where the first instance of cheating gets penalized however you think appropriate (pick up exam if they answer a cell phone, for example) and is final unless they appeal the penalty. In my experience, no one ever does. Second offense gets the full treatment, but my experience is that they can't pass any later test if you are standing next to them. But that is our college's system, not mine, so I won't offer it as advice.

Did I mention that you have the right to seat a student anywhere in the classroom when they are taking a test? One Silverback Snowflake at my college once complained that two cheaters sat in the back row and appeared to have swapped exams. On every test. Uh, try saving a seat for them in the front row on opposite sides of the room on the second test, if you can't catch them in the act the first time.

Oh, and before I close, don't ever hand back the actual assignment that they cheated on. Turn back a photocopy and keep the original in your records.

And if you don't know the trick of turning back a photocopy of their Scantron sheets and keeping the originals, you've never heard about one of the most common schemes for cheating. (Those who like paperwork turn back the originals and keep a copy, preferring to punish those who claim their exam was mis-graded by the machine.) I don't use those infernal things, but I still take precautions to catch anyone who changes or adds a free-response answer after the exam is returned. I can't claim to catch everything, but I think I catch most of them.


rob said...

I'm a grad student at a university with R1 status in its sites (prior to budget cuts, that is), and the policy here is for all instances of cheating to be sent to the Dean's office and the instructor to carry on like nothing happened. I tend to like it because it has some guarantee of uniformity as the Dean has no emotional investment in the student. It does make the immediate application a little tricky, though: what do you do when you catch them with a cheat sheet?

Doctor Pion said...

What I would do is flag the exam grade and also record my tentative grade if that is part of what goes to the Dean.

And I would retain a copy of all evidence, the same copy I give the student, with originals going to the Dean.

If you are asking what I do during the exam, I collect the cheat sheet and do whatever seems relevant at the time. That might mean giving them a clean exam and marking the problems already completed if incriminating info has been copied from the cheat sheet to the exam.