Still Not Sure What to Make of This

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The latest article I've seen on the alleged cheating in the UVa economics department still doesn't get to what I think is the heart of the matter: were the students instructed to use no outside materials in answering their problem set?

The article mentions that students are presumed, almost expected, to work together in groups:

"It may be that structure of assignments for some of the courses will change," [Department Chair] Mills said. "I don't think this episode should prevent us from giving out assignments that students work together on."

Here's a hypothetical: Say a professor takes some problems from an old text that she believes the students don't have or haven't seen and assigns it for homework ("problem set" in the parlance of grad school). If a student happens have that book and recognize the problem , would going to the book to see what was done constitute cheating? Would there have to be explicit admonitions against looking at other texts?

I don't see where working in groups is different than searching the internet for help. A professor of mine used problem set questions to have us work on slightly altered versions of actual results, key "problems", and more. The contents of the problem were rewritten (simplified in some cases, made more abstract in others), but the basic concept was discussed openly once the work was turned in, as was the notion that people might well have looked to other sources for hints.

The counter, I suppose, would be that in other fields of study it is simply understood that one does not download work from the internet and pass it off as original. Handing in a Cliff's Notes essay on Pynchon is clearly inappropriate, whether or not the syllabus mentions "internet essays" or not.

Until I hear more specifics about the alleged cheating, I'll reserve judgement.

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This page contains a single entry by published on July 27, 2005 9:19 AM.

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