Everybody wants the most they can possibly get
For the least they can possibly do....
-Todd Snider, "Easy Money"
When I was a chemistry student at the University of Utah, we got an earful about academic honesty. This wasn't a coincidence; the Chemistry department had been at the epicenter of Cold Fusion
, arguably the biggest scientific scam/gaffe of the 20th century. A lot of people lost their jobs and the university and the department took huge hits in credibility over the incident. Those who remembered the incident wanted to make sure we knew better than to try to pass off questionable, manufactured, or inflated results ourselves. They wanted to make sure we knew how the scientific process was really supposed to work.
As a teacher, I focus on academic honesty as well. I have a lengthy description of the policy, and the consequences of violating it, in my classroom disclosure statement that students and parents get at the beginning of the year. But the policy and its consequences are actually pretty simple: The expectation is that you will do your own work, and if you don't do your own work, then you don't get credit for it.
It's kind of a game, really, the interplay between students and teachers. Students try to earn the highest possible grade with the least possible work, while teachers try to catch students when, not if, they cheat. It's all part of the dance.
This year I have a student in one of my classes; I will call him X. After I had handed back and gone over each of the two exams in first quarter, X came up and asked for clarification on his grade, claiming that I had not given him full credit for correct answers on some questions. The first time, I didn't think much of it. I make mistakes sometimes. The second time, however, I began to be suspicious. You see, when I grade exams, I mark them in a certain way based on what information is or is not provided. That way, I know if, and to some extent, how a student has answered a problem. And X was claiming to have included, and not received credit for, information that my grading system told me hadn't been there originally.
There is, I am told, a saying in the military: One time is luck, two times is coincidence, but three times is enemy action. So for the third exam, I decided to see what was really going on. I made a photocopy of X's test before I graded it.
Sure enough, after passing back the test and going over it in class, he came up and wanted to know why he hadn't received full credit on some questions. I told him I'd look at it and took back the test.
When I compared the test he gave me back with the photocopy I had made earlier, I discovered two different answers that had been changed in an attempt to gain more points.
According to my classroom policy as outlined in the disclosure, the consequence of academic dishonesty is a grade of zero on the test, lab, or assignment in question. X failed the test anyway; he had scored 27/50 and was trying to get me to raise it to 31/50. But because of his cheating, his grade is now 0/50. And under my published classroom policy, he cannot make up or retake the test--because he was caught cheating.
The last thing I did before leaving school for the two week winter break was to change his test grade to zero and send a letter to his parents explaining why the grade had been changed.
X is in the first class I have on Monday morning. It will be interesting to see what the fallout is going to be.