Professor Richard Quinn responds to exam cheats

By Grant Jacobs 19/11/2010

I really don’t know what words to put to this. Class cheats on exam, Professor let’s them know what he thinks, and offers a deal:

Update: To be clear, this is from the University of Central Florida.

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0 Responses to “Professor Richard Quinn responds to exam cheats”

  • Yikes! It does rather highlight the trouble with having a set of questions (albeit in a test bank that’s presumably sampled for each exam) that doesn’t change from year to year… I’d love to know how the students got hold of that test bank though… I knew publishers do test banks but those aren’t usually available to students…
    For cheating as systematic as that I would throw the book at the perpetrators, myself. Impressive that he’s offering them another option. He’s obviously absolutely gutted at the cheats’ behaviour & I know I would be too, if I was faced with something that extensive 🙁

  • I guess there’s still something to be said for old-fashioned sit-down exams..

  • What professor at university doesn’t write their own questions for an exam? That’s just laziness. The students didn’t know that he didn’t write the questions, so I don’t see this as cheating.

  • Most exams do come from a Test bank, it’s pretty standard practice

    Also – John, if you have questions before an exam, and it’s passed around in secret, you can be pretty sure it’s going to be cheating…

  • @ John – you’re playing devil’s advocate, right? Many textbook publishers provide academics with a ‘question bank’ that’s intended for use in tests & while I have never (& will never – therein lies another post I guess) use them myself I can also understand why someone in a high-pressure situation with very large class sizes would draw upon them. If students get their hands on the bank (& I’d like to know how that happened), hand the questions and answers, because banks come with answers round their mates, & then ace the exam as a result, then that’s cheating. Pure & simple, not least because it puts them at a significant advantage over other students who don’t have access to the Q&As.
    This is quite different from the situation where (for example) I make all my previous years’ questions available to the whole class – along with the information that this year’s questions will definitely be different. The intention is that students can use those questions as a revision guide & to help identify areas of content that they need to focus on. But they can’t simply learn off answers to a pre-determined set of questions, & they’re all in the same boat on that one.

  • Sorry, but from my point of view using a test bank, unless it’s one you have created yourself, is just lazy and poor teaching practice.
    I always give students copies of my exams from the previous two years so they get a feel for the way I ask questions and the type of answers I expect. This forces me to vary what I ask, while still knowing the students have a sense for the type of questions I ask. It’s a lot more work than using a test bank but it is valid teaching practice.
    Also, if the students gained access to the test bank by legitimate means, then I don’t think you can call it cheating. I recall a colleague saying that she got an A+ in a course because she went back through all the available previous exams for the course and noted that the lecturer regularly recycled the same questions, and so studied all of them. This is flawed teaching/assessment on the lecturers part, and the student did the most logical thing she could.

  • Yikes!

    It‘s shocker, eh. Not something you’d ever what to face as a lecturer or course co-ordinator.

    I can remember past exam scripts being available from the library for short-term reserve loan when I was a student. Looking at past tests gave you a feel for the style of the exams and their general makeup (mix of short and essay-form questions, etc.), but having the answers as well… no.

    I can imagine this class is going to be divided for the remainder of the year. Assignments involving students working together (assuming they have any like this) could be uncomfortable.

  • Personally I think even one you’ve created yourself is probably going to encourage lazy habits cos once it’s there, there’s the tendency to fall back on it rather than revise what you ask as curriculum & learning outcomes change. (& in fact having the bank might discourage those changes as then there’d be the prospect of having to rewrite the bank…!) That was actually the concern I had at the back of my mind as I watched the video. Which is why I do pretty much what you do, Michael.

    What your colleague describes is perfectly valid – & a perfectly normal response to a flawed teaching & assessment model. But I think in Prof Quinn’s case we’re talking a test bank – with answers – that under usual circumstances isn’t provided to the students. In which case we are looking at cheating.

    You’re right, Grant, the classroom dynamic is going to change for the worse. Those students who know they’ve been ‘good’ will resent the others, & because they won’t know who the others are, they’ll resent everybody. Simply failing all those identified as having cheated would have avoided that, & I’m not really all that comfortable with the deal that Prof Quinn offered – it would be really interesting to hear his reasoning underlying that decision.

  • True, Jason nothing excuses blatant cheating.
    Unfortunately I see part of my job as making tests etc as “cheat-proof” as possible. One of the reasons for this is that if cheating occurs and isn’t detected, but then found out about later it does destroy the atmosphere in class, as Alison refers to. This is why, for example, when supervising a test, I never take anything to mark or read but instead wander up and down the isles and make eye contact with anyone who looks around too much. I’ve only ever caught one person cheating (wrote key notes on their eraser) but even the perception of cheating will cause problems.
    One of the most frustrating things is that students who see another student cheating in an exam will typically not alert a supervisor but will then come and complain hours later when it is too late to do anything! (Seriously do I look like a magician?)
    Sorry – hot day, lots of marking, slightly cranky 🙂 TGIF

  • And while I’m feeling cranky who the hell is stupid enough to brag about cheating? I bet all those that did cheat are peeved at the blabbermouth who bragged.
    No matter how good the “forensic analysis” is it would still potentially pick up innocent students/not catch all of the cheats. I think they would be on very dangerous legal ground (particularly in the USA).
    It sounds like a bluff to me and an attempt to emotively manipulate the students.
    The stuff about “giving birth in the exam room” is also condescending and arrogant particularly for the ethical students.
    I can understand he is seriously annoyed (I know I would be) but I find his behaviour completely unprofessional.
    I’d also be surprised if a third of a class could manage to cheat without someone alerting the staff before the exam.
    As far as I’m concerned the only ethical thing to do is toss the previous exam, use the new one and learn from the experience.
    To attempt to punish the students where you cannot guarantee 100% accuracy as to who did and did not cheat is immoral.

  • who the hell is stupid enough to brag about cheating?
    Someone who’s very very stupid, or very very cocky, or some combination of these…
    I agree with you, Michael; I think I was too focused on the students’ behaviour to be thinking straight about the teacher’s reaction. He was truly pissed off & upset & his decision to toss the exam results was the right one, but the rest was over the top & not ethical behaviour. Thanks for pointing it out.