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(Inside Higher Ed)   Problem: Professor grades on a curve. Solution: boycott final so everyone gets the "high" score (a 0) and therefore an A. Fark: it works   (insidehighered.com) divider line 192
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16744 clicks; posted to Main » on 14 Feb 2013 at 10:52 AM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-02-14 12:37:58 PM  

StrangeQ: thurstonxhowell: StrangeQ: /would have failed them all if I was the professor

Not if you didn't like being sued for not following the syllabus that you printed and handed out. This was at Johns Hopkins, at least one of those kids would have had the dough to make that hurt.

Oh really?  Most curves work by setting the lowest score as the max and then adjusting the rest proportionally from 0 to 100.  The range in this case is 0, and mathematically anything/0 is undefined, so I could set their grades anywhere on the scale from 0 - 100 and still have mathematically graded on a curve.  I choose 0.


Yes, but not this curve as the article and proffessor made pretty clear.

grinding_journalist: Fizpez: The guy got dozens of other people to follow him in on a risky proposition - a group which MUST have included people who would have gotten an "A" anyway. There are plenty of places that WOULD hire him just because of this....

Another way of looking at it would be: This guy convinced dozens of other people to do an ethically questionable gaming of the system for personal benefit. I wonder if he'd do that with his pool of office co-workers at our company? He clearly has no problem with it, and here, it might cost us money.


There was no "ethical" question.  they were followingt he ruiles laid out in the class.

Personal benefit?  Everyone in the class benefited.
 
2013-02-14 12:39:49 PM  

BafflerMeal: Wow. Memorizing is copying? I think we just created a new DMCA crime.


If I took a hundred people and each of them memorized three pages of Harry Potter, and then we all got together and wrote it out exactly like it was, do you think that counts as original work that we can publish, or as copying?
 
2013-02-14 12:40:39 PM  
True curve grading depends on a statistical analysis of the data, which results in grade assignment based upon that analysis. In my experience, this meant the mean score +/- one standard deviation would get a grad of B- or C+ depending on the class and every other grade was adjusted according to that. This was in very difficult classes and often the mean would be around 50 out of 100. It's really only fair if it's also a pretty large class.

Any other grade adjustment may be called "grading on the curve" but it is not.

/Hopkins alumnus
 
wee
2013-02-14 12:41:28 PM  
They should have all taken the test by answering only the first question, with everyone choosing the same answer.
 
2013-02-14 12:42:25 PM  

Dokushin: BafflerMeal: Wow. Memorizing is copying? I think we just created a new DMCA crime.

If I took a hundred people and each of them memorized three pages of Harry Potter, and then we all got together and wrote it out exactly like it was, do you think that counts as original work that we can publish, or as copying?


Amusing straw man.
 
2013-02-14 12:44:08 PM  
Grading on a curve is useful when the quality of the prof's teaching and test are in question.  I had a prof who was a great guy and totally brilliant, but brand new to teaching (having served his time in industry before becoming a prof).  We were his first class.  On one test the high score was a 21/100.  The median was 10.  I got a 9.   If the whole class flunks, either they are all stupid, or the teacher's not teaching well or the test is too hard or poorly written.  He knew we weren't stupid, so the prof did the right thing and graded on a curve, blaming himself and not us.  My 9 became a C-.
 
2013-02-14 12:46:02 PM  

BafflerMeal: Dokushin: BafflerMeal: Wow. Memorizing is copying? I think we just created a new DMCA crime.

If I took a hundred people and each of them memorized three pages of Harry Potter, and then we all got together and wrote it out exactly like it was, do you think that counts as original work that we can publish, or as copying?

Amusing straw man.


How do you think that situation is different?  Here, let me remind you what you said, emphasis mine:

BafflerMeal: Our class organized and had each student memorize 2-3 questions and all answer options off of each test. Then we reassembled each test afterwards with all correct answers. For the comp final we then had 100% of all the questions and answers that had been given that term to study by.


How is that both not copying and unlike the Harry Potter example?
 
2013-02-14 12:46:17 PM  

red5ish: My experience taking classes graded on a curve included students sabotaging other students' lab experiments, books being stolen from the reserve library, pages ripped out or blacked out, cheating on a massive scale, you know, just the sort of behavior you want to encourage.


Hey who said classes can't teach you real world activities.
 
2013-02-14 12:47:50 PM  
The smartest, the stupidest, the strongest, the trolliest and the ethical all have good reason to break the boycott.
 
2013-02-14 12:51:54 PM  
I am against grading on a curve.  Besides the Asian students always wreck  it.
 
2013-02-14 12:52:38 PM  

liam76: There was no "ethical" question. they were followingt he ruiles laid out in the class.

Personal benefit? Everyone in the class benefited.


I don't get how someone can be this obtuse. By extension, all those bankers selling loans and mortgages to people they knew couldn't afford them wasn't ethically wrong, they were just following the rules set out for them. It's not THEIR fault that the system was set up that way, and as such, there should be no reason anyone should fault them for screwing people over.

I cannot believe there wasn't a single person in this class who didn't want to take the test, and be assessed normally, since, you know, they're PAYING for it. I'm certain that the "consensus" achieved had NOTHING to do with the gang of students standing outside the door, preventing anyone from entering. The claim that they would have all taken it had one student crossed the picket line, but who's going to be that student who gets ostracized for being the strike breaker? ESPECIALLY as a freshman?

You really don't see any problem whatsoever with someone intentionally failing a test designed to examine their knowledge of a subject because a loophole exists that allow them to obtain a result equivalent to them having perfectly mastered the material?

Personal benefit? Uh, yes, he personally benefited. How others do in the class doesn't affect his academic standing overall. His GPA increases as a result of his actions. After this class is over, he doesn't give a shiat about the standings of the other students,. only that his grades are better because of a movement he organized. (In this class, yes, but that's only due to the wacky curve rules.)
 
2013-02-14 12:54:57 PM  

Glancing Blow: I believe they all get an incomplete since they failed to take the test, and a disciplinary request to the administration for wasting my time and the schools resources.


Yeah, the one flaw in their plan is that the academic rules of the school apply here.  If the school has a rule that not writing a final is considered an incomplete or that in order to pass a course you need x% on the final exam, these kids are screwed.
 
2013-02-14 01:02:12 PM  

Glancing Blow: I believe they all get an incomplete since they failed to take the test, and a disciplinary request to the administration for wasting my time and the schools resources.


This.  Programming students should learn to consider all conditions and their potential outcomes.  These clowns are examples of why we have bonehead bugs in code.
 
2013-02-14 01:03:19 PM  

Dear Jerk: The smartest, the stupidest, the strongest, the trolliest and the ethical all have good reason to break the boycott.


I don't see how. All you need is the smartest guy in the class sitting outside and ready to take the test if anyone crosses the "boycott" line.

(1) The smartest has a 100% chance of getting an A if the boycott is successful. Someone else might be better prepared, so if the smartest takes the test and competes, their chances of an A would be less than 100%.

(2) The stupidest definitely wants the boycott to succeed. They have a 100% chance of getting an A, and almost none if someone breaks the boycott.

(3) The "trolliest" only trolls the class if he breaks the boycott. By supporting the boycott he trolls the whole university as well as the professor. We wouldn't be discussing this here if the trolliest had decided to take the test.

(4) The ethical should be guided by what best serves the needs of the many. The rules were that if everyone boycotted, everyone would get an A. Thus the grading system is fundamentally flawed - it is linked to a defective rule and not to the actual performance of the students. Additionally, in a computer class, a participant would be expected to choose the best outcome in accordance with game theory fundamentals.
 
2013-02-14 01:03:40 PM  

Adolf Oliver Nipples: pyrotek85: Gerald Tarrant: Call me crazy but I have always felt when marking my students that their mark should be related to how much they know not how much the others in the class do.

Yeah I'm not sure what the point of it is unless it's to prop up bad students (ie everybody is a winner). The grades are supposed to reflect an individual's performance, where this is like you're grading the group as a single unit.

You are making the assumption, usually but not always correct, that tests actually test knowledge. In my experience, admittedly anecdotal, all tests prove is that people like me can easily pass without studying while the people on the bottom end of the class spend hours studying to get mediocre grades.

Normalization of grades have been happening for a long time, I see little reason to object to it now.


Normalizing grades should not be done. Testing is not a random process subject to statistical rules, no matter how much it may look like it.

I write my tests to ascertain whether the students learned everything I set out to teach them. That's what I test them on. If everybody learned everything I meant for them to, they all get A's (I can get away with this because it's graduate level).

If the highest score on the test is 90%, then that means everybody in the class failed to  learn 10% of what I meant to teach. I might adjust my teaching or my test next time around, but the grade stands.
 
2013-02-14 01:09:32 PM  

Dokushin: BafflerMeal: Wow. Memorizing is copying? I think we just created a new DMCA crime.

If I took a hundred people and each of them memorized three pages of Harry Potter, and then we all got together and wrote it out exactly like it was, do you think that counts as original work that we can publish, or as copying?


Who tried to publish a test?  As far as I know, if you wanted to type out the text of Harry Potter directly from the book, without even memorizing it, and then sit around in a coffee shop with a group of friends comparing different pages from the text you typed up, there would be zero law-breaking or legal ramifications.  No publishing.  No attempt at selling.  No binding to look like the original (i.e. making a forgery).

What a silly concept.

If we are playing cards together, lets say something like spades, and I count cards so I know when there is no more trump left, is that cheating, or playing the game well?

/Your answer should give some insight into whether you suck at cards or not.
 
2013-02-14 01:11:42 PM  

grinding_journalist: liam76: There was no "ethical" question. they were followingt he ruiles laid out in the class.

Personal benefit? Everyone in the class benefited.

I don't get how someone can be this obtuse. By extension, all those bankers selling loans and mortgages to people they knew couldn't afford them wasn't ethically wrong, they were just following the rules set out for them. It's not THEIR fault that the system was set up that way, and as such, there should be no reason anyone should fault them for screwing people over.


So you see how some unamed group that got screwed over by the classes actions is like the millions of peopel who were hurt by the financial crisis that was alrgely caused by the actiosn of the bankers?!?!

Seriously?

grinding_journalist: I cannot believe there wasn't a single person in this class who didn't want to take the test, and be assessed normally, since, you know, they're PAYING for it. I'm certain that the "consensus" achieved had NOTHING to do with the gang of students standing outside the door, preventing anyone from entering. The claim that they would have all taken it had one student crossed the picket line, but who's going to be that student who gets ostracized for being the strike breaker? ESPECIALLY as a freshman?


We are just making stuff up now?  The dishonesty of comparing everyoen getting an A to the worst financial crisis in the US sionce the great depressionw asn;t enough for you?


grinding_journalist: You really don't see any problem whatsoever with someone intentionally failing a test designed to examine their knowledge of a subject because a loophole exists that allow them to obtain a result equivalent to them having perfectly mastered the material?


They didn't fail.
They got A's.
Their actions, according to the class rules very clearly meant they would get an A.

Getting an A on the test, or even 100%, doesn't demonstrate perfect mastery of the material unless you believe the test is all inclusive of every bit of info presented in the class, and can rate your knowledge perfectly.  You really want to argue the test was perfect (aside from the curve)?


grinding_journalist: Personal benefit? Uh, yes, he personally benefited. How others do in the class doesn't affect his academic standing overall. His GPA increases as a result of his actions. After this class is over, he doesn't give a shiat about the standings of the other students,. only that his grades are better because of a movement he organized. (In this class, yes, but that's only due to the wacky curve rules.)



So you agree that yes it wasn't just his personal benefit.
 
2013-02-14 01:15:03 PM  

Mikey1969: Quaker: That's true for now. But as a general rule, when you find a system that can be exploited, it's never helpful in the long run to take that exploitation to the extreme. They could have coordinated their efforts in a more subtle way so that everyone gets a reasonably good grade without necessarily alerting the professor to the collusion. Instead they risked ruining it for everyone else down the line so that they could all get A's.

Or you could look at it this way:
Kevin Mitnick now uses his computer hacking skills to help companies protect their systems and networks.
FrankAbagnale started the same thing to help protect companies from scammers, fraudsters and forgers.
You could call these kids 'White Hats' if you really wanted to.

Both of these people went to extremes, and have now seen how damaging those extremes can be, deciding now to help fix those problems. If these students hadn't done this, the loophole still would have existed. The only thing they "ruined" is that nobody else can exploit that particular loophole, and if they hadn't "ruined" it, someone else would have farther down the road, and THOSE people would have "ruined" it. The curve still exists, he's just adding a clause that you actually have to take the exam now, which should go without saying anyway. I don't see anything ruined, except that someone else can't exploit the loophole later. I se it as a learning experience for all, and a chance for the professor to make his system more realistic and fair...


Well that's why I called it a  general rule. But in either case, it's apples and oranges, since those are examples of an exploitation that was benefiting some at the expense of others. In this situation, no one is being harmed by students colluding to artificially inflate their grades.

And while it's true that they didn't end up actually ruining anything for anyone else except the ability to use that same loophole, they had to (or should) have known that bringing the collusion and exploitation to the attention of the professor and the administration could have resulted in the entire grading curve being abandoned, thus preventing future students from colluding more subtly in order to artificially inflate their grades. At the very least, they put more scrutiny on future students in this context. And all because someone who would have gotten a C on their own couldn't just be happy getting an undeserved B and decided to take it to the extreme to get an A.
 
2013-02-14 01:21:10 PM  

my_cats_breath_smells_like_cat_food: Dokushin: BafflerMeal: Wow. Memorizing is copying? I think we just created a new DMCA crime.

If I took a hundred people and each of them memorized three pages of Harry Potter, and then we all got together and wrote it out exactly like it was, do you think that counts as original work that we can publish, or as copying?

Who tried to publish a test?  As far as I know, if you wanted to type out the text of Harry Potter directly from the book, without even memorizing it, and then sit around in a coffee shop with a group of friends comparing different pages from the text you typed up, there would be zero law-breaking or legal ramifications.  No publishing.  No attempt at selling.  No binding to look like the original (i.e. making a forgery).

What a silly concept.

If we are playing cards together, lets say something like spades, and I count cards so I know when there is no more trump left, is that cheating, or playing the game well?

/Your answer should give some insight into whether you suck at cards or not.


Publication is prohibited by copyright.  That it counts as a 'copy' is what is at issue, here.

Academic policies at almost all universities prohibit duplication (or distribution) of tests.  Memorizing parts of it separately so that you can reassemble it is certainly duplicating -- copying -- it.  The prohibition does not require publication and clearly covers this case.

In addition, the intent of the rule is to prevent trivializing the comprehensive exam by disallowing studying the small subset of potential questions it may have.  Attempts to circumvent this are clearly attempts to gain an unfair advantage on the exam.  Whether an "unfair advantage" is cheating is a question you'd have to answer for yourself.

In this case, both the letter and the spirit of the law specifically prohibit what has happened, which is a centuries-old small-minded trick that students have been reinventing for a long time.  Yes, the university has already thought of "hey, what if we copy it  with our minds?".

If I play cards and get everyone except you to share so we can guess what's in your hand, are we playing well, or cheating?
 
2013-02-14 01:24:57 PM  

ZeroPly: Dear Jerk: The smartest, the stupidest, the strongest, the trolliest and the ethical all have good reason to break the boycott.

I don't see how. All you need is the smartest guy in the class sitting outside and ready to take the test if anyone crosses the "boycott" line.

(1) The smartest has a 100% chance of getting an A if the boycott is successful. Someone else might be better prepared, so if the smartest takes the test and competes, their chances of an A would be less than 100%.

(2) The stupidest definitely wants the boycott to succeed. They have a 100% chance of getting an A, and almost none if someone breaks the boycott.

(3) The "trolliest" only trolls the class if he breaks the boycott. By supporting the boycott he trolls the whole university as well as the professor. We wouldn't be discussing this here if the trolliest had decided to take the test.

(4) The ethical should be guided by what best serves the needs of the many. The rules were that if everyone boycotted, everyone would get an A. Thus the grading system is fundamentally flawed - it is linked to a defective rule and not to the actual performance of the students. Additionally, in a computer class, a participant would be expected to choose the best outcome in accordance with game theory fundamentals.


1. The smartest gains from differentiating himself from the field.
2. The stupidest gains by creating enough confusion to lift himself from last place.
3. The trolliest wins by trolling those with the most at stake, the boycotters.
4. The ethical win by following the spirit of the rule, not by gaming the system.
 
2013-02-14 01:27:35 PM  

5monkeys: This is ridiculous. It sounds like you had a chance to improve your grade with the curve. If the highest score was an 80 then your grade got bumped up by 20 points. I don't understand the logic in getting everyone to sit out.

/ never graded on a curve.
//am I misunderstanding it?


Because theN. It's possible for somebody to score a 90 and still fail. That's why grading on a curve is bad. Grade on merit and let the students earn thier grade
 
2013-02-14 01:46:37 PM  

Dokushin: Publication is prohibited by copyright.  That it counts as a 'copy' is what is at issue, here.

Academic policies at almost all universities prohibit duplication (or distribution) of tests.  Memorizing parts of it separately so that you can reassemble it is certainly duplicating -- copying -- it.  The prohibition does not require publication and clearly covers this case.

In addition, the intent of the rule is to prevent trivializing the comprehensive exam by disallowing studying the small subset of potential questions it may have.  Attempts to circumvent this are clearly attempts to gain an unfair advantage on the exam.  Whether an "unfair advantage" is cheating is a question you'd have to answer for yourself.

In this case, both the letter and the spirit of the law specifically prohibit what has happened, which is a centuries-old small-minded trick that students have been reinventing for a long time.  Yes, the university has already thought of "hey, what if we copy it  with our minds?".

If I play cards and get everyone except you to share so we can guess what's in your hand, are we playing well, or cheating?

...

Okay, so what if a student had a very good memory, and without writing anything down knew all the test questions.  Would he be guilty of cheating?  Is it simply the act of putting it down on paper that is cheating?  What if he wrote the same information down, but in another language?  It isn't a 1:1 copy, is that cheating?  What if instead of memorizing it verbatim, it is simply "close enough", so it is still a useful study guide, even though it isn't a 1:1 copy, is that cheating, and if so, where is the line where it goes from "duplicate copy" to "random words"?

And for the card analogy, if everyone was dealt their cards face up, layed them out for 30 seconds to study, but then picked them up to play the hand, is anyone cheating?  It would be a different way to play, and favor someone with a good/quick memory, but is it cheating?  And besides, you say "if everyone but you shared", when in the case of the students, nobody is being left out and thereby suffering from an unfair disadvantage, so your example of "everyone sharing except with you" seems less apt, doesn't it?

I do find this an interesting concept though.  As far as a study tool, it almost seems like the process of memorizing some of the test questions, and sharing information with a group, probably has tremendous benefit to the accumulation of knowledge.  It certainly takes more effort and requires paying attention to the material, as opposed to just getting an illegal copy of the teacher's copy and memorizing the order of the multiple choice answers.  I certainly wouldn't have objected if I were a teacher and the students showed that kind of initiative and effort.

Depending on the subject, most teachers I knew would change little details in questions, even if the same principle was at play though.  For example test A might have 2 + 2 = X, while the final would have 3 + 4 = X.  Both test the same concept, but if all you did was remember the answer you would be out of luck.
 
2013-02-14 01:46:44 PM  
""I have changed my grading scheme to include 'everybody has 0 points means that everybody gets 0 percent,' " Fröhlich said,  "and I also added a clause stating that I reserve the right to give everybody 0 percent if I get the impression that the students are trying to 'game'  the system again." Fröhlich added that going forward, he will give students a choice between a final exam and a final project, and that his class for the spring 2013 semester has voted for the latter. "

Ahh so you change your rules like Vegas so the 'house' always wins?  Why not just grade by who you like the most?

Maybe, just maybe you learn something about your methods.  Ohh, you're a Professor you know everything.
 
2013-02-14 01:49:07 PM  
Something many of you don't realize is that writing fair exam questions is difficult and many professors are not particularly good at it. If the average score on an exam is 50/100, that is more a reflection of the poorness of the exam and not of whether the students knew the material or not. Similarly, not everyone grades exams in the most objective way possible. In many cases there is more than one correct way to answer a question but sometimes alternatives are ignored in favor of the "desired" answer. Hell, I've been screwed by that myself back when I was a student. In any case, it's often not as black and white as you'd think. Sometimes curved grades are a necessity.

/professor
 
2013-02-14 01:52:37 PM  

BarkingUnicorn: Glancing Blow: I believe they all get an incomplete since they failed to take the test, and a disciplinary request to the administration for wasting my time and the schools resources.

This.  Programming students should learn to consider all conditions and their potential outcomes.  These clowns are examples of why we have bonehead bugs in code.


Programming students decided to break down the grading algorithm presented in the syllabus and come to the best and easiest solution to the test.  They beat the Koyabashi Maru by following strict logical guidelines of the grading algorithm.  And yeah the professor might have gotten in trouble if he violated the syllabus.

Also, having a grading curve that does not account for outliers is inexcusable.
 
2013-02-14 01:53:16 PM  
Fröhlich added that going forward, he will give students a choice between a final exam and a final project, and that his class for the spring 2013 semester has voted for the latter.


Well, good. Final exams are, first of all, not a reflection on how the real world works, and second of all, just a tool for lazy instructors to just run a scrantron sheet. Reports and projects are often how real world business is conducted. Its taking in facts (given or researched , bringing it together in a formal, unified manner, then either offering solutions to a problem or suggested actions for a future task.

We always complain about 'teaching to the test' and that schools don't prepare students for the real world. This is your answer to that.
 
2013-02-14 01:54:58 PM  
Back in my day, we just killed our roommate and made it look like a suicide.
 
2013-02-14 01:58:30 PM  
Most of my engineering classes back in the day graded on a curve, but never seen one like that.  It was always: "If median score is less than a C, the median score is increased to a C".

Mainly because the typical test given by the profs had a median score in the 40's-50's as they loved to put more on the test than was answerable in the time.
 
2013-02-14 01:58:57 PM  
StrangeQ
Fark that. By the one student's logic, if I know I am going to ace the test anyway because I studied ahead of time there is no incentive for me to break the boycott because I will still ace the test. Bullshiat. Why should I let those other lazy farks off easy because they think they've found a way to game the system?


That's how you can tell it was a programming class and not a business or law class.
 
2013-02-14 01:59:06 PM  
Fail them all.

/Engineering student.
//I would have shown up for the final.
///I was called "Curve Killer" in jr. college.
 
2013-02-14 02:01:06 PM  

liam76: Seriously?


It was an example using the logic you used to excuse their actions. If adhering to the rules set out is all that matters, there won't ever be an ethical question about actions taken within those rules. If that's the rule you live by, you shouldn't have a problem with what the bankers did, since what they did was legal, and within the rules.

liam76: We are just making stuff up now?


Am I? FTFA: "The students refused to come into the room and take the exam, so we sat there for a while: me on the inside, they on the outside,"

Let's say you're a college freshman taking this class. You arrive at the exam room at the designated time, to see almost the entire class standing outside the door, seeing if anyone will go into the room. Are you so blind to reality as to not see the inherent peer pressure in that situation? Have you ever taken a class, anywhere?

liam76: So you agree that yes it wasn't just his personal benefit.


How is it NOT personally benefiting him? I'm certain, without speaking to the kid who organized the thing, that he doesn't give a whit about the academic standing of the others' in his class, and he did this so he wouldn't have to take the test or study for it to "earn" his A. The fact that others benefited is ancillary, and was in fact REQUIRED for him to pull of his scheme.
 
2013-02-14 02:02:07 PM  

Glancing Blow: I believe they all get an incomplete since they failed to take the test, and a disciplinary request to the administration for wasting my time and the schools resources.


Yeah -- where I went to college, you didn't show up for the final, it was an automatic fail of the class.  It would be different, though, if they could all just sit there in the class at their desks and sign their names to a blank piece of paper.
 
2013-02-14 02:10:11 PM  

my_cats_breath_smells_like_cat_food: Okay, so what if a student had a very good memory, and without writing anything down knew all the test questions.  Would he be guilty of cheating?  Is it simply the act of putting it down on paper that is cheating?  What if he wrote the same information down, but in another language?  It isn't a 1:1 copy, is that cheating?  What if instead of memorizing it verbatim, it is simply "close enough", so it is still a useful study guide, even though it isn't a 1:1 copy, is that cheating, and if so, where is the line where it goes from "duplicate copy" to "random words"?

And for the card analogy, if everyone was dealt their cards face up, layed them out for 30 seconds to study, but then picked them up to play the hand, is anyone cheating?  It would be a different way to play, and favor someone with a good/quick memory, but is it cheating?  And besides, you say "if everyone but you shared", when in the case of the students, nobody is being left out and thereby suffering from an unfair disadvantage, so your example of "everyone sharing except with you" seems less apt, doesn't it?

I do find this an interesting concept though.  As far as a study tool, it almost seems like the process of memorizing some of the test questions, and sharing information with a group, probably has tremendous benefit to the accumulation of knowledge.  It certainly takes more effort and requires paying attention to the material, as opposed to just getting an illegal copy of the teacher's copy and memorizing the order of the multiple choice answers.  I certainly wouldn't have objected if I were a teacher and the students showed that kind of initiative and effort.

Depending on the subject, most teachers I knew would change little details in questions, even if the same principle was at play though.  For example test A might have 2 + 2 = X, while the final would have 3 + 4 = X.  Both test the same concept, but if all you did was remember the answer you would be out of luck.


A single student remembering the test is not distributing it, nor is he copying it, because the content of the test is not available; i.e. at no point does a physical copy exist.  If he were to write it all down?  That's questionable, and if others had access that is certainly distribution and therefore inappropriate.  Will his ability to remember all of the tests give him an advantage on the comp?  Sure.  There are a variety of ways in which a student can expect to do better on tests, and it's why we grade the tests.  But it doesn't change the difficulty of the test, because he is using only his own resources.  In the situation where multiple students conspire to assemble a duplicate, they are attempting to change the overall difficulty of the test by greatly reducing the space from which material might be drawn.

Derivative works created by improper recollection are still based on material that shouldn't have been available; it's rather like buying something with stolen money.  Poorly executed cheating is still cheating -- you just don't get as much unfair benefit from it.

Comps are (by definition) comprehensive tests over a large body of material.  The school claims the questions will be taken from individual tests given throughout the semester.  Students know that if they scored well on a test, they will do well on the material that test represents.  For material they did not do well on, they have to study the aggregate portion of it.  The end result is they can focus on material that they didn't do well on, confident that there won't be surprises from tests they did well on.  Trying to circumvent that is not "clever", nor is it effective education.

Tell me -- why buy a textbook for a class?  Why not just get advance copies of the tests and learn the answers?  Is that as good of an education?  Does your answer change if you get the advance copies from people who took the class before and memorized them, rather than actually breaking into the professor's office?
 
2013-02-14 02:14:14 PM  

the ha ha guy: 5monkeys: This is ridiculous. It sounds like you had a chance to improve your grade with the curve. If the highest score was an 80 then your grade got bumped up by 20 points

If 90% of the class gets a score of 60, and the highest is 61, that 90% gets an A.

If 90% of the class gets a score of 60, and the highest is 98, that 90% gets a D.

Grading on a curve really does allow one person to mess it up for everyone else. Your score doesn't matter, only the highest score does, unless you can prove that your "incorrect" answers were correct as stated in the textbook, not covered in the class, etc.


Not necessarily.  Here's the formula I use:

(Base) = 0.50(Possible) + 0.30(High) + 0.20(Mean) + 0.10(Low)

So if the high score is 100, the mean is 60 and the low is 20, the base is 50 + 30 + 12 + 2 = 94.  Students whose raw score is over 94 get "100+" written on their exam, if only because college students really are too old to appreciate gold stars and I don't give extra credit.
 
2013-02-14 02:14:56 PM  

Quaker: How is grading on a curve a problem? It can only help you compared to the alternative. All they did was screw it up for everyone else in the future. If you can actually get everyone else on board, there are far more subtle ways to effectively manipulate a grading curve.

Also, the professor's new policy of "everybody has 0 points means that everybody gets 0 percent" would be just as ineffective if he's going to follow it to the letter as he did here. All everyone has to do is pick one question (or one relevant fact in the case of an essay test) that they're sure about and only answer that one.


Grading on a curve is a problem because you don't get the score you earned, you get the score your neighbor earned for you. And it means the professor isn't paying as much attention to whether or not his class is learning something.

If I earn a C and the rest of the class earns a D, I still only deserve a C, and they still only deserve a D. Same if I'm getting a D and someone else gets an A. Grading on a curve is great for informal stuff, but class grades have value outside of the class and in the rest of school\society, and farking it up is not something students tend to appreciate.
 
2013-02-14 02:15:15 PM  

grinding_journalist: liam76: Seriously?

It was an example using the logic you used to excuse their actions. If adhering to the rules set out is all that matters, there won't ever be an ethical question about actions taken within those rules. If that's the rule you live by, you shouldn't have a problem with what the bankers did, since what they did was legal, and within the rules.


You identified no ethical question for the class, there is a clear one for your banking analogy (and nevermind that many laws/regualtions were broken with the banking example).

grinding_journalist: Am I? FTFA: "The students refused to come into the room and take the exam, so we sat there for a while: me on the inside, they on the outside,"

Let's say you're a college freshman taking this class. You arrive at the exam room at the designated time, to see almost the entire class standing outside the door, seeing if anyone will go into the room. Are you so blind to reality as to not see the inherent peer pressure in that situation? Have you ever taken a class, anywhere?


You said, "gang of students standing outside the door, preventing anyone from entering".  That did not happen.  That is making shiat up.  That is ignoring the fact that prior to sittingoutside the class all the students ahd agreed not to go into the class.

You were making shiat up by saying a gang of students prevented students from entering.


grinding_journalist: liam76: So you agree that yes it wasn't just his personal benefit.

How is it NOT personally benefiting him? I'm certain, without speaking to the kid who organized the thing, that he doesn't give a whit about the academic standing of the others' in his class, and he did this so he wouldn't have to take the test or study for it to "earn" his A. The fact that others benefited is ancillary, and was in fact REQUIRED for him to pull of his scheme



I never said it didn't benefit him, I said it was a benefit to everyone in the class.  These sound like low level courses.  I know when I went to college it would be easier to get A's in low level engineering classes by studying than by getting every single one of my classmates to go along with a ballsy plan.

But this a moot point.  It wasn't just to his benefit.  You can speculate all you want, but that is all you are doing.  At the end of the day he showed the proffessor he was doing soemthing wrong, he and the rest fo the class got an A, and his name is out there.  That is a triple win in my book.
 
2013-02-14 02:17:21 PM  

Trance354: they didn't take the test, so getting an A for the test is illogical: they should have gotten an incomplete, with their scores for the semester either unchanged or lowered due to the lack of the required 100-300 points the final would be composed of.  At the same time, the students are paying for an education, and knowing how to get the best grade is secondary to knowing the material with which you intend to base a career off of.  If those students were to think rationally about their motives, i.e. "How will I proceed in this course of study?  I have an A for this class, but I don't know the material, as I was too busy getting tanked to study, knowing we'd just be sitting outside the classroom."

/I would have walked into the room to take the exam
//would also have been the one who got the 100% and farked their possibility to get a curve
///yes, I'm that guy


I don't know you, but I don't like you!
 
2013-02-14 02:17:52 PM  

aerojockey: the ha ha guy: 5monkeys: This is ridiculous. It sounds like you had a chance to improve your grade with the curve. If the highest score was an 80 then your grade got bumped up by 20 points

If 90% of the class gets a score of 60, and the highest is 61, that 90% gets an A.

If 90% of the class gets a score of 60, and the highest is 98, that 90% gets a D.

Grading on a curve really does allow one person to mess it up for everyone else. Your score doesn't matter, only the highest score does, unless you can prove that your "incorrect" answers were correct as stated in the textbook, not covered in the class, etc.

When I was in high school (not college) I would sometimes throw off the curve (i.e., affine adjustment) like this.  The teacher usually just curved the score off the second-highest test.  Naturally they didn't extrapolate my score to a 130 or whatever on the test, nor did they cut me a break if I didn't turn in homework.  So Miss Second-Highest-Test-Score ended up getting the highest grade even though I left her in the dust on all the tests, just because I failed to turn in a single homework.


I did something like that once, but clipped the highest and the lowest grade since both were outliers.
 
2013-02-14 02:23:01 PM  
College adjunct here: if students put one third of the effort into doing their work that they put into avoiding it, they'd get decent grades.

/Did the same thing as an undergraduate myself.
 
2013-02-14 02:23:09 PM  

Trance354: they didn't take the test, so getting an A for the test is illogical: they should have gotten an incomplete, with their scores for the semester either unchanged or lowered due to the lack of the required 100-300 points the final would be composed of.


And the asshole professor teaches at Hopkins?  Another fine example of the perfection that is the tenure system.
 
2013-02-14 02:25:54 PM  

meanmutton: Glancing Blow: I believe they all get an incomplete since they failed to take the test, and a disciplinary request to the administration for wasting my time and the schools resources.

Yeah -- where I went to college, you didn't show up for the final, it was an automatic fail of the class.  It would be different, though, if they could all just sit there in the class at their desks and sign their names to a blank piece of paper.


Where I teach, it's worse.  We have an extra-special grade, the FW (Fail-Withdraw) reserved for people who skip the final if the zero they get on the final drops their grade into the FAIL range.  If the student received financial aid, then they may get a bill from Uncle Sam for part of the course.  Also, potential employers learn that the student does not finish what he or she starts all of the time.

I encourage my students to avoid the FW if at all possible.
 
2013-02-14 02:27:00 PM  

PsiChick: Grading on a curve is a problem because you don't get the score you earned, you get the score your neighbor earned for you. And it means the professor isn't paying as much attention to whether or not his class is learning something.


In one of my fluid mechanics classes in college I got a 21 on an 80 point test.  It was the highest in the class.  I "earned" and A.

I learned a lot in that class.  The teacher was good at teaching us things, just liked to ask extremely tough questions.

He said every couple years a student would get a complete answer.
 
2013-02-14 02:28:26 PM  
FTA
Fröhlich took a surprisingly philosophical view of his students' machinations, crediting their collaborative spirit. "The students learned that by coming together, they can achieve something that individually they could never have done," he said via e-mail. "At a school that is known (perhaps unjustly) for competitiveness I didn't expect that reaching such an agreement was possible."
Although Fröhlich conceded that he did not include such a "loophole" in the policy "with the goal of students exploiting it," he decided to honor it after the boycott.


It seems here that the professor was outsmarted by his students, and instead of failing them all, which the school probably would have stood by, he tipped his hat to them, gave them a "well played", and complimented them on their teamwork and ingenuity He seems like a pretty cool professor..
 
2013-02-14 02:28:35 PM  

Yamaneko2: meanmutton: Glancing Blow: I believe they all get an incomplete since they failed to take the test, and a disciplinary request to the administration for wasting my time and the schools resources.

Yeah -- where I went to college, you didn't show up for the final, it was an automatic fail of the class.  It would be different, though, if they could all just sit there in the class at their desks and sign their names to a blank piece of paper.

Where I teach, it's worse.  We have an extra-special grade, the FW (Fail-Withdraw) reserved for people who skip the final if the zero they get on the final drops their grade into the FAIL range.  If the student received financial aid, then they may get a bill from Uncle Sam for part of the course.  Also, potential employers learn that the student does not finish what he or she starts all of the time.

I encourage my students to avoid the FW if at all possible.


...and if there was no way that they could avoid missing the final, I let them make it up if they want to.  I'm not that evil, yet.
 
2013-02-14 02:32:59 PM  

ongbok: FTA
Fröhlich took a surprisingly philosophical view of his students' machinations, crediting their collaborative spirit. "The students learned that by coming together, they can achieve something that individually they could never have done," he said via e-mail. "At a school that is known (perhaps unjustly) for competitiveness I didn't expect that reaching such an agreement was possible."
Although Fröhlich conceded that he did not include such a "loophole" in the policy "with the goal of students exploiting it," he decided to honor it after the boycott.

It seems here that the professor was outsmarted by his students, and instead of failing them all, which the school probably would have stood by, he tipped his hat to them, gave them a "well played", and complimented them on their teamwork and ingenuity He seems like a pretty cool professor..


I would have gone with the Hero tag, for this reason.
 
2013-02-14 02:33:52 PM  

PsiChick: Quaker: How is grading on a curve a problem? It can only help you compared to the alternative. All they did was screw it up for everyone else in the future. If you can actually get everyone else on board, there are far more subtle ways to effectively manipulate a grading curve.

Also, the professor's new policy of "everybody has 0 points means that everybody gets 0 percent" would be just as ineffective if he's going to follow it to the letter as he did here. All everyone has to do is pick one question (or one relevant fact in the case of an essay test) that they're sure about and only answer that one.

Grading on a curve is a problem because you don't get the score you earned, you get the score your neighbor earned for you. And it means the professor isn't paying as much attention to whether or not his class is learning something.

If I earn a C and the rest of the class earns a D, I still only deserve a C, and they still only deserve a D. Same if I'm getting a D and someone else gets an A. Grading on a curve is great for informal stuff, but class grades have value outside of the class and in the rest of school\society, and farking it up is not something students tend to appreciate.


Personally, I like the idea of a more communal approach to grading. I sincerely think that the modern world would be vastly improved if more people saw themselves as being part of whole instead of isolated and in competition.

As far as complaining about people getting better grades than they deserved, this is the only thing that comes to mind.
 
2013-02-14 02:47:57 PM  

Quaker: they had to (or should) have known that bringing the collusion and exploitation to the attention of the professor and the administration could have resulted in the entire grading curve being abandoned, thus preventing future students from colluding more subtly in order to artificially inflate their grades.


And I fail to see why this is somehow bad. Keeping them from artificially inflating their grades is just fine by me.
 
2013-02-14 02:52:42 PM  

Dokushin: my_cats_breath_smells_like_cat_food:

A single student remembering the test is not distributing it, nor is he copying it, because the content of the test is not available; i.e. at no point does a physical copy exist.  If he were to write it all down?  That's questionable, and if others had access that is certainly distribution and therefore inappropriate.  Will his ability to remember all of the tests give him an advantage on the comp?  Sure.  There are a variety of ways in which a student can expect to do better on tests, and it's why we grade the tests.  But it doesn't change the difficulty of the test, because he is using only his own resources.  In the situation where multiple students conspire to assemble a duplicate, they are attempting to change the overall difficulty of the test by greatly reducing the space from which material might be drawn.

Derivative works created by improper recollection are still based on material that shouldn't have been available; it's rather like buying something with stolen money.  Poorly executed cheating is still cheating -- you just don't get as much unfair benefit from it.

Comps are (by definition) comprehensive tests over a large body of material.  The school claims the questions will be taken from individual tests given throughout the semester.  Students know that if they scored well on a test, they will do well on the material that test represents.  For material they did not do well on, they have to study the aggregate portion of it.  The end result is they can focus on material that they didn't do well on, confident that there won't be surprises from tests they did well on.  Trying to circumvent that is not "clever", nor is it effective education.

Tell me -- why buy a textbook for a class?  Why not just get advance copies of the tests and learn the answers?  Is that as good of an education?  Does your answer change if you get the advance copies from people who took the class before and memorized them, rather than actually breaking into the professor's office?
 ..

When you say "derivitive works based on material that shouldn't be available", why shouldn't it be available?  Everyone took the tests, everyone has had the same opportunity to answer the question the first go-around, it was made public at that time, why can you try and put everything back in a lock-box after it has been presented once for everyone?  I wasn't really thinking of poorly executed cheating, but more of actual studying.  Do you have an issue with students forming together in a study group so they can combine their efforts to reduce weaknesses and bolster strengths?  If at the study group someone says "oh, I remember a question from exam one that went something like 'blah blah blah' so we should bone up on that." is that an illegal distribution of test material, or just someone helping fill in a knowledge gap in someone else's understanding?  Again, I am not think of a case where someone says "The test asked 'What is the capitol of West Virginia? Answer: Charleston' so remember that" but instead "I think I remember it asking a state capitol, for Virginia I think, or maybe West Virginia...it was one of those so we should look up both just to be safe"  Which would then result in the students reviewing, reflecting, and expanding their knowledge, and isn't that the entire point?

Again, I am against just distributing photocopies, or photographs of the actual test, or like you said getting your hands on the test from someone who had the class the year before.  But using teamwork, memory, and review to come up with a study guide, that is based on the format you know the final will take, seems like good work that serves the students well.  I wouldn't consider it cheating, but I am not a prof.

And as for "why buy a textbook for the class", as far as I understand, the point the OP made was that they found an effective method to study, they weren't trying to replace accurately learning the material.  They used a textbook throughout the year to learn, and then when it came time to prepare for the comp exam, rather than re-read the entire textbook, they figured out how to focus the effort to get more efficiency with the limited time available for review.  If someone never showed up to class all year, got through the initial exams with D's and C's and then wanted to get in on the effort the rest of the class put in for the mock-final the students assembled...I guess he wouldn't be following a very ethical path...but maybe the other students would shun him.  At the very elast he still wouldn't do well in the class since he would have been failing grandly up until the final, he would just luck out that he was surrounded by people who put in extra effort, and ride their coat tails.  It won't serve this hypothetical student in the long-term, but college tends to weed these people out as the classes get to higher levels.

If a group of students teaming up to form a study guide off the tests that were made available during the course, even if that study guide is almost an exact duplicate of every exam question asked that year, I still think the only way it would give them an unfair advantage would be if the professor was lazy and made a crappy test to begin with.  If the professor will only use questions taken verbatim from earlier exams, that seems unfair to begin with, as it will disproportionatly reward the students with good memories, because they won't need to learn the underlying concepts as thoroughly if they feel confident that they will recognize the questions and answers from earlier in the year.
 
2013-02-14 03:01:37 PM  

Mikey1969: Quaker: they had to (or should) have known that bringing the collusion and exploitation to the attention of the professor and the administration could have resulted in the entire grading curve being abandoned, thus preventing future students from colluding more subtly in order to artificially inflate their grades.

And I fail to see why this is somehow bad. Keeping them from artificially inflating their grades is just fine by me.


Well I suppose that's where we differ. To me, that's just wanting to ruin a good thing for other people that isn't really harming anyone because I don't think it's objectively fair.
 
2013-02-14 03:01:38 PM  

Yamaneko2: meanmutton: Glancing Blow: I believe they all get an incomplete since they failed to take the test, and a disciplinary request to the administration for wasting my time and the schools resources.

Yeah -- where I went to college, you didn't show up for the final, it was an automatic fail of the class.  It would be different, though, if they could all just sit there in the class at their desks and sign their names to a blank piece of paper.

Where I teach, it's worse.  We have an extra-special grade, the FW (Fail-Withdraw) reserved for people who skip the final if the zero they get on the final drops their grade into the FAIL range.  If the student received financial aid, then they may get a bill from Uncle Sam for part of the course.  Also, potential employers learn that the student does not finish what he or she starts all of the time.

I encourage my students to avoid the FW if at all possible.


Yikes...I had to withdraw from a class once.  Luckily I was taking it a year early, and was taking well over the required minimum courseload, so it didn't impact my graduation or enrollment at all, and I didn't wait until the final to withdraw...I can see how that would warrant a special punishment.

I had a close friend from my hometown die in a car wreck my Freshman year...I took a greyhound home to go to his viewing, and was going to bus back the next day to take an exam (1 of 4 big ones), but his parents asked me at the viewing if I would be a pall bearer... I chose to honor my dead friend over making it to the exam, and withdrew from the class when I was back at school.  If I would have had extra punishment on top of that I would have been pissed.
 
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