liar! liar! pants on fire!

I’ve started reading The Honest Truth about Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone, Especially Ourselves by Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist.

I’m only a chapter or so into the book, but I’m very intrigued by some of the studies that Ariely describes.  Some say that behavioral economists are “annoying” (I won’t say who used this word) because they talk as if they’ve figured out the human condition (and I guess sometimes they do), but I find Ariely’s work interesting – at the least, it gives us something to think about when we consider how dishonesty works in our lives.

You can listen to a recent episode of the Diane Rehm Show on NPR that featured Ariely and his book – it’s a great introduction to the book and the issues he raises.

Here’s Ariely on TED in which he talks about “Our buggy moral code”:

Here’s another one from Ariely on “irrational behavior”:

So – won’t you read The Honest Truth About Dishonesty with me so we can talk about honesty and dishonesty?

Plagiarism in Dancing!

From So You Think You Can Dance

inside higher ed – “who cheats and how”

The article published yesterday in Inside Higher Ed, “Who Cheats, and How,” confirmed much of what we already know about cheating. However, there were some surprising revelations.  Some of the things I found interesting had to do with perception.

Four in five faculty have reported at least one violation, and of those who have, 60 percent said they typically do so at least once a semester. Yet, most faculty don’t consider cheating a “rampant” problem, Baldasare said, and don’t think most students do it.

This is interesting in that while many professor do report cheating and students self reporting cheating at rate of 84 percent, professor still do not see it as a “rampant” problem.  It shows the gap between what’s really happening and our perception.  On my campus, I’ve heard a veteran professor say something to the effect of “In my 20 years of teaching, I’ve had maybe 5 cases of cheating.  It’s not really a problem.”

I’ve said this in many presentations before, and this article confirms the notion that students cheat when they see it as a viable option to a “problem” they face.

It appears that students are more likely to cheat out of perceived necessity than simply because they can get away with it.

The most dire circumstances were the ones under which students said they would be most likely to cheat: facing disqualification from the university or program of study (about 35 percent on average), when a scholarship was at risk (about 38 percent), when they ran out of time on an assignment (30 percent), or to maintain a grade point average (28 percent). Students are less inclined to cheat just because other students are doing it (15 percent) or the professor ignores it (20 percent).

The last part is interesting, because many previous studies have shown peer influence and institutional influence to be major factors.  I do wonder if students do not realize that the environment where cheating is common-place (everyone does it) allows them to consider cheating as an option.  It may not be that they’re thinking, “Well, everyone’s doing it, so I am going to do it.”  It’s probably more like “I really have to pass this class for my major. I’ll just do it once. What’s the big deal?”  The last part may stem from a campus environment where it’s understood that cheating is commonplace. (Of course, I realize, I’m just conjecturing here. Just trying to make sense of it all.)

The article does suggest that behaviors can be influenced by what professor do in the classroom.  For example:

[S]etting clear expectations, and repeating them early and often, is crucial. […]

“It’s about communicating clearly in the classroom and spending time on the topic,” said Angela Baldasare, divisional manager of assessment and data analysis at the University of Arizona, about clarifying expectations and increasing the intrinsic values of assignments, “so that there’s something more to it than just a grade.”

yes i cheated but i am angry that you’re punishing me

Today, a Florida newspaper reported a case of cheating at University  of Florida, in which 242 instances of cheating was caught in a computer programming course.  Many of the students will admit to it and accept responsibility.  Others will accept responsibility but challenge the penalty.  One such student commented,

“I’m really angry at the fact that students got away with this in earlier semesters,” she said. “We are taking the hit, and I believe that is unfair.”

I don’t think she knows what it means to really “accept responsibility”.

OMG. That is all I can say.

cheating in college sports

Well, it IS everywhere.  On college campuses on and off the field… it’s taking place.

The Sports Illustrated article, “UNC case shows rewards still outweigh risk cheating,” starts with a confession of a sort…

(Lest this devolve into typical sports writer moralizing, let’s get one thing straight. Many of the NCAA’s rules are arbitrary and unnecessary. No one cares when a young person in one field of the entertainment industry cashes in on talent above and beyond the rank and file, but the NCAA cares a great deal when a young person in its particular field of the entertainment industry cashes in on talent above and beyond the rank and file. It doesn’t bother anyone when Miley Cyrus rakes in millions, but it bothers a lot of people when Marvin Austin gets bottle service on South Beach and an agent foots the bill. This is quite silly. But since the NCAA decided to make these rules and makes a big show of enforcing them, this is a topic that must be examined in the coverage of major college football.)

I like the point the writer, Andy Staples, is making here.  Whether you like the rules or not… rules are the rules.

Some of my students have actually cited “civil disobedience” as an encouragement to break the rules.  I’m fairly certain THIS is not what Dr. King or Gandhi (or Thoreau) had in mind when they called for civil disobedience.

I’m not a sports guru of any kind – I happen to catch this article because it involves cheating – but I’m happy to hear that there are consequences for breaking the rules:

For a case that involved academic fraud and players taking money and goodies from agents, North Carolina will lose 15 scholarships over three years and will be banned from postseason play for the 2012 season. Former assistant coach John Blake, who was accused of steering players to agent Gary Wichard in exchange for payment, was given a three-year show-cause order that bans him from recruiting. That essentially renders Blake unemployable at the college level.

I think the question of whether the rules are fair or sensible is a separate question.

It’s kind of like this.  Sometimes when students are called in for discipline-related issues into my office, often they start citing issues with the professor in question.  She’s disorganized. She’s mean. She is not prepared. She treats me unfairly.  I listen – I sometimes even take notes.  Then, I tell them that these are two different issues.  Even if it’s a fact that your professor is a TERRIBLE teacher, it does not mean then therefore you can be disruptive or break code of conduct.  Fine.  We’ll handle that as a separate issue – Here’s an academic complaint form if you really must have it.  But here and now, let’s deal with YOUR conduct.

cheating in Britain

The Independent newspaper of Britain reports that 45,000 students of 80 universities around the country have been caught cheating over a period of 3 years.

Some 16,000 cases were recorded in the past year alone, as university chiefs spent millions on software to identify work reproduced from published material, or simply cut and pasted from the internet.

What is interesting is how some people are “blaming” various factors such as the financial crisis and the easier access to higher education.

University bosses blame the financial crisis for raising the stakes in higher education, making many students willing to do anything to secure good grades – or just to stay on their degree courses. A number of experts claim that Tony Blair’s flagship policy of increasing access to higher education has left thousands of young people starting university without all the practical and intellectual skills required.

The paper also reports an interesting investigation they did with a paper mill.  They posed as a student and bought a paper.  Then, they checked it through which returned a clean report.  When they submitted it to a professor…

Professor Rentoul’s verdict: “Some evidence of knowledge of the subject, but:

1. Very poor grammar and style, unintelligible in places (reads as if it has been translated by Google from another language);

2. Very poor sources and sourcing. All four books cited are polemical anti-war works. No primary material cited at all;

3. Argument, analysis and narrative weak and unsupported by evidence. Much too polemical rather than historical in style. The question needs to be defined and then the evidence for and against needs to be cited and weighed.

Please see me for further advice.” Mark: 42 (Third Class marks: 40-49)

Interestingly but probably not surprisingly, the paper mill company has the following disclaimer:

“ is a custom research/writing/rewriting service that provides proper references too for assistance purposes only. It is necessary to use every paper with appropriate reference. The papers provided serve as model papers for students and are not to be submitted as it is. These papers are intended to be used for research and reference purposes only.”

Sure. Of course.

This is an excellent article about the practices of cheating in higher education.  Highly recommend it.


cheating in India

Cheating does really happen around the globe, huh?  IBN Live reported the following:

BHUBANESWAR: At least 27 candidates were caught cheating during the ongoing Plus Two examination on Tuesday. The flying squads of the Council of Higher Secondary Education (CHSE) booked the students from at least 16 colleges of the State.  On Tuesday, students appeared for English subject in the Plus Two Science stream. The squads which made surprise checks found malpractice at 16 colleges, including Budhadeb Collage in Jajpur, CP College in Mayurbhanj and Dimiria College of Keonjhar.  Stringent action will be taken against the colleges where malpractice is being encouraged, CHSE Chairman Nihar Ranjan Patnaik said.

But just because it’s happening everywhere does not mean that therefore it’s okay or that we just give up.  One of the most common “arguments” people make about ignoring cheating is that “it’s human nature.” So what? Apparently hurting each other is human nature, too, but we don’t condone it – do we?