I blew it when phrasing this policy on my syllabus

Here’s a cautionary tale for all those writing syllabi: In the syllabus for GE 103, I set different levels of collaboration allowed for different kinds of assignments. No collaboration on timed assessments; some collaboration allowed on the informal level for feedback journals but writeups to be done independently; and the following for labs:

I really, really, really should NOT have included lab homework in the category of “unlimited collaboration within your group”. It has led to groups in which one nice person does all the follow-up homework on a lab and the other two write down what the other person tells them to. I just had students turn in homework that was precisely identical, down to the punctuation marks and one student changing a word to match the other student’s word. And yet, by my policy, I can’t do anything about it because they’re in the same lab team. Big mistake on my part to allow that loophole.

Forget that rational choice theory clearly says that if you are going to copy someone’s homework and gain 6 points, but not understand the material and subsequently lose 20 points on the same question on a test, you cannot rationally choose to copy. I’m beginning to think that points alone are not a sufficient basis for applying that theory to the classroom; you have to look at the expense of points plus effort. An ill-advised student might choose to forfeit a few points — or more than a few — if it makes life less work-intensive.


Filed under Education, Higher ed, Liberal arts math, Life in academia, Student culture, Teaching

4 responses to “I blew it when phrasing this policy on my syllabus

  1. On cohort assignments, the cohort must meet and fill out a form that specifies what percentage of the grade will go to each member of the cohort, and every member must sign it. On the first assignment, everybody gets 100%; on the succeeding assignments, they do not.

    It works pretty well.

  2. Ha! I’m surprised that’s never happened to me.

  3. chris

    I came close a couple of times 😉