A little grading economics lesson

If you’re a student and you copy someone’s homework and turn it in as your own work, you are not only a plagiarist loser, you are badly failing to get the big picture of why we profs give homework in the first place. It ain’t for our pleasure or my health. It’s to prepare you for bigger and better things — like tests.

Consider the example of a homework problem that is worth 3 points. Say you decide you’d rather not bother learning the material or practicing the basics necessary to get the problem even half-right, and you just copy someone else’s work. All other potential worst-case scenarios — such as getting busted for academic dishonesty — aside, let’s suppose you get all 3 points on that exercise.

Then, a few days later, you take a test which contains either that exact same exercise or one basically the same as it — and it’s worth 12 points. The point values in the class are not weighted, so 12 points really is four times as much grade as 3 points. How do you think you’ll do on the test question if you didn’t bother to learn the material? Will you score more than a 9 out of 12? If not, you have earned a net loss of points. I’d say it’s extremely doubtful that you’ll get more than a 3 out of 12 on the test version of the same question, which means losing between 9 and 12 points as a result of the ill-advised decision to plagiarize. You steal a few points in the short term but lose lots more in the long term.

Plagiarizing another person’s work is not only dishonest, it is not in your best rational interest. So knock it off.

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Filed under Calculus, Education, Higher ed, Life in academia, Student culture

2 responses to “A little grading economics lesson

  1. That’s exactly why all our projects are VBA enhanced. If a student tries to open a project file on a computer without VBA, or without the security set so the VBA can run, the project file will close. If the student is not working the project file on a diskette, the project file will close (on practical exams, we use flash drives, and if the volume number of the of the flash drive does not match the list of volume numbers recorded for those exam files, the file will close). Every time a student opens the project file, he is prompted for his username and section number, and that information is recorded. If a student is working the project in a university cluster, his network login username is also recorded. The VBA code also does all the grading, so there is no discrepency from class to class, and all students are graded in exactly the same way on exactly the same items for exactly the same criteria.

    We catch a LOT of cheaters, when students either give their project files to another student, or sometimes, when a student steals another students file. We fail them, and file academic dishonesty charges against them with the Dean of Students office.

  2. Lisa

    Unfortunately, this completely fails to address the justification many students use for cheating – namely, that they don’t have the time to learn the material right now, but later – oh, ‘later’, when all things are possible – they’ll be able to study it properly and know it for the exam. More often than not, this doesn’t really happen, but that’s still the psychological justification. I think if we’re really trying to influence students’ behavior, we need to find better reasoning than this economic logic, which is so easily brushed aside with a simple declaration of “I’ll study later”.