Friday, September 7, 2012

Integrity. Really?

I recently started a Masters program at Montana State University. As a new graduate student, I attended the orientation program in hopes of learning more about ‘what it means to be a graduate student.’ The orientation program did provide some insights into the life of a graduate (we did get to watch the Grad Student Rap, which was just entertaining!) One portion of the orientation was a presentation by a group of current grad students on academic integrity. Apparently it’s important…and now, very newsworthy.
Check out the Harvard cheating scandal that reminded me of the orientation presentation here. Students saying that they did not cheat, but collaborated on a take home test as was expected by either their professor or their T.A. Now, I have not taken the government course nor do I know any of the students, but it seems that most of the undergraduates are blaming poor course design and bad teaching as the reason they cheated. Or, excuse me, the reason they misunderstood the directions on taking the test. Several students who were interviewed advised that they discussed test questions with other students, even though they understood that was prohibited. The test even stated that working with others was not acceptable. Apparently in the past students have gotten away with it, so why not make it a tradition and continue?
In my opinion, a test is a test. In elementary school, Junior high and High School we didn’t get to discuss test answers with others (unless specifically directed to do so). Where did these individuals learn that this was okay? Many of the students were quoted stating they would lose their jobs or academic standing if the professor continued to charge them with cheating. As someone who has worked in an organizational setting, I say GOOD FOR THE PROFESSOR.
I have taken many classes where I didn’t quite understand the expectations of me as a student. When that occurred I either used the syllabus of the course to understand more effectively, or I spoke with the professor. I certainly did not take “it’s been done that way before” as my guide to the class. I also did not work with others unless told that I could. Especially if the assignment had the word “TEST.” Students also say that the professor told them that the test was “open note, open book, open internet.” They questioned why they could use online resources but not each other. They missed the point here. Using online resources shows that you are able to use those resources to find information, which is a very valuable tool. Using someone else in your class shows that you have never learned how to find information on your own. If I was interviewing a recent college graduate I would love to hear that your government professor did not teach you anything, but for the tests you were able to find the formation and got a great grade in the class. I don’t want to hear you complain about the professor and that you got the information from someone else.
I hope the students who didn’t actually cheat can prove that they were innocent. I also hope Harvard pursues those who did share answers. Perhaps this will teach them about integrity. Perhaps this will also teach them to ask clarifying questions when they are confused on simple instruction.

Think my stance is too harsh? Tell me about it in the comments below!

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