Cheating and “Retention”

This story ran in the NY Times: As Computer Coding Classes Swell So Does Cheating .

I began to wonder if a general concern for actual “education” – at least in courses where major corporations would care – was making an appearance again.

I couldn’t help but remember A Tale Out of School and I wrote this comment.

Washington University in St. Louis has a different approach – at least they did in the on case I was involved in.

I was teaching a math course that is critical to engineers, and an Assistant Dean of Engineering, who was also the Dean of Student Academic INTEGRITY was concerned that a significant number of his students weren’t doing well. In particular, about 30% of the students had done poorly on the most recent exam.

I explained to him (in an email) why those students had done so poorly. I wrote him that they had cheated on a homework problem, and not just any problem; it was one that was hard, but important for understanding. I pointed out to him that when I put that exact problem on the test, those who had cheated couldn’t do it, and thus got little or no credit on that problem. Almost all the rest got close to full credit, or better. I told him that I discussed this with the students.

He wrote back that,

“…The math and science courses are crucial for student retention in engineering. It pains us to see students give up engineering due to lack of confidence in math and science before they get into the meat of engineering coursework…”

The whole story of that course, including revealing – and shocking – letters from Deans, Chairs and Parents can be found on my blog inside-higher-ed . Just click on “A Tale Out of School”.

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