Tuesday, July 06, 2010

It Takes A Thief?

To catch cheaters, colleges go to great lengths.

I went to Davidson, here in NC. We had an Honor Code. My impression is that it worked. But does it still work? Could it work elsewhere?

That is, could trust deter cheating better than spying deters cheating?


Dirty Davey said...

In the case of Davidson, and of Haverford (which also has an Honor Code that I believe worked when I was there) it may have more to do with student selection than with "trust".

My impression is that my motivations were not so different from that of most other students: we were there to get an education, and the work was part of that process. If we had not been interested in actually writing the papers or learning the material, we would likely have been elsewhere.

If a College Y education requires you to write a paper on Topic X, and you really don't want to write said paper, there's an obvious way to avoid the whole process and save tens of thousands of dollars--just don't go there.

I think this trust-through-selection only works in a narrow range of colleges, though. You can't be at the lower end of the distribution, where too many students are among those who need a degree for future employment but aren't particularly interested in the learning. And you can't be at the extreme top of the distribution, where your name and degree are so golden that lots of people want the degree more than the education.

(I guess I ended up with the short version: for "trust" to really work, the vast majority of the students at the school need to value the education more than the degree.)

Anonymous said...

It's a lot easier and cheaper to just design assignments/tests for which cheating offers no advantage. If the student does well, then they will know the material; and visa-versa.

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