Re: Grading, Plagiarism, Webbed Writing and ...

Steve Finley (Finley@TTDCE1.COED.TTU.EDU)
Mon, 12 Aug 1996 09:03:23 +0000

Mark Gellis' was the best response yet to this situation, I thought
(probably because it was almost exactly what I would've done, which
naturally made it perfect). We Academic Rhetorician types have
all this stuff to say about how the student in question was creative,
ahead of his time, subverting the dominant set of rules in a way that
demonstrated how far ahead he was of the rest of the class and how he
was in touch with the potential of this technology, ad barfinitum. Fact is,
as you said, most likely he knew he was pulling a fast one and had none
of this more noble stuff on his mind at all, and rewarding him as some
sort of cutting-edge prodigy shows you just how out of touch some of
these teachers are with what students actually do. I don't think we
should always assume the worst about students, but likewise we
shouldn't assume that every time they fail to reach the minimum
length on an assignment, it's because (e.g.) we oppressive fascist types
should'nt be giving minimum lengths on papers anyway, and our
student-genii are taking a minimalist approach in conscious protest
of the Man, man. (I've heard it put in a much more vulgar way than
that; the slightly gentler version is that with some teachers of the
all-students-are-geniuses-in-everything-they-do variety, every time a
student makes a certain bodily noise, it's Shakespeare.)

Students are, IMHO, like your own kids: they're capable of genius from
time to time, and much of what they do does have a sort of design behind
it, but sometimes they're just mean little s***s who do stuff just to see
if they can get away with it and for purely selfish interest. It's not
fair to assume that your kids always do everything out of
selfishness, and it's not smart to assume the opposite, either. Same
for students, I think.


>From Mark Gellis:

"Personally, I would give him 24 hours to do a rewrite, and make it
absolutely clear that what he did was unacceptable, considered cheating
by many, but that I was giving him the benefit of the doubt and the
chance to prove he was capable of doing the work. And then I would
dock the grade for lateness.

Harsh? Perhaps. But odds are the kid thought he was pulling a fast
one, not actually cheating, but using a loophole. As a teacher, the
purpose of a test is just that, to test, to determine whether people
understand concepts or have learned to employ certain skills (essays
are, for this reason, nothing more than "take-home exams") under a
certain set of circumstances. This kid did not complete the
assignment in a way that proves his knowledge; therefore, one
cannot assume the knowledge exists and one cannot give the student
the same credit one gives to a student who has clearly demonstrated
what they know."