In the freshman introduction to engineering class, where I am teaching the ethics module, the students have electronic clickers with which to respond in real time to (multiple choice) questions posed to them in lecture. I took advantage of this handy technology to get their responses to a few questions on cheating. I’m presenting the questions here in poll form so you can play along at home:
(In the event that Quimble is down and the poll is thus inaccessible, you can view the questions in this follow-up post.)
What do you suppose the students said?
On why they don't cheat, the majority of the students selected "I want to find out whether I really understand the material." The next highest response was "It wouldn't be fair to my classmates." Only a handful selected "I don't want to get caught and fail", and a few less than that chose "It's more work to cheat than to learn the material."
On why they might have something at stake if others are cheating, the majority of the students chose "I'll have to work with people who don't know what they ought to." Just slightly fewer students selected "Huh? It's none of my business." I found this interesting -- I guess freshman year can feel a lot like being an isolated individual navigating a strange and sometimes hostile system. Or maybe there's some better explanation for their intuition that someone else's cheating is none of their concern. The other options each got a handful of responses.
Finally, on who ought to be confronting cheating, "Instructor/TA" was the most popular response by a wide margin, with "All of the above" in second place. It would be interesting to know how tightly these response correlate with the responses to the previous question. Did the people who said other people's cheating was none of their business identify the Instructor and TA as the ones who ought to be cracking down on cheaters? On the other hand, were the folks who thought the whole learning community had a responsibility to confront cheaters also the ones who felt the cheating of others would make their lives hard by giving them lab partners who didn't know what they should?
What are your impressions of this glimpse into the minds of a group of frosh? Where would you predict that their responses might fall after 3.5 more years of school, or a few years out in the work force?