Postings to firstname.lastname@example.org. (un)subscribe to email@example.com. (un)subscribe mathedu <type in your email address here> -------official header above------posting from subscriber below------- >> We have the unfortunate phenomenon in almost all lower-division courses, >> and even in some upper-division courses (mostly those for nonmajors), of >> one person doing the homework and half a dozen copying it.
In our catalog it lists the penalty for cheating (the only possible penalty) is an F in the course. In my syllabus I list activities that I consider cheating, one of which is copying others homework papers. I have never failed anyone for copying homework but I have warned students that if the copying continues, they will be failed. On the other hand, I encourage the students to develop a support structure outside of class and the students can compare homework (and change answers when needed). It is difficult to judge when a student is copying and when the student is working with someone productively. The exam is usually the best indicator.
On a more positive note: I think that one reason students copy homework is that they don't know where to begin and they feel rushed to get the homework done. My students spend a lot of time during class doing problems of various sorts (I don't see why I should do an example on the board for them if they can do it themselves with guidance.) They created the examples and have a stronger idea of how to begin the homework.
Another reason that students copy homework is that they only have one chance to get it right. I found in the past that I would make the same comment on a particular student's homework paper over and over again about some error they were making. Then, on the exam, they would make the same error. Why was I having them do homework and why was I making comments when the students weren't learning from the experience. Now, I have the students response to the homework by having to redo (from scratch) certain problems. In this way, the student is forced to read my comments and retry the problem. They also feel that they have a second chance and are more comfortable on the first version of the homework. I also spend less time on the homework now because I don't bother wading through a problem I can't understand; I tell the student to rewrite it (and correct it) and turn it back in.
I would love to simply go through material in some way or another each day and assume that the student can choose appropriate problems from the text to practice while reading the section. This is not going to happen. I would also like to think that each student gets the maximum benefit from doing homework. This is not going to happen unless we give the students some guidanceon how to obtain the best benefit. I hope I have given them a structure that minimizes the risk of getting a problem wrong the first time and maximizes the benefit of feedback.
(I also give each student the choice of doing the homework or not. Out of the 35 students in my Calc II class, 32 choose to do the homework. The 3 that don't do the homework are making As.)