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Galloway Cynthia M kfcmg00 at TAMUK.EDU
Sat Nov 15 13:15:04 EST 1997

> >SPELLING ON THE LAB REPORTS!  I have heard students say "this is a science
> >course, not an english course", and I have heard TA's say the same.  As a
> >TA, I grade all the lab reports and write-ups the same way - proper
> >spelling and grammar are important and work into the overall grade.  In
> >addition, I try to teach the students how to use citations and the *true*
> >meaning of plagiarism.  I get SLAMMED on my student evaluations as being
> >too tough and nit-picky.  Though this may prevent me from being considered
> >for teaching awards and such, in the long run it's worth it to me.

Spelling on anything is a problem.  I recently finished grading 35 papers 
to determine if our soon to be graduated Biology majors could 
communicate, effectively, in writing.  For the most part, they were "C" 
level papers.  Two had 20 or so spelling errors on one page!  The other 
reader had passed them as having few errors!  If one professor allows it 
and another does not accept poor spelling, they tend to do nothing to 
improve, hoping more people are going to let them slide.  The two 
students will have to go to  the English depasrtment to be "remediated".

> I double this one! Not only do the majority of my students (both when I 
> was in Ohio and now that I've gone on to Tennessee) do not seem capable 
> of constructing a complete thoght and expressing it in writing. I get 
> papers turned in that are indecipherable in both spelling and grammar. 
> And the handwriting is so bad that I will not accept an assignment unless 
> it is typed. Which leads to another question: why, when the students are 
> paying $200 per semester for a "technology fee" do I still get papers 
> that were tped out on an electric typewriter?
I have had a problem this semester with copied Plant Physiology lab 
reports.  I ended up giving zeros on the second report and requiring the 
reports to be typed.  The students who hadn't done their reorts were 
sitting in the hall copying their lab partners report just prior to 
class.  Requiring typed reports has presented two problems.  The first 
problem was the one or two students who couldn't type and couldn't 
afford to pay someone to type.  The second was that even thought I said 
no copying,  entire groups (4 students/group) were orinting out the exact 
same data sets.  One person in the group was organizing the groups data, 
making tables and figures, and providing each member of the group with 
the figures and tables.  They don't see this as copying since "it's only 
data".  The freshman labs require 3 written reports a semester and, even 
being warned after the first incident of cheating, they'll do the same.  
Also the person allowing the copying doesn't feel they should be 
penalized because, "they didn't cheat".

> >> The obvious copying lab reports/ prelabs and other homework.....
> >
> >This is when I again raise and discuss what plagiarism is and that it is
> >illegal.  Usually blank stares are the most I can hope for.
> My biggest concern with this issue is not so much that the students try 
> to get away with it; I think that they will always try. I am concerned 
> when the response of the immediate authority (the TA, the lab 
> coordinator, the department head) is to say "well, just tell them not to 
> do it again" or "just give them an f on the paper". The stated 
> consequence of plagairism in most school handbooks is expulsion! If the 
> student(s) is told only to not do it again, why wouldn't they? they are 
> essentially getting away with it! I understand that it is a big hassle to 
> follow through with punishing the student, but if we don't follow through 
> then we are excusing an inexcuable behavior. Cheating at any level is 
> wrong and should never be excused as not a big deal. 
We had a student take an entire 6 page article off the Internet and turn 
it in for 50% of his Senior Seminar grade.  According to our handbook the 
worst we could do was give a zero which meant an F in the class, since it 
was a first offense.  Getting a student expelled is next to impossible.  
I also proctored an exam for someone, caught two students cheating and 
was told by the instructor that nothing could be done since he didn't 
witness this.  This is the same instructor that passed the poor 
spellers.  Also, he said they weren't passing anyway so, don't worry 
about it.

One of the questions we gave our students to answer on our skills test 
dealt with having three of their friends get a copy of an exam ahead of 
time and you knowing about it but doing nothing and not studying the test 
yourself.  The 3 people with the tests got A's and you got a D.  What 
would you do?  All the people who answered that question said they would 
do nothing.  You don't rat on your friends.  They felt their D was an 
honest assessment of their ability while those who got A's probably knew 
nothing and would pay for it at the end.

I know this didn't do much to answer the problems with student ethics 
but, this thread is showing me that we aren't the only school having 
these problems.  Our chairman is very good about standing behind faculty 
who are trying to do something about this problem but, I think the 
Administration is gunshy of lawsuits so they are a little more forgiving.


Dr. Cynthia M. Galloway
Associate Professor 
Dept. of Biology
Campus Box 158
Texas A&M University
Kingsville, TX 78363

FAX: 512/595-3409

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