LINGUIST List 6.1390

Wed Oct 11 1995

Disc: Self-Censorship on the LIST, Cheating

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  1. Greg Shenaut, Re: 6.1373, Disc: Self-censorship on the list, Cheating?
  2. , Re: 6.1373, Disc: Self-censorship on the list, Cheating?
  3. , Re: 6.1373, Disc: Self-censorship on the list
  4. , Re: 6.1373, Disc: Self-censorship on the list, Cheating?

Message 1: Re: 6.1373, Disc: Self-censorship on the list, Cheating?

Date: Sat, 07 Oct 1995 08:38:20 Re: 6.1373, Disc: Self-censorship on the list, Cheating?
From: Greg Shenaut <gregucdavis.edu>
Subject: Re: 6.1373, Disc: Self-censorship on the list, Cheating?

There is clearly a connection between the use of the net to ask people for
help on a homework problem and asking people questions about facts which are
easily available in the library. Also, it seems fairly clear to me that
in many cases, it would be better for the senders of these requests to try
elsewhere first. Nonetheless, I do not believe that it is easy to define
the boundary between legitimate and illegitimate uses of the net, when the
goal is to seek information.

For example, if a student used the net to access an on-line resource which
could provide the same information (i.e., basic facts about a language or
the analysis of a set of linguistic data), then it would, IMHO, be perfectly
OK. Obviously, there are few such linguistic resources available on the net
at this point, but in the future I am certain that they will be created. I
think that the use of such resources is parallel to the increased use of
advanced graphics calculators in math class, or even to the use of PC-based
database software or tools such as "grep" and ATNs.

The difference for the Internet is that there is no clear distinction between
(a) the product of an expert, in the form of a database, homepage, or other
published resource, and (b) email or Usenet access to the expert himself.
For example, many homepages, which may include large databases and interactive
search/processing engines, also include some means to consult the expert who
constructed the homepage directly. Just to add a bit of complication, the
homepage author could filter these requests through a program which auto-answer
ed certain requests (for example, by sending a boilerplate FAQ to individuals
when they first attempted to contact him). In this case, while the user has
utilized an email message to contact an expert, the expert may well not be
 directly
involved at all in the interchange, and it would in some cases be impossible
to tell. I do not think that it is possible or desireable to allow one kind
of access and to prevent the other.

Furthermore,
you might consider whether you, as a professional, would hesitate to consult a
more expert colleague to help you solve a problem--I know that I often do this,
especially via email, since if someone receives such an email request from a
stranger, they can and often do simply ignore it if they are too busy or not
in the mood to help (if polite, they can demur in a one-sentence reply).

There is no way to eliminate lazy requests for information from the Internet,
so I recommend that we learn to live with them. Publish FAQs and encourage
people to use them. Refuse to reply to silly requests (except that it is somet
imes
useful to make a direct email reply, possibly boilerplate, to such posters,
guiding them to a FAQ or to the library--never, never, post these replies
to the net, though, since then you are both increasing the noise level and
reinforcing the behavior). If you do not want your students to use
outside resources to complete their assignments, I think you need to make it
absolutely clear up front; if using net resources is a particular problem,
you should explicitly forbid their use.

Finally, it is not the teacher who is the victim of cheating--it is the student
.
You should be able to create exams which can distinguish between those who did
the work themselves, and those who cheated; if the student doesn't need to do
the assigned work to learn the material, then who cares--the assignment was
redundant anyway.

-
Greg Shenaut -- gkshenautucdavis.edu
"When questioning assumptions, don't neglect your own."
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Message 2: Re: 6.1373, Disc: Self-censorship on the list, Cheating?

Date: Sat, 07 Oct 1995 20:51:41 Re: 6.1373, Disc: Self-censorship on the list, Cheating?
From: <CONNOLLYmsuvx2.memphis.edu>
Subject: Re: 6.1373, Disc: Self-censorship on the list, Cheating?

I have a few comments about the following comments which were distributed
together on Linguist.

KINGSTONcoins.cs.umass.edu wrote:

>This message concerns use of the Linguist list as a means of doing
>research and recommends that posters self-censor.
>
>I have noticed over the past year an increase in the number of
>posts to the list of the form,
>
>"I am interested in finding out about X. Can anyone out there tell
>me how to?
> ...
> I suspect that what prompts these queries is many cases is how
>convenient it is to post to the list.

Yes, indeed; and I've done it myself. While I have made some queries in lin-
guistics, most of them concern things German. In recent months I've posted
queries on soc.culture.german concerning the proposed new German orthography
and, only yesterday, whether German banks have any form of insurance on
deposits. I could have gone to a library; I could have plowed through God
knows what indices, only to find that the relevant materials are available, if
at all, only after a two-week wait for interlibrary loan to do its thing. And
it wouldn't have been up to date. I've also asked whether the regulars on that
group found certain German usages acceptable. Try that in print: we linguists
are notorious for depending on our own intuitions of acceptability to support
the most daring theories, only to find later that hardly anyone agrees with us.

I get instant feedback, and it's as reliable as anything you're going to get
anywhere else.

That's what students are used to doing. And that's the point: if information
is so readily available on the net, and so damned hard to find in other
situations, what do you expect students to do? Consciously decide not t use
what is their most consistently useful source of information? Oh, we can tell
them it's better to use the library, and for many of the recent queries it is.
But the students can't do the censoring. Only we can, by refusing to answer
the blatant homework assignments. I do respond to a lot of queries -- but not
those. I urge everyone else to do the same.

That being said, I'll add that I'm a sucker for questions about Latin, about
which I know something (undergraduate classics major), though not as much as a
specialist. I do think we have a responsibility to provide information; it's
part of our teaching function. I agree that many of the questions posed should
not be answered. But let's not get on our collective high horse about it.
Students in search of information will use the quickest route available. Don't
expect them to decide not to.

>However, in many cases, it appears that such a
>person is posting to the list at the recommendation of an
>instructor, i.e. someone who presumably does know how get such
>access. These posts are quite objectionable, as that instructor is
>passing off his/her responsibility to teach the student how to do
>research to the list subscribers.

Hardly. Using the Internet *is* a way to do research, and I commend
instructors who encourage it. I do.


nreidmetz.une.edu.au (Nick Reid) (Nick Reid) wrote at length about an apparent
attempt to solicit help on a class assignment, which he regarded as cheating.

I'm not so sure. Much will depend on the policy of the instructor and the
institution. My own policy is that students may use any information available.

I've also noticed that students seem genuinely confused as to what sorts of
assistance might be acceptable.

>* Generally speaking I believe that legitimate queries for information on
>the List are fairly readily distinguishable from blatant requests for
>people to 'do work for you'.

Indeed. I do not respond to such requests. My reason is
not that I regard such requests as cheating, but rather that the students are
far better off if they do the work themselves. But if Nick Reid and I have no
trouble distinguishing, what's the problem?

regards
Leo Connolly

Leo A. Connolly Foreign Languages & Literatures
connollymsuvx1.memphis.edu University of Memphis
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Message 3: Re: 6.1373, Disc: Self-censorship on the list

Date: Sat, 07 Oct 1995 21:55:35 Re: 6.1373, Disc: Self-censorship on the list
From: <JPKIRCHNERaol.com>
Subject: Re: 6.1373, Disc: Self-censorship on the list

On Oct 5, 1995, John Kingston wrote:

>I have noticed over the past year an increase in the number of
posts to the list of the form,

>"I am interested in finding out about X. Can anyone out there tell
>me how to?

>where X is some language or property or other of languages. What
>I find objectionable about many of these queries is that they could
>be answered by simply going to the nearest library; that is, the
>special expertise of subscribers to the list is not necessary in
>order to find out the answers to many of these questions.


I agree that we should not make more work than necessary for the LINGUIST
staff. However, having made and answered some posts that might have seemed
unnecessary with a library nearby, I think someone should devise clearer
guidelines as to when one should exercise what Kingston calls
"self-censorship". (I'd prefer the less ominous-sounding "self-restraint".)
 He is certainly right as to the reasons unnecessary queries get posted, but
the form he cites ("'I am interested in finding out about X. Can anyone out
there tell me how to?' where X is some language or property or other of
languages.") is not always the form of a frivolous query. I myself have
found that information I thought would be simple to find in a library (the
provenance of Mongolian /g/ epenthesis; whether there are universal rules for
intervocalic glide insertion, etc.), after hours of searching stacks and
databases, just did not turn up. In other cases, seemingly dumb, simple
questions can be answered through library research, but one gets the feeling
that there must be more to the matter, and the broad mass of esoteric
language data linguists' answers to simple queries can provide, or lead one
to, can be indescribably helpful.

So, yes, Kingston definitely has a point, but how about some pragmatic
guidelines?

James Kirchner
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Message 4: Re: 6.1373, Disc: Self-censorship on the list, Cheating?

Date: Sat, 07 Oct 1995 16:57:22 Re: 6.1373, Disc: Self-censorship on the list, Cheating?
From: <WFKINGCCIT.ARIZONA.EDU>
Subject: Re: 6.1373, Disc: Self-censorship on the list, Cheating?

To discourage cheating, tell the students that you read the list, perhaps
only on and off, but that you are in contact with colleagues on the list,
via the net, and that most can easily spot a cheat request. Give an
example.
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