S4xE1: Academic Misconduct
We are kicking off season 4 with a deep conversation on academic misconduct with Dr. Oluwakemi Ola from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver Canada, and Dr. Mia Minnes from the University of California, San Diego. This episode was inspired from a panel we were on at the 2023 SIGCSE Technical Symposium called “Who’s Cheating Whom: Changing the Narrative Around Academic Misconduct.” In this episode, we go into more detail as we discuss how academic misconduct is handled at our respective institutions, how it impacts us, how our thinking about misconduct has changed over time, what we do to teach our students about misconduct, and how the systems around us influence our and the students’ decisions around misconduct.
You can also download this episode directly.
Brett Wortzman, Kristin Stephens-Martinez, Mia Minnes, Oluwakemi Ola, and Adam Blank. 2023. Who’s Cheating Whom: Changing the Narrative Around Academic Misconduct. In Proceedings of the 54th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education V. 2 (SIGCSE 2023). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 1210–1211. https://doi.org/10.1145/3545947.3569609
[00:07] Kristin: Hello and welcome to the CS ed podcast, a podcast where we talk about teaching computer science with computer science educators. I am your host, Kristin Stephens-Martinez, Professor of the Practice at Duke University. Joining me today is Dr. Oluwakemi Ola, associate professor of teaching at University of British Columbia, Vancouver Canada, and Dr. Mia Minnes, teaching professor for University of California, San Diego. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast.
[00:31] Kemi: Hi, y’all. This is Kemi. I hope whenever, when you’re listening to this, your day is going well.
[00:38] Mia: Hi, everyone. It’s great to be here.
[00:40] Kristin: So, since we have more than one awesome guest, we’ll need to go one at a time. And Kemi, first, I’d like to ask you, how did you get to where you are today? Everyone’s paths are different, and I’m sure yours is interesting.
[00:52] Kemi: I’ll try to keep it short. Growing up in Nigeria, I was really good at math and so I wanted to be an engineer. But my sisters, I have three sisters. They always used to joke with me and say you’re gonna end up like a mechanic on the street, just fixing cars and wearing dirty clothes. And I remember every time they did that I would like cry and go report to my mom. And my dad has four girls. And back in the nineties, it was shameful for a man to not have any sons to take on the family name and do wonderful things. My dad really didn’t care too much about that. So he sent us all to private schools, and so I just continued excelling at math.
[01:34] Kemi: And when I moved to the United States, I became a tutor for my calculus class and that’s how I made friends, by being their tutor. And then my parents really wanted me to be a pharmacist. And then I was like, ok, I could do that and then I shadowed a pharmacist for a day. And then I was just like, no, this, this is not, I can’t do this. And then I started at a community college, Southwest Michigan College in Dowagiac Michigan. I thought I was gonna become a chemical engineer because my name is Kemi. So it would be Kemi the ChemE because they used to call chemical engineers back then; Chem-E’s and electricals were like double Es, and mechanicals are MEs. Anyway, so I wanted to be a ChemE, but Dr. Kosinski was my chemistry teacher and I would do well in class. But then I would get to lab and I could never get the Bunsen burner to turn on. And then I was always breaking things and the titration lab, like the lab, was from 2 to 5 and I would still be there at six o’clock.
[02:44] Kemi: And so I realized it wasn’t gonna work. And so I just went to the catalog of schools I was gonna transfer to and looked for the engineering that had the most math, and it was electrical engineering. So I transferred, started my electrical engineering degree, and then I took a programming course. And it was Easter. I remember being on campus and it was like 3 a.m. and I was trying to find the missing semicolon and I’m crying because this thing is so difficult. And I’m like, I will never program again. And then on Tuesday, Dr. Stanley Yoder comes back and I show him my code and within two minutes he finds it. And I was just like, but that was my whole night and midnight. And then I guess when the dust settled and I wiped away my tears, I realized that being able to find a bug. It just became this problem that I wanted to solve, writing good code. And so I think that’s how it started. And I continued doing electrical engineering and then I switched to computer engineering because I had more programming courses. And then right before graduation, I realized I didn’t want to be a hardware engineer. I wanted to actually write software. But it was too late for me to switch to computer science. So I graduated with a computer engineering degree. And then went on to do my master’s and Ph.D. in computer science.
[04:14] Kristin: In some ways that the thing that sticks most with me in that story is like, I shadow a pharmacist and decided never to do that. And it’s like, in some ways that’s perfect. Like I tell students sometimes when they’re like, it’s like they’re worried about making the wrong choice. I’m like, no, like you can then find out you could scratch it off your list. This is great. It’s just as useful information. All right, Mia, how about you? How did you get here?
[04:35] Mia: So funny enough, I also went to college thinking I’d be a chemical engineer like Kemi just shared. Growing up, I had lots of different interests. When people asked me what my favorite subject in school was or what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d basically answer randomly because it changed from moment to moment in day to day. I was curious about everything. I was just really enjoying learning. A little bit of a geek. That’s OK. I embraced it. So when it came time to go to college. I basically wanted to go for as broad a program as I could and I went for engineering at a place that also let me do a degree in philosophy at the same time. So I wouldn’t have to choose between them and humanities.
[05:29] Kristin: Nice!
[05:30] Mia: And even more exciting for me was that within engineering, we weren’t shoehorned into any discipline. The first year was a common first year where we were required to take classes in lots of different disciplines within engineering so we could make informed choices about next steps. So I had a class where we licked rocks. This was pre-COVID to try to identify what they were. It was an awesome geology class. I remember it. It was amazing. We had another class where we were hand drawing the different perspectives of three-dimensional shapes. We had to learn the 3 to 1 arrowhead ratios for the correct drawing. Now, everything is automated, but I dealt with having to do straight lines with pencils. And, also I had to take my first programming class, which I had never done in high school or before that I’d never really sat down to learn any programming before I went off to undergrad.
[06:32] Mia: And, and then we had to choose, we had to choose a sub-discipline of engineering for the rest of our degree. And I, I was really fascinated by the problem-solving and the intellectual rigor of the math and computer science side of things. So that’s where I specialized while still keeping that philosophy going. Because I really like kept asking those why questions, why do we define things the way that we do? Why do we care about these theorems and these logical structures? How does it all fit together in terms of how we see the world and see humans? And so it was, it was this continual exploration trying to keep myself from getting boxed into any one category. And, and that just has been my motivating, I think, throughline to keep an open mind, keep asking questions, keep being curious. And I love that in my current role in computer science and engineering, I get to do that. I keep getting to ask questions.
[07:34] Kristin: I love how both of you kind of were like wandering all over the place. This is one reason why I like talking about like, how did you get here? Because I’m sure it’s not as straightforward as it looks.
[07:45] Kristin: All right. So, that brings us to the next segment of the podcast, which is our main topic about academic misconduct. So, a little bit of background for those who are listening to the podcast, Mia and Kemi were in an academic misconduct panel at SIGCSE Technical Symposium in 2023. And so I invited them onto the podcast because I felt like this is an important conversation to have. So people can start thinking more nuanced around academic misconduct because it’s definitely one of those things that you think is cut and dry until you actually start breaking it apart and thinking about it in more detail and especially thinking about it in terms of how other institutions handle it and not just your own institution.
[08:30] Kristin: So, I think what’s useful in our case would be we can start with what our contexts are in terms of how our university handles misconduct. And then there’s one little thing I want to talk about, that’s called the three-legged stool around misconduct. And then we’ll probably just like branch off into other topics. So I can start with myself. At Duke University, there is kind of like this two-phase process. When you detect academic misconduct, which is how ever you define it in your syllabus. You check with the misconduct office, whether or not the student has done this before. And so if this is their first-time offense, it’s called a faculty-student resolution, which basically means you and the students sit down and meet and discuss what happened and discuss the punishment and you fill out a piece of paper and both sign it to agree like this is what happened. I agree to my punishment, and then you submit the form, and it’s all kind of done and over with. If it’s not their first-time offense, they’re not qualified for that form. And you basically, as the professor, have to write up a little thing to give the office the evidence of what happened, and then the office gets to decide what to do. And then, days, weeks later, depending on when it happens, you find out whether or not the office decided the student was culpable. I don’t even think they tell you what the punishment is. They just tell you it was found the student was in the wrong, and that’s all they tell you. I was like, oh, ok. So I don’t want to know what the punishment is because then I might feel bad about like trying to send more students to the office. But how about you, Kemi? What is your context?
[10:00] Kemi: So at UBC, we have a similar situation. I think the main difference is that regardless of which offense it is, the instructor still has to meet with the student and write a report and send it to the department, the associate head, who then sends it to the faculty. Now it doesn’t take a week, a month. If the student denies engaging in academic misconduct, it could be a year later. And if it’s a severe case, like if they engaged in academic misconduct on a final exam, it can go all the way up to the President’s Council. So typically, what will happen is a year and a half after the class has ended, you get a random email from the President’s office saying they want you to attend this meeting because student X is in front of the President’s Council and then you go to a meeting, it has an advisory council and the ombudsperson, and then it’s a two hour back and forth trying to get the student to basically admit or give more circumstances as to why they engaged in that conduct and then it disappears. You don’t know what happens. So, the only part that you actually know what happens is when you detect academic misconduct, when you meet with the student, and when you assign them that initial penalty. What the institution decides to do after, I have absolutely no idea. I’ve gone to President’s Council like four or five times. And I still don’t know what ended up coming out of it.
[11:55] Kristin: So at Duke, I have heard of horror stories like this where like, the student just denies all the way up the chain. I have not had this happen to me, personally. So technically, at Duke, it is the case that the student can deny it. And then, it drags on for potentially like a year, year and a half. How about you, Mia? How is your context?
[12:17] Mia: Oh. it’s really interesting to hear yours. So, at UC San Diego, we have an academic integrity office that is the central body where a lot of these issues are thought through. Two important policies are one that instructors are expected to report any suspected cases of academic integrity violations to the academic integrity office. So there isn’t that first lower stakes process that that you were talking about a little bit, Kristin. And then the second policy that I think is interesting here compared to what I’m hearing from your places. Is that it’s up to the instructor to determine the, any kind of academic sanctions that are associated with findings of responsibility. But it’s up to the institution and the policy for administrative sanctions. And there’s, there’s a lot of documentation around what each of those entails.
[13:22] Mia: I will say that our time frame sounds more like Kemi’s than Kristin’s, sadly. And I think that has a lot of really important consequences for student experience and really challenging impacts on student experience when the process can, can drag on so long. It is the case like you were saying, Kristin, that the process is shorter if students are willing to accept responsibility earlier on, and then you’re able to deal with it. Move on. But if they’re concerned that they shouldn’t be accepting responsibility, if they feel like the, the suspicions were unfounded and that they shouldn’t be, they shouldn’t be held responsible, then things can really last a very, very long time, and that can be really challenging.
[14:02] Kristin: My, my sense from the conduct office here at Duke is that they do try and prioritize where they can, and you had an interesting point about, like, the academic versus administrative punishment. And so here at Duke, we also, as the professor, get control over the academic punishment, and then it’s kind of up to Duke to decide if there’s an administrative piece to it, which I’m assuming means something like they are suspended for a semester or something like that.
[14:32] Mia: Yes, administrative sanctions can include suspensions can include separations from the university at the extreme end. One thing that I really appreciate about the context here is that our academic integrity office really takes a teaching-centric view on, on the whole question of academic integrity and thinking of academic integrity as a teaching and learning issue rather than as a punitive or enforcement issue. And so, in particular, this is manifested in some of the vocabulary or the language that we use. I find myself kind of bristling against words like punishment and I think I heard someone say culpable and, and it’s just because we use a different standard jargon. Here, we talk about accepting responsibility, being held responsibility, we talk about sanctions. And, and the idea here is to embed the process into the educational framework of the institution. We can talk about how effective that is. But that, that’s at least the aspirational goal here. And I think in terms of the timing, while we try to embed this process into the educational framework as much as possible, the more it drags out, the more negative repercussions it has for the rest of the educational experience, both in terms of a student’s sense of belonging on campus, the students sense of trust in the system. But also, just very concretely, we have a special designation in the transcript for a course and a student where there’s an academic integrity case that’s pending and the student can’t progress in their academic program if that course is a prerequisite for another course they’re not considered to have had to have earned the grade in that course until that case is resolved. And so that’s got really important effects to time to degree, for example.
[16:36] Kristin: Interesting. I don’t think it appears in the transcript anywhere, but I might be wrong.
[16:42] Mia: Yeah. So for, for UCSD, it appears in the transcript as blank until it’s resolved. So, externally to campus, no one can see that it’s blank because of this reason. Internally, there are some ways that you could see that it’s blank for whatever reason it is. Once the case is resolved, it’s not annotated on the transcript whether the student was held responsible to an academic integrity issue in any of their courses or not. And, and I know that students are very sensitive to that in terms of having indications on their transcript of this process happening or not
[17:20] Kristin: Yeah, for the Faculty Student Resolution form that is like the first strike here at Duke. One of the things that students are told is that once they graduate, it’s not part of their permanent record. I definitely have had students ask me like, is this going to affect my funding? And I’m like, I have no idea, like, in some ways, I don’t want to know because I’m supposed to apply my rules, and you knew what the consequences were. And in some ways, I kind of do care about what the full consequences are for you. But in other ways, I’m supposed to hold you to a certain standard and apply the situation as I’m supposed to. But it does make me think about what I define as misconduct versus not, which I feel segues us a little bit nicely into the next thing I wanted to talk about.
[18:03] Kristin: So I learned this from Jeff Forbes. So shout out to Jeff Forbes, and he says he learned it from the Duke Consulate. So, I don’t think there’s a real citation for this one. He called it the three-legged stool for misconduct, where to help minimize it. You have to do three things. You need to educate the students. So they understand what the misconduct is in your class and also what the consequences are. Then you have to audit and actually check to see whether or not students are following the rules, and then you have to enforce, once you find misconduct, the consequences that you told the students were going to do. Otherwise, students will basically not take you seriously that this is what you’re considering to be misconduct. So that’s the three things are educate, audit, and enforce. And an interesting point that Brett Wortzman made at the panel is that what this means is do not create rules you cannot enforce. If you cannot audit it, do not make it a rule and call it misconduct. If you don’t plan to hold students accountable, don’t make it a consequence. It makes things more clear all around, and on both sides, students who may do the misconduct will maybe hesitate because they know that they might get caught and get the consequences. Those who will never do misconduct will have more trust in the system that students aren’t cheating their way to be the same thing as them, even though they didn’t learn and work as hard as far as the students who are more upholding what you’re supposed to do. And so I find it really helpful in both of those directions to help me think through, especially how I define misconduct. Like I used to like, define things where I’m like, definitely can’t audit that. So I guess I’m never gonna enforce it, but I’m gonna say it like, and now I’m like, mm, this doesn’t make sense anymore. So, Mia or Kemi, how do you feel about that?
[19:56] Kemi: I think the first thing I liked about what you said, you said educate, and the next word that came out of your mouth, I think, was teach. And I think one of the problems is that we put it in the syllabus. These are the 19 ways that you can engage in academic misconduct. The students don’t read it because they have five syllabi to go through, and then halfway through the semester, they get an email saying they engaged in academic misconduct. And they’re like, but I didn’t know, I didn’t know this was academic misconduct. And so I think actually teaching students what is academic misconduct and what the implications are for our society, like the larger computing society. I think is important. And I think that a lot of the cases I see would not exist if students had an understanding that certain actions would be deemed as academic misconduct.
[21:00] Kristin: Interesting. I guess for me, like, it really does depend on the definition because one of the things that I mainly focus on is so for my context, I mainly teach CS1 and a data science class, and we, in many ways, kind of simplified the rules, partially because of this three-legged stool that you can talk about your code. You can technically show your code to your friends while you’re doing your homework. That’s fine because, in the real world, that’s what you’re going to be doing, discussing and thinking about it. Obviously copy pasting your friend’s code is not going to help your learning. And then for exams or for these online quizzes, basically talk to no one, do like no sharing, no nothing. And I repeat multiple times right before the quiz and that kind of thing. In hopes that it’s a very clear line like here on one side, that here’s the things that you can talk to everyone and anyone and you can show your code and everything on this side, talk to no one, show no one.
[21:59] Kristin: And literally, I’ve told them hide in your dorm room, lock the room, don’t pick up your phone, like just focus. And because the number of stories I hear of students going like, yeah, so we agreed that we would just work on the quiz at the same time and like, but go to our respective rooms and we would lock our door (sigh). I’m like, ok, so this, this is the beginning of the story that then like devolves into. But since I knew they were working on it also, I called them and asked them for help. And I’m like, Yeah.
[21:59] Kemi: Oh no.
[22:27] Kristin: And that’s why your code was so much so similar. And, I have so many of those stories at this point where, and so this is how I share it to my students of teaching them like this is cheating, and this is how you can also defend yourself against the risk of being cheating. Don’t do it in the library, like do it in your room. Someone will shoulder surf. To roll back a little bit. It’s also because the thing that crushes me most when I have to deal with these kinds of stories, especially the ones of like I was working in the library. I swear I was alone. And I’m like, well, technically, the evidence I have before me just says collaboration happened. I want to believe you. But you don’t really have any evidence that you can give me that says collaboration didn’t happen. All I know is that you’ve confessed that you’ve worked on this in the library when I explicitly told you that you probably don’t want to do that, that’s probably the, the, the, the struggle I have with the process that I talk to the students instead of the students going straight to the office. Because I’m sitting there going like, I want to believe you in some ways, I do believe you. But at the same time, I need to base it on the evidence, not hearsay of what happened, and enforce the punishment regardless. This is one of the things that bugs me, but Mia, you were going to say something.
[23:39] Mia: Well, I was, I was gonna follow up on what you were saying about the clarity, which I think is, is really helpful in having conversations with students about here are the expectations around collaboration for this part of the course. Here are the expectations around sequestering yourself and authorship in this part of the course. And I wonder if the advice that Tricia Bertram Gallant, who’s our director of academic integrity office gave me would be helpful also to share here, which is that the first step is that communication, that clarity of expectations. But then the second step that can be very helpful as well in getting student buy-in to those expectations is explaining the why. So I think we can be really clear in our syllabi sometimes in our instructions and in our communication about the how here’s how you can do the assignment with the integrity. Here’s how you want to protect your code. So other people don’t look over your shoulders, but sometimes we’re missing the why. And I feel like that’s been a really useful lens for me in thinking about building out my course and building out policies around the whole course and, in particular, the academic integrity aspects of it.
[25:06] Mia: And so when I think about why do I want folks to collaborate in some ways but not others, why do I want them to work independently in other ways? I try to think about what I’m hoping they get out of that experience, and there’s something about formative assessment where we’re doing the work to learn where we’re working on assignments that help us figure out how things piece together and really learning by doing. And in those parts of the course, collaboration can be incredibly helpful for learning. And also actually seeing where other people are stuck. So you’re not feeling so alone in that search for the semicolon, you know, that other people are looking for semicolons too, and it doesn’t mean that you’re not capable. So I think that talking and having a culture of collaboration can be, actually tremendously helpful at certain stages in learning concepts. And then the question is how do we switch modes to that independent certification of our own abilities and our own internalization of the material that we were working to learn. And that’s when the individual work can be really helpful for that accreditation piece of, hey, I, I worked really hard. I put in the time, and now, like I can pat myself on the back. I figured it out. I can do it even without all the scaffolding. And so sometimes when I can talk with the students about, here’s the part of the course where we’re all putting in the hard work together. We’re all supporting each other’s learning and figuring it out together. And here’s why it’s helpful to talk with other people. I really encourage the group work in this part of the course. But now we want to make sure that we’ve got a place where we hold ourselves to a high standard of independent achievement so that we’re working towards something. And then we also know where we need to fill in any gaps that can sometimes help shift the culture, too.
[27:14] Kemi: Everything Mia just said, I’m gonna listen to this podcast, and her words like there’s some phrases you use that I think are so phenomenal. Independent achievement, showing individual competency. I think those words are really transformational. And so I’m gonna come back and listen to this because I feel like if I just take those words and put it on a slide, I can riff on it for an hour. So thank you.
[27:42] Kristin: For the students, definitely, they do not fully understand what’s going on or why the policy is the way it is. And some of it is definitely also the lack of impulse control because their brains are still cooking. On like they’re fixated on the the goal of getting a good grade without recognizing that the goal is not actually the good grade. The goal is making sure the knowledge is in your head and stays there. And one of the shifts that I have been having, like the past couple of semesters has been talking to the students, especially when I’m having my misconduct meetings of why things are the way they are. And help me frame things. So they’re much more likely to confess. Like I definitely went through a semester where I was very belligerent, of just like not because I was upset, but because I thought that’s how I would force them to confess. And then this past semester, especially after running the panel, it made me more talk about measurements. The point of the exam was for you to measure what, you know, and now the measurement is in question because of the evidence I have before me. And this is your chance to tell me your side of the story. So I can understand whether or not that measurement is in question. I feel like I got a lot more confessions out of that because it was also a lot softer approach rather than go like, “You cheated. Tell me why.”
[29:08] Mia: I think, I’ll just say that something that’s shifted over the years for me is really being very mindful of the psychology and empathy around our students’ experiences. I think sometimes conversations around cheating can go towards, what are they thinking? What were they doing? I’m so frustrated with them. A lot of like us versus them adversarial, and I feel like, you know, when, when we introspect a little bit, some of the bad behaviors we see that we get so frustrated about, I don’t know that we’re so different. You know, and, and in terms of like the, the folks who set assignments and the folks who take the assignments. Everyone works to deadlines. Everyone procrastinates. Everyone knows they should start early. Start often. But we don’t because everyone’s busy and there’s lots of other competing demands. And so I find sometimes when I’m going towards that, what were they thinking type mindset. I try to shift to how is the course built? What are the parts of the course that draw students in and enable them to get the learning that we all would like to happen in the course? And how can the policies of the course support that learning? And, and I think the, the shift that you were describing, Kristin, of talking about the, the evidence in terms of measurement and in terms of here’s what I’m seeing, let’s talk about it. I think it makes a whole lot of sense to me that you were getting better results with those conversations.
[30:56] Mia: Rather than a very confrontational approach. Because I think students who are in these situations, feel many of them may feel a huge amount of stress and frustration, sometimes shame, sometimes concern about future implications, and I don’t know that any of that’s irrational. I also don’t know that it’s irrational for students to go into a class wanting a good grade. If you think about the K12 trajectory and the ways that our students have been successful, they’ve been going through standardized tests, they’ve been putting in application files to universities and colleges that where they’re competing with so many other students and they’ve got to shine in terms of their GPA and their grade and this is how our systems have been set up. So I think pretending that they should have their values outside of that system and, and somehow, purely within the realm of like intellectual rigor and going just for the learning. I think it’s not setting our courses and our students up for success to remove our expectations from the systemic upbringing that our students have been facing.
[32:25] Kristin: Yeah. I fully agree that a lot of the system, there’s a, there’s a lot of things that are happening and pressuring the student to potentially behave in this way. And at the same time as the professor, I still have those moments of how dare that student, like take all of my effort to make this beautiful class for them and build it as flexibly as possible for them. And this is what they do to me, and I know that that is, was definitely not the student’s intent, and they’re not doing this on purpose, of what I would have. What I feel is a waste of my time that suddenly, I have to do all this work to detect what they’re doing. I have to do all this work to like schedule a meeting with them and write out the paperwork and all of this stuff. And I’m like, each conduct student costs me an hour or an hour and a half of my time. And it’s, and it is okay for me to feel that that doesn’t mean I should take it out of the student.
[33:23] Kristin: So I feel like I just want to share and be validated that it’s okay to feel that way. And then once I feel my validation, I’m like, all right. And now I’m gonna let that emotion go and go all right. We need to think about how the system, how I can be part of the process or the system to help students not do this anymore. Or in some ways, there’s always going to be a student that’s going to violate the policy because they will feel like they’re in a rock and a hard place. And they decide to choose the, the direction that you don’t want them to take. But it at least will reduce the risk and like, help, help make everyone feel better in the end though. I will acknowledge that. I still have this moment, like, how dare you, you have just cost me an hour and a half of my life. And then I’m gonna move past that and go like, all right, let’s talk student about what’s going on, and usually half the time, like the students having the worst semester of their life, and then you feel terrible. You’re like, well, I have to add this too because you have to face the consequences of your actions. And I’m gonna throw a bunch of resources at you at the same time to try and help you limp to the end of the finish line of the semester. But at least now I know that you’re struggling, and I’m going to try and help you with that, too. And make you face the consequences of what you have done. All right, Kemi, your thoughts from all of that so far?
[34:46] Kemi: Oh my goodness. Like, there’s just so much going through my head right now. Ok. I’ll go back to something Mia said about how we’ve conditioned them in K12 to always reach for the stars and success and always aiming to get an A, and I think at some point we need to make failure okay. I go back to the story of when I was an undergrad. And I couldn’t find a semicolon. And I spent, like, the whole of Easter just crying and trying to find the semicolon. And when Dr. Yoder came and found it, there was a sense of why did it take him such a small amount of time? But there was also a sense of okay, the world is not over. I can learn the skills necessary. And I think that part of our messaging or part of what we need to do as educators is make the system more open to accepting student failure. In my faculty, students are admitted into the Faculty of Science, but they’re not yet in the computer science major until the end of first year. So, their grade in my CS1 class matters. I had a student who got like a 95 in my course but didn’t do too well in an English course. And he’s not in the major now. I saw him like two days ago, and he had an 84.2 average. And the cut-off to get into computer science was 84.5.
[36:23] Kemi: And so, it’s like we created the system that students are like, okay, how can I get an extra two points so that my overall average. And so I feel like part of what we need to do is talk to the people who have power to make sure that this is not the world we want them to operate in because most of them will try to game that system. Because that’s, that’s their only choice to get into the program to go work at, you know, Google, Facebook, Amazon, whatever. And then the second thing I was thinking about was on a course level. If I’m having a lot of cases of academic misconduct, then I think part of that is my failure. And that I have designed a course in which 30 or 40% feel like the only way for them to meet the expectations is to cheat. Now, of course, you’re always gonna have the 5% that cheat. But once the numbers start getting that, there’s a huge number of students. Then I need to sit down and say, ok, what is wrong with the system of assessment in which most students feel? So, for instance, UBC is largely a commuter school. So, over 50,000 people commute to UBC daily. And most of these students their commute is like 2 hours one-way. And so if I do an in-class assessment or an in-class activity that I want them to finish before 10 pm, but I don’t give them enough time to finish it in class. When are they supposed to do it in their next class or when they’re commuting two hours back to White Rock, right? And so I think part of what I’m realizing is, and that’s why I like the audit piece, is when I see a lot of these cases, it makes me think systems. What systems are forcing these kinds of behaviors?
[38:33] Kristin: This past semester, I finally used MOSS to detect how bad students were cheating on my take-home exams. And unsurprisingly, I found more cheaters than normal, “normal” air quotes there. And the system piece was what occurred to me. I was like, what is going on in my class that is making students feel like this is the choice that they have? And one of my summer goals is to rethink the exams and not just because of that because we’re gonna say ChatGPT once, and then we’re never going to say it again for the rest of this episode. Oh wait, Mia does want to say it once too, but we’re just gonna say it very briefly. But it’s also because of ChatGPT that I need to rethink how to do my exams because, let’s face it, the security model of take-home exams and is now very different, and I need to rethink the security assessment model for that, which is another part of my summer goals. Maybe someday I’ll write a blog post about what I end up doing, but I haven’t decided yet, and it’s midsummer right now. So we’ll see where that goes. But Mia, you had something, you had a thought, and then we can go back to Kemi.
[39:39] Mia: Yeah, I just want to say chat GPT once, but I’m gonna say it in a positive way. Yes, it’s changing the security models, changing lots of interesting things. It’s also, I think, serving as a really concrete question to the why we don’t want people to use it as a tool. So I work with a lot of our students who are often in industry internships in the summer, and they are writing weekly reflections, and a lot of them are talking about how challenging it is to go into companies where they can’t use the tools that they’ve come to rely on. So, if in their side projects and their personal projects that help them get to these jobs, they’ve been using ChatGPT or co-pilot to get a running start on their code, they’re now coming into companies who have very strict policies where the company code can’t have any interaction with these outside tools for lots of really important intellectual property reasons. And so we need to make sure that students feel empowered to go and be developers without all these crutches. And so it’s, I think, giving me another rationale, another argument for my list of why do we care about these kinds of resource constraints and policies about where, where you can get help when you’re doing your assignments because, in the real world, there are gonna be similar policies that you have to abide by for very specific business reasons.
[41:09] Kristin: That’s so interesting because I feel like I more often hear the argument of: industry is going to use ChatGPT. So we have to train our students to use it too. OK, Kemi, more thoughts. I’m sure you have one that’s a big smile on your face.
[41:21] Kemi: Well, I was thinking several different things, but I’ll stick to two. And the first is COW, I like to call community of whine, like any time, and this is just to validate what you said, Kristin. Anytime I get a cheating case or an academic misconduct case, that just befuddles my mind. I get on the phone with like one or two of my colleagues. And I’m like, well, why would they do this?
[41:45] Kristin: Yeah.
[41:46] Kemi: And I would just whine for an hour. And I, I just need to get it out of my system because some of these situations are just so I’m like, but why would they do that? And part of me wants to take students back to paper exams. But I know it’s not an authentic form of assessment. But I’m like, but why? So that was one thing I thought, and then the other thing is I think when it when it gets down to it, and I wanted to ask Kristin this that I also teach CS1 and a third-year data science course, and there’s a part of me that realizes that by the time students reach third-year, and maybe they’ve gone for a co-op or an internship, they start realizing that having the skills actually matter. So, I guess, part of my question is how do I help expose first-year students to that mindset? So, they don’t have to first go out in business, fail once, and then realize I actually need to learn this.
[42:57] Mia: I just want to point to something you said earlier, Kemi, about these students. If their first-year courses are the gatekeeper courses for the program that they think will open the doors that well then will help them learn those lessons. Those lessons aren’t relevant yet because they need to get there. So I think that it would be wonderful if we had a situation where them knowing that the skills will matter in the end is enough. But they have to get through the gate first.
[43:31] Kristin: I, I’ve never thought of it that way. My response to Kemi’s question was I teach a computing education research class, and I love this class because it’s purposely very small, and I really get to know the students. And at one point, they asked me, why didn’t you teach us good coding and good coding style and all that on CompSci101? And I’m like, would you have believed me? And they looked at me for a second. They’re like, no, I’m like, that’s why we don’t. That’s why I don’t super try and teach it.
[43:59] Kristin: So both sides, there’s two very different responses to your question, Kemi. So let’s close out with our too long, didn’t listen. What would you say is the most important thing you want our listeners to get out of our conversation?
[44:18] Kemi: When I audit cases of academic misconduct, I use that to help inform my course design. I typically view it, at least during the formation period, as a cry for help. And that I have given students, I have limited the number of good choices for students. And part of my goal is to increase that. I no longer take it personally. Well, I still take it personally but vent to my people about how academic misconduct is a crime against my being. And I used to write reports by hand, and I developed a template and everything, but now I have allowed automation to make that process less time-consuming, and I am aware that the systems govern the behavior. And so, I am trying to advocate for better systems so that we can encourage students to have better behaviors.
[45:23] Kristin: Mia, how about you?
[45:27] Mia: I want to echo something that Kemi said at the beginning, which is that part of our job as educators is to make failure OK. And we do that in many ways, both small and large, including the ways that we talk about, make policies around, and adjudicate academic integrity and academic integrity violations. And one thing I’ve been mindful of is the impacts of academic integrity, both when it’s built into the structure of the course and enabling really positive educational experience, but also the potentially chilling impacts of overemphasizing individual efforts over the positive aspects of collaboration that can have really detrimental effects on educational experiences. So, really thinking about academic integrity and its role in our classrooms is nuanced and multifaceted.
[46:37] Kristin: All right. Well, thank you so much for joining me today, Kemi and Mia.
[46:42] Kemi: Bye y’all.
[46:43] Mia: Thanks so much for having us.
[46:45] Kristin: And this was the CS ed podcast hosted by me, Kristin Stephens-Martinez. And remember, teaching computer science is more than just knowing computer science. And I hope you found something useful for your teaching today.