I came across this question and as I am not a teacher I am a bit puzzled here. What is considered to be cheating in homework? I know that students may copy homework at the last minute from other students. But what if two kids submit the same homework, claiming they did it together? Is this legitimate? Or is it also cheating? (I am not referring to assignments that are meant for groups of students, but to regular assignments given to students routinely).
I also wonder, if there is a difference between copying your homework from Wikipedia and copying homework from another student?

When your students are concerned, do you prefer individual tasks or joint ventures? What are the considerations?

(cross posted on firesidelearning)

Tags: assignments, cheating, copying, groups, homework, wikipedia

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There is no homework cheating in your scenarios. Both do their homework as required. One "gets it" immediately, the other one "gets it" later.
As for grades, since I am not a teacher, I can only convey my own opinion. I think it's always best to give the students, who perform their duties, the best possible grade. If a student did the homework, performed as a student that learns in class, why not allow the best grade, the one of the final test, be the final grade?

I am not referring to cheating in tests, in my question. I also do believe that some students (especially math) can "get it" later (either get it meaning understand it or get it meaning understand how to perform in tests and demonstrate their knowledge).

What interests me, though, and math is different than textual topics, what happens if kids copy homework from one another. In text based work you can spot it. When numbers are concerned the replies are expected to be identical. So you have lesser ability to spot copying. I am interested in the idea of collaboration over homework. Would you encourage students to help each other?
I find homework to be a relic that is poorly designed and usually given more out of habit than out of need. The fact that your question even comes up helps prove the point.

Learning to work together to solve problems is typically rated by businesses as the number 1 ability they look for in workers. Kids should absolutely be allowed to work together on homework. Homework is not an assessment. It is a learning tool. I am so tired of teachers complaining about kids who are getting Ds because they aren't doing homework. The implication is that without the homework component they would be doing fine in the class meaning they get the material just fine.

At least if they were encouraged to work together there would be some benefit to it.
I totally agree with you!
I think that if homework will change to collaborative effort it will be a major change, and a much needed one.

Kev, Just looked at your site, this page - http://mrroughton.com/assignments2.aspx - I am an admirer!!!!! This is amazing!!!
Or-Tal, thanks for posting the link to Kev's site, it is terrific! I just tagged it to show my fifth graders.

As far as homework and cheating, working together is what kids do; thinking we can create assignments that will force them to "do their own work" is silly. I watch my 12th grade daughter and her friends sitting together working on their calculus and physics homework and have no problem with it at all. They are successful students and have mastered the skill of collaboration that businesses look for. Every so often one of them does, literally, copy the answers. This usually happens when their lives overflow and is certainly not the norm. Again, I don't have a problem because I know they understand the need to master conceptual understandings and will do so over the life of the course. It is my belief that the collaborative process of problem solving is equally as important as content ("right answer").

Carnegie Foundation published a great report on strengthening learning in community college settings that has implications for all grades. I like this quote,

"As Tinto (2007) points out, “Students will get more involved in learning, spend more time learning, and in turn learn more when they are placed in supportive educational settings that hold high expectations for their learning, provide frequent feedback about their learning, and require them to actively share learning with others”

How wonderful that kids are creating these "supportive educational settings" in the form of homework groups where they share thinking. As teachers we should be encouraging more of this!
Hi Elise,, the situation you are describing with your daughter sounds ideal to me. But I am not sure it is like that for every one.
What started my thinking about it was this story:
My daughter's class (7th graders) was given an assignment in History for the summer. Topic was Napoleon and there were some 8 questions. They had the whole summer to do it. They were supposed to submit it as they return from the summer vacation, September 1st.
On the morning of Sept 1st I saw the printed pages my daughter prepared. There were all the answers except for no. 6. I was surprised. I asked her "how comes" and she said "well I couldn't find it on Google and it wasn't in the text book". I asked her - did you open an encyclopedia? Did you go to a library? Did you ask for my help? And most importantly - did you talk to your classmates about it? - and she said "kids don't talk about homework unless they are forced to".
That's what started my research. Later that week I learned from other mothers that some kids had trouble answering other questions - but none of them tried to collaborate. They simply didn't care how complete their assignment is. And they also didn't think it can be interesting to check with classmates what the others found out.
Ever since that I discovered many similar cases, where kids simply try to avoid dealing with homework beyond a minimum required to get a "submitted" mark. When they meet friends they want to play - not to do homework, and from what I have seen so far, they rarely meet for homework (unless required to do something together, and even that is on MSN today...).
I am very glad to discover other stories and approaches...
You are describing my daughter in middle school! Her study groups didn't start until high school when the homework stakes got much higher.

Homework is 30% of her math and science grades. One math teacher at her school weights homework as 50% of the final grade for the course. It would be nice to see these teachers encourage study/homework groups. I haven't thought much about how this would work but there must be some techniques out there that would encourage inclusion of all students.

Thanks for bringing up this topic!
So, are you saying it's a phase thing? It's something that's characteristic of kids ages, say, 11-14? 15? grades 5-6 till 8th? 9th?
Well, I can only reference a small sample, my two children, one in 12th grade and another in college. For both of my children the evolution of study groups was/is probably based more on need than anything else. They both want to maintain a good grade point average and master the materials. Since this is much more difficult for them to do as the material gets more difficult (and I can no longer help with AP Calculus or AP Physics!) they naturally seek the support of peers in the same situation. My kids will meet face to face in study groups, study with several chats open, and go in before and after class for help from her teacher. This is much different from middle school where the homework tended to have less on impact grades.

I do think my children and their friends would still meet to study together and prepare for tests even if there was no homework. My school has collected some research and articles on homework for our parents, you can find them on our delicious site. The Duke study by Harris Cooper addresses the homework continuum from elementary to high school.
thanks, Elise. I'll browse the references. I wonder how it is in Europe, Australia and other parts of the world.
In the meantime - take a loot at the translation of an interesting research conducted by the Haifa University about homework in Israel.
It's discussed in the neighboring network - firesidelearning.ning.com, on my blog there:
I agree, Kev. I'm also tired of teachers complaining about students getting low grades because they don't do their homework. I bet these teachers don't realize that those students are disengaged during the lesson. There are some times when homework make sense, but it shouldn't be a replacement for learning during class time. A lot of old school teachers (not old teachers) believe that homework reinforces their lessons. What it actually does is allow student to zone out during the lesson and have another opportunity to get the concepts via the homework assignment. This isn't true for all subjects and all teachers, but I have seen this often in lecture type classes.

Many, many decades ago I read an article with an irrational idea: if students earn a B or higher on a chapter test, they don't need to do the homework for the chapter. If the grade drops to a C or lower, then homework for the next chapter is required. I know longer have the article or even remember where I read it, but I liked the concept. Students who don't need to do the homework, shouldn't be required to do it.
Julie--I don't give homework (I teach in a gifted pullout program) but it always seemed to me that the kids who need to do the homework don't do it and the kids who don't need to do the homework do it. And don't get me started on 'extra credit'!! My students many times opt to do extra credit when they don't need it!
This doesn't have much to do with homework but does have to do with cheating. I was attending a workshop at a national education technology conference and the question was asked of the presenter "How do you prevent plagiarism?" This was 12 years or so ago when access to the WWW was a rather new phenomena--to this day I remember his response and think about it often. He said "Give them assignments they can't plagiarize."

I think it might have been Jamie McKenzie at fno.org---he has some good stuff to say about a lot of stuff.



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