The Costs of Cheating

March 19, 2010

Physics students who copy their classmates’ work learn less than students who don’t plagiarize, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found in a study released yesterday. The researchers created algorithms to determine when answers submitted by MIT physics students through a popular online homework and e-tutoring program had been copied, then tracked how the serial plagiarists did on their final exams. Students who copied answers on problems that required the use of algebra scored two letter grades worse than non-copiers on such problems in the final, while students who copied more concept-based homework problems did not fare any worse than their more honest peers. Those who copied 30 percent of homework problems were three times more likely than the others to fail. The study recommends several measures that can reduce academically dishonest behavior, including getting away from lecture-based courses and toward more interactive teaching methods.

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