Take-home exams test Miami students’ integrity
Published: Friday, September 7, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 7, 2012 00:09
A collective “yes!” can usually be heard from students in the classrooms of teachers who administer take-home exams over course material. Their perceptions may be that this type of assessment is easier or that they are more likely to get an A, but in actuality, some teachers say that take-home exams can be even more time-consuming.
A recent scandal at Harvard University, where 125 students were caught cheating on a take-home exam by collaborating on answers, has gotten media attention. Although careful rules and regulations regarding academic integrity were in place, administrators there are being forced to re-evaluate these policies in attempt to make them more effective.
According to Phyllis Callahan, dean of the College of Arts and Science, there are currently no policies in place regarding take-home exams at Miami University.
“A take home exam is no different than writing a paper,” Callahan said. “Policies on academic integrity are explicitly stated in the Student Handbook, and faculty include instructions about the proper procedures to follow. It is the responsibility of students to behave in an ethical manner both inside and outside the classroom.”
The Miami University Policy and Information Manual (MUPIM) briefly addresses the topic in section 5.4, the Statement on Good Teaching Practices, which states that it is the responsibility of instructors to confront students suspected of academic dishonesty.
Nutrition instructor Nancy Parkinson said she believes it is hard to monitor take-home exams to ensure they are fair.
“If anyone is going to cheat I consider it a matter of integrity that has to rest on their conscience,” Parkinson said. “It is not something I have a lot of control over unless it is brought to my attention, in which case I have to do something about it.”
Parkinson said she handles the issue by using critical thinking questions in her exams that force students to apply the material learned in class and information from their textbooks. In regards to the ethical issues that come with this type of assessment, Parkinson said she has only had to question a student once, and the matter was resolved by talking to the students involved and taking appropriate disciplinary action.
Although take-home exams do not make up the majority of her tests, Parkinson said she feels that a big advantage of this type of test is that it allows students to be creative in their responses, and develop answers that are more reflective, insightful and better applied to the real world.
“It’s something that takes longer than an hour,” she said.
Senior Emily Mossler said she supports the idea of take-home exams, but she has some reservations.
“I think they’re a good way for students with test-taking anxiety to show their knowledge of the material being presented in class,” Mossler said. “But I also think that many students see them as a way not to try as hard.”
This article is part of a series The Miami Student is running about the University Archives. All information in the following article was obtained from the University Archives with the help of University Archivist Bob Schmidt.