Usually when I’m applying an exam on my students, right before giving them the questions sheet, I tell them not to cheat. I usually warn them that I will not be inspecting their every move, but I will be watchful to make sure that no communication, electronic device or consulting will be done/used.

To complement this, I always make very mean and bad comments about cheating. Stuff like “your diploma will always be tainted if you go through the University by cheating, I’d rather use it to clean my soles” or “you had all the opportunities to ask questions, consult me, the textbooks, Youtube videos, lecture notes, class monitors and myself and the other teachers before this exam. I was always honest with you and expect the same thing in return and nothing else. If you’re having personal problems that are affecting your studies, there are other ways to try to circunvent it instead of cheating”. I once even said (with a class that I had some liberty to say so) that, by cheating, I wanted them to look at the mirror, every day of their lives, and face how much an intellectual failure they’ve become.

Now, I try to make it clear that those are jokes. But I’m sure that they get that these jokes had a truth behind it. My question is: are there ethical reasons not to do so? My point is, if I can’t resource to my students’ conscience to be honest, then I can’t resort to anything, since I can’t possibly outsmart 75 or so students every time I’m applying an exam if they want to be creative at cheating.

I am a TA currently grading a set of 80 midterms for an engineering math course for fourth-year engineer undergrads. The test had four questions, each question had around four parts.

Of course, typically a student can make a wide variety of different types of errors on the exam. But what I have noticed in this exam is that some of these errors are not necessarily conceptual, yet we are basically taking all the points away for these “minor errors” (per instructor’s grading scheme).

For instance,

  • For a question with several parts. A student copied one of his own
    (correct) answers from the previous part incorrectly.

  • A student wrote down all the steps correctly, until the last step
    where he had to evaluate the expression at a number and the mistake
    was forgetting a negative sign.

  • After a long derivation, a student substitute formula incorrectly (forgot a square root in the formula, which had a lot of square roots). Everything else completely correct.

There was a litter of other minor errors. Now, these students are in their final year of engineering school, so I think I can give them the benefit of the doubt that they wouldn’t make silly mistakes such as writing “0 – 1 = 1” or copy things down wrong in a non-time-constrained setting, which is the situation they will most likely face when they graduate and work in industry.

Is there a way to provide feedback for a student if he or she makes silly mistakes on the exam? I do not think that giving them a zero for writing a minus sign incorrectly is a good way of either providing feedback or preventing the same mistake from happening again in their (long) lives.

My professor and I walk to and from for every class I have with her, I am a female senior student and my professor is in her 30’s. I’ve gotten to know her really well, we even had a random dinner together. I go to her office hours everyday and share a coffee or cookie. I go to her for many incidents, including a man who has been harassing her and me. She has a partner who she mentions all the time and she even tells me about her family situations back home. We’ve had several meetings with the University officials and discuss them afterwards. We email constantly, I consider her a friend or a mentor.

I’m curious to know where the boundaries are between my Professor and me (student)? What is the difference between a Mentor and Friend for professors and does it apply to me?

Context: I am an assistant professor of mathematics at a small liberal arts college in the US.

I generally find student questions during tests and quizzes to be somewhat annoying. I disliked them when I was a student, and they’re even worse as an instructor.

To elaborate on my dislike:

As a student I found such questioning very distracting. I’d be in the midst of trying to solve a difficult problem when suddenly people around me are talking in hushed voices about a problem I had already done. As one can imagine, it was challenging to pull my attention back to what I was doing.

As an instructor, I want to do my best to provide a good test environment, so I would like to minimize questions that I see mostly as a distraction. In addition, most courses contain a student or two who I don’t entirely trust, so I like to be able to watch the students during the exam to ensure test security, and answering questions can hinder that. I also don’t want students getting up during a test to ask questions, for obvious security-related reasons. (This problem is easily solved by telling them to raise their hand.)

Most questions fall into the following categories:

  1. Legitimate questions aiming to clarify vague instructions or a typo.
  2. Questions fishing for a hint.
  3. Questions seeking support of a solution method.
  4. Questions asking about the format of an answer.

Type 1 questions are not a problem. Type 2 and 3 questions are foolish, because I hardly ever tell students anything remotely useful. Type 4 questions are irritating, because my questions specifically say what format to use (i.e. “show two decimal places,” “you do not need to simplify,” etc.).

What are some strategies for eliminating questions of type 2, 3, and 4 while not discouraging type 1 questions?

Of course, I can just straight-up tell them that they’re not to ask questions unless they believe them to be very legitimate, but I’d like to use a less “adversarial” approach, if possible.

I am a hopeless and frustrated university student in second year.I do not know whether I should stay in math major with low GPA?What are the signs indicating the need of a change of major?I seems to be weak in math ability compared with others.In addition, sleep and concentration problem plague me a lot.In the beginning of undergraduate education, I indeed had passion in math.But afterwards, things turn badly.Maybe one reason is lack of sleep and bad habits.I have to travel a long way between college and my home every day.I skip lectures a lot in order to give more time to self-study and doing assignments.Due to this unpleasant undergraduate experience, I sometimes have the thought of dropout.(or waiting to be forced to leave)
Maybe I should take math as an amateur interest?Maybe I should leave the university?If the situation continues like this ,sometimes I think I would end up with being a waiter or cashier struggling to make a living as the employability of math students (especially pure math students with low GPA) seems to be low.What changes should I try to make?I think after this semester my average cumulative GPA will fall below 3 or even worse.I think my undergraduate experience reduces to “waiting to be assessed”.Most of time I just study alone.I feel like the only things I gain from university is the resources of library and a quiet place to study.What is the implications of entering the job market before re-entering university?

I am a postdoc helping in the supervision of a PhD student who is finishing his 2nd year now. This is in Europe, meaning the student came in with a MSc degree and these 2 years have been of research. “Helping in the supervision” actually means here that my professor is nominally appointed as supervisor but I am doing all of the actual supervision (my professor is not familiar with the details of our project, just the “big picture”).

The project is on computational physics/chemistry, and the PhD student has a background in chemistry with no prior computational knowledge. At the time of hiring we were under pressure to get the project going and complementing my physics background with someone who actually knows chemistry seemed like a good idea back then. Also the student was very motivated.

I have been spending a large amount of time teaching this student lots of physics and programming/scripting, which is needed to carry out the project. I assumed I would need to spend a lot of time at the beginning because of the background mismatch, so that was no problem. I thought things would improve with time. Unfortunately, they have not. The student is terrible at any kind of programming and has a lot of trouble learning new concepts, but what worries me the most is his attitude.

He basically is obsessed with getting results but is overlooking learning, in the form of reading books and papers and working hard on a problem for a period of time. If I tell him to “bang his head against the wall” for a couple of weeks trying to crack a problem before seeking advice from me (like we all have done during our PhDs), he gets frustrated after one or two days and starts sending me lots of desperate emails begging for me to intervene. This is a “gimme teh codez” kind of student, looking to avoid any problem which is any hard at all. I spend long meeting sessions explaining the theoretical and practical details of some approach, but he only seems interested when I write code that he can copy paste and use to get results (without even understanding the code, let alone the underlying physics).

Because of this I have to do lots of debugging and finding the same little (and large) mistakes that arise now and again because the student does not understand what he’s doing. I have discussed many times with him that he needs to focus on understanding theory and code, instead of just getting results. But this is to no avail. I get the impression the student wants to do a technician’s, rather than a scientist’s, job but still get a PhD out of it.

As a result, I find myself working personally on any part of his project which has any hint of difficulty in it, spending way too many hours a week doing supervision, and getting increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress on the project. At this point, it would be fair to say that I could myself get everything he has to do (and more) done just in the time I spent meeting with him.

I have brought some of these concerns up, but the student won’t accept they need to adjust how they work, instead claiming the tasks are too complicated (believe me, they’re not), the professor does not help enough, the project is not well organized, etc. I don’t know what to do – this student is getting easily 10 times more help than I did during my PhD (and I had a good experience).

To complicate things, I am just a postdoc so I have not a wide experience supervising different students that would tell me whether this case is common or isolated.

Am I expecting too much from my student? Is the problem I’m having a common one? How can I improve his attitude towards learning and working? How to deal with a bad research student?

I am a hopeless and frustrated university student in second year.I do not know whether I should stay in math major with low GPA?What are the signs indicating the need of a change of major?I seems to be weak in math ability compared with others.In addition, sleep and concentration problem plague me a lot.In the beginning of undergraduate education, I indeed had passion in math.But afterwards, things turn badly.Maybe one reason is lack of sleep and bad habits.I have to travel a long way between college and my home every day.I skip lectures a lot in order to give more time to self-study and doing assignments.Due to this unpleasant undergraduate experience, I sometimes have the thought of dropout.(or waiting to be forced to leave)
Maybe I should take math as an amateur interest?Maybe I should leave the university?If the situation continues like this ,sometimes I think I would end up with being a waiter or cashier struggling to make a living as the employability of math students (especially pure math students with low GPA) seems to be low.What changes should I try to make?I think after this semester my average cumulative GPA will fall below 3 or even worse.I think my undergraduate experience reduces to “waiting to be assessed”.Most of time I just study alone.I feel like the only things I gain from university is the resources of library and a quiet place to study.What is the implications of entering the job market before re-entering university?

I am a hopeless and frustrated university student in second year.I do not know whether I should stay in math major with low GPA?What are the signs indicating the need of a change of major?I seems to be weak in math ability compared with others.In addition, sleep and concentration problem plague me a lot.In the beginning of undergraduate education, I indeed had passion in math.But afterwards, things turn badly.Maybe one reason is lack of sleep and bad habits.I have to travel a long way between college and my home every day.I skip lectures a lot in order to give more time to self-study and doing assignments.Due to this unpleasant undergraduate experience, I sometimes have the thought of dropout.(or waiting to be forced to leave)
Maybe I should take math as an amateur interest?Maybe I should leave the university?If the situation continues like this ,sometimes I think I would end up with being a waiter or cashier struggling to make a living as the employability of math students (especially pure math students with low GPA) seems to be low.What changes should I try to make?I think after this semester my average cumulative GPA will fall below 3 or even worse.I think my undergraduate experience reduces to “waiting to be assessed”.Most of time I just study alone.I feel like the only things I gain from university is the resources of library and a quiet place to study.