Clarifying Guidelines for Collaboration on Homework & in Labs

Providing Students Guidelines for Collaboration

Collaboration is an extremely gray area for many students. What is acceptable collaboration in one class is often labeled cheating in another. Although the line between cheating and collaboration might seem clear to professors, students often need to know where those lines are.

To help students understand provide them with written guidelines that explain

  • what tools (calculators, cell phones and so on) are acceptable for assignments and what tools are not.
  • what they should do if they work with peers on homework or in labs.
  • when they need to indicate that they have worked together and how to do that.
  • which assignments require students to work alone and which allow them to work in groups.
  • expectations on take-home exams and assignments.

Sample statements about collaboration

Jean Gallier’s Policy on Homework Assignments from CSE 260, “Mathematical Foundations of Computer Science”
“You are permitted to discuss the homework problems with other class members with the following limitations. These discussions are to be limited to high-level concepts. You are not permitted to copy or share written work or implementation details. It is understood that the work that you submit may be based on these discussions but has not been either copied directly from another student’s paper nor is it, in part or in whole, the product of impermissible collaboration.”

From Paul Heiney’s syllabus for PHY 101-910 “Classical Physics
“You are encouraged to study with other students, and to discuss questions on the homework assignments in general terms (“do you understand what we’re supposed to do on Problem 5?”). However, the work you turn in should be your own—you should not divide up the work so that one student does problems 1-5, the other 6-10, and then copy from each other. All numerical calculations should represent your own work.

Obviously, any form of copying or cheating on quizzes or exams is strictly forbidden. In general, you should abide by Penn’s Code of Academic Integrity.”

From Beatrice Santorini’s LING 205-507 “Introduction to Syntactic Theory”
“If you find it helpful to collaborate on assignments, I strongly encourage you to do so. However, you should write up and hand in your answers individually. Otherwise, neither you nor I can reliably gauge your understanding of the material.

If you work with other students, please indicate at the top of your assignment who you worked with.

On the exams, you should work independently in accordance with Penn’s Code of Academic Integrity.

If I have reason to believe that your behavior is violating this code, I will contact the Office of Student Conduct (OSC) to initiate an investigation. I have contacted the OSC a few times in the past, and in all but one case, the OSC found that the code had indeed been violated.

If the OSC finds that you have violated the Code of Academic Integrity, you will fail the class. You may be able to retake the class, but as far as I know, the grade you receive on the retake will not replace the original F.”

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