Modified homework policy for Stat 241/541, fall 2005, beginning 2 October 2005

I am grateful that quite a few of you have been very conscientious about declaring any cooperation with other students on your Stat 241 homework sheets. As I explained at the start of the semester, there is a blurry line between mutually beneficial, acceptable cooperation and unacceptable copying. It appears that I now need to locate the line more precisely.

I would regard the following two examples as completely acceptable.

  1. Students work out solutions independently, then they compare results for mutual reassurance. If errors are discovered, discussion ensues. Students submit independent rewrites.
  2. A student who is stuck on a problem after making a serious effort should not spend hours getting nowhere. Ask for help from DP or for a pointer from another student in the class (or from a tutor). Then try to solve the problem without further help.
Further along the cooperation scale:
  1. Students discuss problems to the extent of working out general ideas then submit independent write-ups of the details. Acceptable, but hard to avoid a progression to the following situation.
  2. A student receives a complete, or nearly complete, solution from someone else. Extreme examples include homework sheets that essentially paraphrase another student's work. Not acceptable.
That said, I can think of examples where a more extensive cooperation could lead to desirable pedagogical ends. To accommodate such cases, I will allow the following arrangement.
  1. A group of 2, or at most 3, students from the class may declare itself to be fully collaborating on the homework. Such a group should, from now on, submit only a single set of solutions to each homework sheet. All members of the group will receive the same score for the remaining homeworks. The final grade for each member of the group will be based 40% on homework, 60% on the final exam.
Be warned that I will be greatly displeased if it transpires that a group homework is not the result of a group effort. It will not be acceptable for some students to rely largely on the efforts of more conscientious group members. Of course, the final exam would serve as just punishment for anyone tempted to leave all the thinking to a comrade; I would be surprised to discover any member of the class to be so lacking in educational vision.
  1. Unacknowledged collaboration will be frowned upon.
In the interests of fairness, I must also extend the 40/60 offer to any other student in the class who would prefer to have the final exam worth a larger proportion of his or her final grade.
  1. Any student who is working solo on the homework may choose to make the final exam carry 60% of the weight for the final grade, with only 40% coming from the homework. The choice must be communicated to DP before the day of the final exam, otherwise the grade will be determined in the way described on the course web page at the start of the semester: 50% for homework, 50% for the final exam.
David Pollard