The Most Creative Ways Students Get Statistics Homework Answers
As a former college instructor, it was always mystifying to me how students would look for creative forms of not doing their work. They can use a various types of techniques that vary in breadth and reach. Sometimes they are so creative and crafty, that I cannot help it but to think that if they would apply this level of creativity to their homework, they would complete them in minutes.
It is always like a hide-and-seek. You try to catch them, but they hide, and boy do they hide good. Especially nowadays where lots of stats homework material is online, and lots students can share materials, photos, documents through their favorite platform. So now solving your stats homework really becomes a collaborative effort, without a doubt.
I pondered a lot throughout the year, and I really did not find any feasible alternative, other than eliminating homework, and to move into a more dynamic system in which grades are based on the true understanding that a student has about the subject. But naturally, that would imply a radical change, one of the changes that the educational system could not swallow at once.
The Chronogram of a Journey
Students do what they can, I admit that. You tell them "Solve these HW problems", and they will do it. They will find ways of solving them. But will they understand how to do those problems? Not necessarily. They may take a picture of their homework and get answers through an online service or simply with a face-to-face tutor.
Then, you could tell them "you need to solve these without asking anyone else". And then they will eliminate the face-to-face tutor and still send a picture of their homework to that online service, because technically they are not working with "someone else". Technicalities.
You could state in your terms "solve these homework questions, without anyone's help and ensure you understand how to solve the problems, from beginning to end", but I don't see anyone doing it, so if I do it, students will ask why do I do it and other instructors don't, they will complain, I will get summoned and may get fired. The tragedy of the commons.
Do You Understand Your Stats?
In the end, regressing to the mean and conforming to the status quo are powerful forces. One could question, are my students understanding the material? Do assigning homework, collecting it, grading it and giving a final qualification based on that constitute an efficient way to ensure people will know Stats. I strongly believe that is not the case.
In reality, students will deploy all their creativity to comply with all the requested tasks, and they will do so in a way that not necessarily reflects learning of any depth, at the least with the current scheme based on homework, quizzes and exams that lightly touch the material that has been covered in that Stats class.
My claim is easily provable. Take Stats 101 students after they have passed the class with good grades, and ask them basic questions 2 weeks after the class is finished, and see what kind of results you get. I would not be surprised to see that they retained nothing. The question is why. Those students are certainly creative: they did pass a class without understanding anything. So what is wrong?
The Wrong Incentives
I think the answer is relatively clear: what is wrong is that we give the wrong incentives. Currently, we incentivize (with good grades) the completion of tasks rather than the understanding of concepts. Completing homework can be done without really understanding the material, through different alternatives (hiring a tutor, hiring an online stats services or even sharing answers with classmates) to get answers.
It should not come as a shock. You ask students, and you give rewards, to answer the homework questions, not for understanding how to answer them or for being creative. So what is the big surprise? They will go and try to get answers the best way they can. For some, that will mean use their understanding of the subject to arrive to the solutions themselves, and for others that will mean to share answers with their classmates. And in the end, they will all end up receiving the same reward.
Instructors know this very well, but unfortunately there is not a proper structure in the educational system to change things around, especially to change in a dramatic way that is needed in this case. It comes to no surprise that most instructors will play along with this fact, even knowing that majority of students will not retained almost anything of the stats they "learned", even for students who got good grades.
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