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For a textbook, there is an instructor's manual provided by the publisher to the instructor that has prescribed the textbook in a course. The instructor sets some questions from the textbook as assignment. After the assignment is due, the instructor takes the solutions from the instructor's manual verbatim for the questions on the assignment and shares with the students as model solutions without stating that they are from the instructor's manual that he has access to. In this particular case, it seems clear that if students also have access to the instructor's manual (via free document repositories) and turn in answers verbatim from the instructor's manual, that would count as academic indiscipline. But what of the instructor's actions?

Another variation of this is the following. The students at the beginning of the course, ask for some model questions with answers to help them prepare. The instructor chooses questions and answers from a different textbook (for which he has the instructor's manual) than the one prescribed for the course. He shares with them at the beginning of the course these questions with solutions without citing the source.

If the source is cited by the instructor, and the students ask for access to the instructor's manual, on what basis can access to it be denied? At present, it seems that the only basis for such denial is an agreement with the publisher that the instructor will not share the complete instructor's manual.

What is the consensus view on these issues?

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  • The view is that students should learn, so copying answers doesn't help them. The instructor is not there to learn.
    – user111388
    Nov 29 '20 at 13:04
  • So what you are saying is that in both cases, the instructor is just fine taking answers verbatim from the IM without saying so, creating a new document and sharing it with students.
    – user9734
    Nov 29 '20 at 13:06
  • @user111388 'The instructor is not there to learn.' It ain't necessarily so. On a couple of occasions, I've volunteered to TA on a course primarily because I wanted an excuse to schedule some time to learn the content of that course. Nov 29 '20 at 13:11
  • I don't.know what you mean by fine and if you are asking from a law perspective if the instructor can prevent cheating or if they teaxh well or something. But of course, tge students goal is to learn, so they should not look at the questions before. If the questions are good, it doesn't matter where they come from (at least feom an educational perspective).
    – user111388
    Nov 29 '20 at 13:17
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Assuming that you want to teach your students good academic practice in general as well as your specific subject, then you should let them know the source of the answers you provide, at least in general. "This comes from the book's authors" is probably enough. Otherwise they might get the idea that copying and plagiarism is fine. And if you represent the answers as your own work, then, yes, it is a form of plagiarism..

However, providing the answers verbatim, raises also the issue of over-copying from published material. It may be, however, that the instructor's guide provides specific guidance for use, possibly granting (or forbidding) such release. For some books, the questions/exercises are the most valuable part, and releasing this information can definitely lessen the value of the book, especially if students are likely to put such things online or otherwise cache them for others. That would be a copyright problem, but not a plagiarism issue if you give the source.

Third, while not an ethical issue, courtesy and respect for the authors might imply that you not give out answers verbatim, to protect the investment they made in producing it. And also courtesy and respect for future instructors (and students) who want to use the book in a way that maximizes learning and lessens the likelihood of student cheating.

Finally, there is the issue of serving your students. This can raise many issues, but, in general, hints for producing solutions are more valuable to their learning than just providing answers. In fact, minimal hints, that help them develop insight, are more valuable than extensive hints. There is a vast difference between developing an answer on your own and reading a solution. Developing a solution with minimal hints is very much closer to the former than the latter. This will aid their education rather than giving them the false impression that they have developed some skill or insight when they have not. Hints are also sometimes necessary to dispel misconceptions. Unfortunately, tailored hints don't scale very well.

To answer one of your concerns directly, you can deny them access on the basis that having those answers would inhibit their learning and that they should try a bit harder to work out the answers themselves.

So, my suggestion, as an experienced educator, is that you don't give these out for a variety of reasons, the most important one is the value that actually doing the exercises has for your students. Even if they struggle. Perhaps especially if they struggle. The purpose of education isn't "answers", but learning.

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  • Thank you for taking time to answer in detail. However, it is unclear to me what the specific answers are to my specific questions in the OP. Reading between the lines of your paragraph beginning "Third, while not an ethical issue, ", I suppose that you would say that while not optimal, it is not plagiarism or academic-indiscipline if the instructor reproduces verbatim answers from the IM. Am I right or am I misstating your position?
    – user9734
    Nov 29 '20 at 13:57
  • Courtesy and respect are a bit different from plagiarism and copyright violation. It is an orthogonal issue. I don't imply that it isn't plagiarism. "It" refers to courtesy and respect, not to copying verbatim.
    – Buffy
    Nov 29 '20 at 14:00
  • 'It may be, however, that the instructor's guide provides specific guidance for use, possibly granting (or forbidding) such release.' Here in the UK, if any such guidance were stricter than the default position in public law, I think the guidance would be rendered void by section 32(3) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (but IANAL). Nov 29 '20 at 15:38

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