I am a private tutor and some of my students are in university with homework assignments that count for marks. Is it academic misconduct to help them with homework that they will be submitting even if I am using Socratic questioning and making sure that what they produce is mostly of their own thought process?

I was also a teaching assistant for a 100 level physics course and we would hold homework help sessions and directly help students with graded problems, but somehow because it's not part of a course I'm just not sure if it's still kosher.

1 Answer 1


It is unethical to do their work for them. It is certainly ethical to teach them how to do their work. But somewhere in between those is a dividing line so it takes some finesse.

Ideally, as a professor, when a student asks for help on an assignment, I'll try to determine why they have a block that is holding them back and then try to clear that block with some minimal hint that lets them have an insight. Of course, this requires a back and forth conversation to discover what they have tried and why they have taken the approach they have done. It also assumes that they have made some initial effort before you start.

For a tutor, especially one who could be in contact with the professor, it is actually easier than for the professor or a TA, since the scale is 1-1, rather than many-1. A professor may not have time to follow through with each needy student according to the ideal.

But, as long as you stay focused on the learning and unblocking then you should be fine.

  • This took me a while to get used to, as my "back and forth" conversation almost always ended up with me walking them through the problem. May 9, 2021 at 4:47

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