So I have noticed that there are exact solutions to the exact question I found on an assignment sheet for a unit/class that I am currently doing (the source is from another college's publication on their own assignment). My question is that: is my professor allowed to use this particular question (which is identical in every way, even the wording) in an assignment given to us? Does this not count as being academically dishonest on the professor's part? I know that if I use these solutions it is plagiarism, but isn't using this question in an assignment given to us without any citations or references to the original source, counted as plagiarism on the professor's part?
No. Unlike for students (who have to demonstrate their understanding) and for research (which has to demonstrate an improvement to the state of the art in the field) there is no expectation of originality in homework questions, and there is no ethical problem with having multiple classes work through the same problem set. There are even arguments to be made that it is a good thing for students to be judged on a uniform basis.
It would only be a problem if your prof represented these questions as his own work e.g. when highlighting his teaching contributions in his evaluation or in candidatures for a new position. As a student, you wouldn't be in a position to know about this.
There might also be a copyright issue if your professor did not ask for permission to use these questions. But there is no reason to assume that he didn't.
Wikipedia defines plagiarism as:
the "wrongful appropriation" and "stealing and publication" of another author's "language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions" and the representation of them as one's own original work.
It is most likely not plagiarism:
- You do not know if the professor "wrongfully appropriated" (stole) the work. Maybe the other professor gave him the questions or they worked together?
- A question sheet may or may not be a "publication" (depending on local law).
- The professor is not required to make his own questions, so he is not "representing them as his own work".
You should also consider the following:
- Maybe they both got their questions from a third source, for example the teaching-version of a textbook (that allows questions to be copied)
- Copying a question is not cheating. Copying an answer (as a student) is.