Is It Cheating Or Is It Collaboration?

from the sounds-like-collaboration dept

A few years back, we had an interesting discussion around the idea that many students might not view using modern technology to share answers as "cheating" so much as they would view it as wikipedia-like collaboration. I thought this was an interesting observation, since I'd never really thought of it that way. Someone who ought to remain anonymous alerts me to a discussion of a recent study on student "cheating" on exams via mobile phones and similar technology, which found, not only that lots of kids do it, but that they don't think it's wrong. In the comments to that post, there's a fascinating comment by Ryan Scott that again highlights the point about collaboration:
The premise of memorization is the problem here. What's far more important than memorizing some formulas is knowing where to find them and how to apply them.

In NO industry is collaboration considered cheating. Only in SCHOOL is this a problem. What are we teaching our kids?

I'm an employer. I want my employees reaching out and building networks of people that can help them. I struggle with this whole 'that's cheating' attitude. It's something I need to UNTEACH my employees. It does NOT matter to me if you know how to do something, it matters to me that you can figure out how to do it. Most businesses, especially information based, need employees who know how to find and apply information, not that have a repository of facts in their heads. We are creating everything new -- NO ONE knows how to do the things many companies deal with on a daily basis unless you are a clerk of some kind. We are figuring it all out on the fly. Building alliances, search skills, knowing where and how to find information -- all these are what's valuable.

The argument that school, memorization, and solitary work teaches you how to think is absolutely wrong. If we really want to teach people how to think, we should have a class called How To Think, not Ancient Greek History. You don't teach thinking skills by forcing 30 people to memorize the same names, dates, and events. You do it by teaching principles, and by teaching directly the actual skills the education system claims to want to create.

We need more 'How to Think', 'How to Collaborate', 'How to Negotiate', 'How to Resolve Conflict' and less 'Memorize a bunch of stuff for a test'

Plagiarism is an exception. Passing off someone else's work as your own is clearly wrong. But forcing kids to memorize facts and not giving them what's truly important -- that is to say thinking skills is the big problem here.

Thinking about plagiarism some more. I'm always telling my employees to research before writing -- cobble together a collection of other people's work and give me an opinion. Build on whats already out there, don't start from scratch.
Well said. Again, I don't think that "cheating" is the problem here. The problem is this focus on not teaching people how to work together to solve problems and assuming that everything needs to be done by the individual themselves. That's not how things work in the real world, and it does children a disservice to downplay collaboration and reinforce the idea that building off the works of others is somehow wrong. Standing on the shoulders of giants is important, or we're always reinventing the wheel.


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    Jordan S. (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 7:44am

    Already Being Done?

    I don't know how it is at other schools, but I go to a fairly well reknown engineering school. Team projects are the name of the game, and memorization has been downplayed in nearly every subject I've taken. We are encouraged to collaborate in homework, in projects, in lab exercises, in reports, and in just about everything except for tests, where we are tested on how well we can prepare a "cheat sheet" (IE, identifying what information will be useful in the future) and how well we can do the math (which is extremely important for future engineers).

    I think that in primary school, you aren't being taught these things because you do need a foundation of basic memorizaed facts before you can enter and succeed in college (such as math and grammar), but that in most colleges, teamwork is now the name of the game.

    However, as I said before, I can only speak of the methods of my school and no where else.

     

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    Dez (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 8:39am

    Ahh... this is why I can't win at Trivial Pursuit. I've become an expert at finding things, not memorizing them. This makes me feel a lot better.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 8:42am

    If I'm a patient in a hospital I want a doctor who knows the information himself. I'm paying the doctor based on what he knows, not based on what his friend in class knew 5 years ago. On tests students should NOT be given phones or anything else that they can use to communicate, they should KNOW the information individually. Otherwise those who know nothing will freeload off those who know everything and when they have to actually know the information in the real world they'll be useless and potentially dangerous to patients. Yes, in the real world people do work together but much of that is because they all know different things based on what their employers hired them for. You hire a chemist and a physicist to work together of course they'll work together if the problem needs both chemistry and physics. Yet you don't want to hire 5 chemists just to ensure that there is at least one that knows a relevant piece of information just because all five collaborated others during tests and hence none of them know anything. The problem is in a classroom they're all studying the same information so of course they'll likely find someone who knows the answers. In the real world you have different people who are supposed to know different things and they are hired based on what they're supposed to know, not based on what their friend knew last semester.

     

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    hegemon13, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 8:46am

    Requires a new system

    For these suggestions to work, a massive re-vamping of the American educational system would be necessary. The suggestions are good ones. Teaching principles rather than facts is a far better approach that teaches students how to abstract, think critically, and analyze. In the real world, there are few areas where memorization is necessary. Where it is necessary, it comes naturally from repeated use.

    The problem is that teaching principles is a lot more work. Teachers cannot rely on simple textbook descriptions. Rather, they have to really understand the subject they teach. Testing and grading is more difficult, too. It's tough to test understanding of principles by multiple choice. It would instead require projects and much more involvement with the students. These are all good things, but not things that the majority of either high-school or college-level teachers and professors are willing to do.

    Last, our entire educational system, especially in high school, is obsessed with standardized testing. Standardized testing must be completely objective by definition. Therefore, it is based on memorization of facts and formulas, not on actual understanding of WHY those facts are important or where those formulas came from. As long as the quality of our education is measured in terms of ACT, SAT, and other standardized test scores, changes like those above will never happen. Our schools are not teaching our children to succeed in the world. They're teaching them to take standardized tests.

     

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    Pdmonney, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 8:48am

    Although it is true that "knowing" the information in the workplace is not as important, you still have to have basic knowledge of the processes. This is especially true in the analyical subjects like applied science and math. You also need to know how to assimilate written information and be able to think about it critically (subjects like english and art). The problem is when we focus so much on wrote memory of names and dates that we are losing track on community colaboration and critical thinking.

     

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    hegemon13, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 8:53am

    Re:

    Good luck with that doctor, and hope you make it out alive. The LAST person I want for a doctor is a "lone wolf" hero who thinks he knows everything. If he can't collaborate with other doctors to find the best solution for me, I want absolutely nothing to do with him.

    "Otherwise those who know nothing will freeload off those who know everything and when they have to actually know the information in the real world they'll be useless and potentially dangerous to patients."

    Um, no one knows everything. That's the whole point of the article. If you can't collaborate with others, you ARE useless and dangerous in the real world.

    "Yet you don't want to hire 5 chemists just to ensure that there is at least one that knows a relevant piece of information just because all five collaborated others during tests and hence none of them know anything."

    You don't have to hire five. There are these amazing things called "publications," and this other amazing thing called the "Internet," which allow experts to collaborate when thngey're not in the same buildi. Pretty cool, huh? You should check it out sometime. Sounds like you might need it when you're trying to figure out why your hiring practices don't work.

     

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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 8:55am

    Re:

    "If I'm a patient in a hospital I want a doctor who knows the information himself. I'm paying the doctor based on what he knows, not based on what his friend in class knew 5 years ago."

    Good god, you're right!

    And if the doctor doesn't know, well, instead of calling upon another doctor for a consult; or checking relevant medical texts, he should just guess!

    (/satire)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 9:05am

    Re: Re:

    I never said that doctors aren't allowed to call other doctors for a consult or look up medical texts. You are building a strawman here. In the workplace they should collaborate and look things up but in school they should learn as much as possible so that when they are in the workplace the overall knowledge base is higher. That way, when collaborating, they are more likely to find someone who knows the information needed. I wouldn't go to a grocery store (one that doesn't sell pharmaceuticals or anything like that) for medical advice no matter how much the employees collaborate because the overall knowledge base of medicine in a grocery store is probably less than that in a doctors office, even if the number of employees is the same. I would go to a doctors office because the employees (doctors) tend to individually know more about medicine than the employees at a grocery store. Sure, they can have medical texts at the grocery store but by the time they figure out how to read and understand them it might be too late. You want to increase the knowledge base of every employee/doctor on an individual basis to increase the overall knowledge base so that when they do collaborate it's easier for them to find someone who knows the answer.

     

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    Ryan, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 9:15am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Nobody built a strawman but you. The article here emphasizes the importance of collaboration, which is often completely prevented in schools. Nobody is saying that a base of knowledge is not important, or that some dude packing groceries is as good as an M.D. because he can go rent a textbook from the library. Without a base of knowledge, you sacrifice time and the ability to discern useful and applicable pieces of information; however, as you backtrack to admit in your second post, collaboration is equally important for ideal outcomes.

     

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    BillEth0, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 9:17am

    Where does it say?

    That learning facts and learning to work as a team and find the answers are mutually exclusive?

    I think the original articles point was that students are generally not taught to work as teams, find answers, or figure out the ideas/concepts, as much as they should for how important those concepts are in the work world.

    Yes memorizing facts is important, but if you don't understand what you know, you can't apply it.

    I would say knowing 5 facts/concepts well enough to apply them properly is much better then being able to recite 50 facts/concepts from memory without any understanding.

     

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    Petréa Mitchell, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 9:17am

    Hardly new!

    I'm baffled by how the linked post is trying to make this a generation-gap issue. Who here went to a traditional Western-style school before cell phones became ubiquitious, and doesn't recall helping or being helped by classmates occasionally?

     

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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 9:19am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I believe you are attempting to posit that some memorization of knowledge is also necessary (though in an incredibly wordy and inefficient manner).

    To this, I would agree.

    (Also, alleged "strawmen" aside, allegory is useful for highlighting a point in such a way as to make grasping it simple for all but the least comprehending of persons.)

    ; )

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 9:21am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    But people should be tested without collaboration. Yes, they should also learn to collaborate at times (ie: when studying together) but they should also be tested without collaboration to test how much each individual knows.

    "as you backtrack to admit in your second post, collaboration is equally important"

    I never backtracked, even my original post said

    "You hire a chemist and a physicist to work together of course they'll work together if the problem needs both chemistry and physics."

    Working together is collaboration so even my original post acknowledges the importance of working together in the workplace.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 9:21am

    Re: Re: Re:

    So you're saying a world with collaboration means individuals know nothing?

    Are you implying that someone who went to medical school but was taught to seek out knowledge from his peers would know the same information than a grocer?

    I fail to see how you jumped to conclusion that the only possible options are:

    1) Someone who thinks he knows everything.
    2) Someone who knows nothing, and needs everyone else for answers.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 9:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    That's not the conclusion I jumped to. A world with collaboration is good but we should also test people for what they know individually as well. Both are important and, as has been pointed out by BillEth0 they are not mutually exclusive.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 9:26am

    This was my experience in college 15 years ago. Homework and projects were assigned to teams, and test work wasn't about memorization, it was about application.

    I can hardly believe that anyone calls anything else education. If you are merely regurgitating facts, you aren't thinking.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 9:31am

    Re:

    And that's good, there should be lots of that too. But people should also be tested for what they know individually. We don't want a world where anyone can be a doctor by simply copying answers from others. Yes, they should learn how to work together and solve problems as a team but they should also be tested, at least to some extent, for what they know individually.

     

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    jsl4980 (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 9:42am

    Never disagreed more

    I have never disagreed more with this site than today. To say that allowing kids to share answers on tests is ok or should be encouraged is bullshit. There's absolutely no other way around it.

    I will never want to work with someone who is incapable of solving basic problems on their own. Tests in school (high school and college) are basic problems - they may be parts of larger problems - but no matter what school you went to and what degree you got the questions you answered in school were basic compared to problems in the real world. If you can't do it in school you'll never make it in the real world and it's time for a change in your career/major. If you always have to "collaborate" to solve problems or to do work you're wasting the time and efforts of other employees and you're nothing more than a drain on the team and organization.

    Some collaboration is always expected, but if you can't manage to do the basics on your own, like pass a test in school then you're in the wrong field.

     

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    Paul Brinker, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 9:46am

    Teachers are the Issue

    In my Major (MIS), my teachers expect me to know only a few concepts that are key to the course im taking. Its well known that I have Google in my pocket so memorization has really been downplayed as of late.

    On the other hand my non-major classes (english etc.) still want memorization of every little thing so that the test can cover it with out allowing me to use a referance guide or other sheet. Accounting has been the worse in that your hand writing balance sheets and get graded on how closly your hand written forms are to the book.

    Teachers need to change with the times, but this is hard when most of my teachers have been at the school over 10 years.

     

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    Danny, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 9:47am

    Re:

    I'm paying the doctor based on what he knows, not based on what his friend in class knew 5 years ago.
    Actually you are paying the doctor based on their ability to cure/heal/repair you regardless of who he/she works with to get it done.


    Yet you don't want to hire 5 chemists just to ensure that there is at least one that knows a relevant piece of information just because all five collaborated others during tests and hence none of them know anything.
    Nor will you just pick the one chemist of those five that simply knows the most stuff. Being a chemist one is very likely to be working in some research&development capacity. Thererfore the one to get the job will most likely be the one who can perform the best most thorough research/investigation rather than the just the one that knows the most.


    In the real world you have different people who are supposed to know different things and they are hired based on what they're supposed to know, not based on what their friend knew last semester.
    But there is more to it than what they friend knew last semester. The fact that they knew to tap that friend for help means something. The fact that they had that friend to tap for help means something. It means that not only do they know a lot about their field but it also means that they know how to compensate for the things in their field that they do know know.

    Take you doctor example and lets look at the show House (or nearly any medical drama) where the right answer doesn't always just pop up waving a flag. They have to work as a team, talk to other doctors, etc....to figure out what is going on.

    While I agree that being able to work alone is a useful skill teamwork is a must these days but for the most part outside of sports there is very little instruction on teamwork.

     

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    Michael Kohne, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 9:52am

    Cheating in school

    We may have a problem with the focus of schools, and I'll be the first to agree that memorization isn't the right thing to stress.

    However, if you can't be bothered to do what you're asked, then I don't really want to work with you.

    The focus on memorization may not be a good idea, but it's what you've got to work with. If you don't have the self-respect to do what you're asked in school, how can I trust you as a co-worker to do your job?

    There's problems with the education system, but portraying cheating in schools as 'a problem with the system' is bull. If they can't be bothered to do their own work, then they should just drop out and clear the field for those who can and will.

     

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    Yohann, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 9:52am

    It's not about cheating or collaborating...

    I consider this looking at a problem that's a bit too far down the chain. Cheating and collaborating in school shouldn't be allowed, even though it is allowed in the workplace. And here's why:

    Not only are schools teaching students the tools they'll need, but more importantly it's getting their brains used to thinking. Mental exercise so to speak. If you're an employer and you have a team of JAVA programmers, are you going to hire a programmer who 'collaborated' all through school and now has to rely on his other team mates to 'collaborate' on how to program? Or would you rather have someone who did the work on their own and actually knows how to program already, and then have them 'collaborate' on new projects?

    The point of school isn't necessarily to memorize. You might remember a few equations from math class or some rules from business class. But who really uses Pythagorean's theorem outside of school (besides teachers and maybe an architect)? It's not about what you learn, but how to train your mind to think. Collaborating during simple multiple choice tests or true/false won't teach anything.

    Now if the project was a big assignment where you required a team of students to address a problem and then come up with a logical answer, then yes it would work in that sense. I've had many projects in school like that where we worked as a team, but never during simple tests.

     

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    Ryan, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 9:57am

    Re: Never disagreed more

    I have never disagreed more with this site than today. To say that allowing kids to share answers on tests is ok or should be encouraged is bullshit. There's absolutely no other way around it.

    Oh my, what an oversight we made. We were having a nice, logical discussion about the merits of collaboration in various school endeavors, when you immediately struck us all down and made us look like idiots by pointing out that clearly it's all "bullshit".

    Tests in school (high school and college) are basic problems - they may be parts of larger problems - but no matter what school you went to and what degree you got the questions you answered in school were basic compared to problems in the real world.

    Congratulations, this is officially the Overgeneralization of the Year. I had tons of tests that were relevant to my study and tons that weren't. Many were basic, and many were overly specific or just plain trivial. And that was just my classes.

    If you can't do it in school you'll never make it in the real world and it's time for a change in your career/major. If you always have to "collaborate" to solve problems or to do work you're wasting the time and efforts of other employees and you're nothing more than a drain on the team and organization.

    On the contrary, I've found that while school provides a good knowledge base, nearly every task or particular application of skill has been learned on the job. I don't think I've ever met anybody who disagreed with that. You can pick up things you may have missed in school(I certainly have) but if you don't know how to find new information or work with others toward a common outcome, you're screwed. Nobody has said that individual knowledge and collaboration are mutually exclusive, and merely working together to some degree on tests is not a necessary and sufficient condition to prove that an individual is incapable of performing a given responsibility as competently as one that took the test alone.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 9:58am

    Re: Re:

    "Take you doctor example and lets look at the show House (or nearly any medical drama) where the right answer doesn't always just pop up waving a flag."

    Yeah but these doctors all know different things because they specialize in different fields (I know the characters have changed). Dr. House specializes in infectious diseases and the kidneys. Dr Chase specialized in how much medication each patient can get. Dr Cameron specialized in the immune system. Foreman was a neurologist. They each had to know different things and for them to hire an immunologist that doesn't know the material (and has to keep wasting time calling up his friend from college) is nonsense. I don't expect Cameron to know the material that they hired Foreman to know and vice versa.

     

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    Devin Moore (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:01am

    What Cheating is

    Cheating matters because it means that a person may not be capable of doing the work that they were hired to do. As a result, cheating typically also means that the cheater is taking credit for someone else's work as a result.

    This article talks about what cheating is not, but it does a disservice to how collaboration invites cheating and why schools need to go to extra trouble to enforce anti-cheating rules when collaboration is required.

    Collaboration to the lazy student means "someone else is going to do the work for me" plus "it will be harder to tell that I didn't do my share of the work". Having been on teams since the 8th grade that functioned this way, I can tell readers matter-of-factly that by college, many students are experts at not contributing to teams. Furthermore, they think it is perfectly normal since no one ever stopped them.

    The quote mentions that "thinking skills are the problem", and "In NO industry is collaboration considered cheating", but then it says correctly that "Passing off someone else's work as your own is clearly wrong".

    Thinking skills aren't the problem, cheating is the problem. Students will cheat rather than have to reveal their inability to complete their work at the appropriate level of quality. Collaboration provides a method for cheating anytime there is not a VERY proactive attitude towards equal work output from the other team members.

    If not turned in by their team members, and without extreme monitoring by teachers, crafty students can pass a team-based class without having done anything -- and more dangerously, without having to prove that they may not be able to do the work at all.

    Collaboration is absolutely cheating in any industry, whenever the collaboration is lopsided but the attribution is equal. That situation cheats the majority contributors out of proper credit for their work. Exposing cheating should be the priority of any student on a team for the cheater's own good. Cheating at work can mean fraud or any number of other illegal activities intended to cover up a lack of ability to do the job. To say that this is not a serious thing in the workplace is to condone the worst offenses as long as you have good enough workers to clean up the mess.

     

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    Ryan, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:01am

    Re: Re: Re:

    bingo. thanks for making the point that collaboration on a given activity is potentially more efficient and productive that learning/doing it all alone...

     

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    Tony, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:06am

    CHEATING / STATISTICS CLASS

    I was caught "cheating" in stats class when my teacher posted the answers to the test online, prior to the exam. I put the notes on my "cheat sheet" (haha).... we were originally not prosecuted, but after parents complained, I was heavily reprimanded. Is that really cheating?

     

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    Ryan, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:07am

    Re: What Cheating is

    Wow, I guess anything can be "cheating" if you decide to define it that way, huh? Can I ask a few questions for clarification, though?

    Is it cheating if you're too drunk to remember it?

    Is it cheating if you do it two at a time? Is it true that they cancel out?

    Is it cheating if you're in another state?

    Is it cheating if you spread peanut butter on your balls and have your dog lick it off?

    Obviously, it matters so little what policies lead to the greatest ultimate outcomes compared to what you arbitrarily define as "cheating", so I'd like to know the answers to these questions. Thanks.

     

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    Devin Moore (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:12am

    Re: What Cheating is

    Furthermore, cheating means you probably can't prove the validity of your answer. What's the corporate response to a screw up where the person who screwed up just copied the answer from someone else? One person tried and failed to get the right answer, and the other one parroted that response without the ability to check it themselves. That sounds like a red flag to me.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:12am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I never said otherwise. But each person should know what they were hired to know otherwise they aren't much contributing to the activity.

     

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    Devin Moore (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:14am

    Re: Re: What Cheating is

    None of the ones you ask about relate to my definition of cheating ("a person may not be capable of doing the work that they were hired to do"), but some of them are pretty funny.

     

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    Danny, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:17am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Not only that Ryan but with this very example:

    House: Infectious disease
    Chase: Intesivist (i think that is what its called)
    Cameron: Allergist
    Foreman: Neuroligist

    If is wasn't for collaboration how would know what to do when they come across something not covered in these four areas like cancer. They could burn valuable time researching cancer or they can seek counsel from Dr. Wilson.

     

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    Bob from Accounting, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:17am

    It seems there are plenty here that have agreed knowing basic facts as well as learning how to collaborate as a team both have their benefits. The use of technology or sharing work on a test would clearly be considered cheating if the goal is to test individual knowledge.

    At my sons' high school, (in addition to standardized tests) projects are assigned to a group of students. They are then tested on their ability to collaborate with each other and come up with a solution to a given problem. Those that contribute little to the project are graded accordingly based on feedback from the group and in-class observations by the teacher.

    I would say that having a strong foundation in the basics (math, science, language, etc) can make you a stronger team member if you are in a position where that is needed. However, the teaching of working with others on a team and how to find answers that you don't know is a step in the right direction.

     

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    1234 5678, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:21am

    Re:

    I agree. There is foundational knowledge that must be learned and applied in order to effectively practice as a contributing member of a team. It isn't one way or the other. Foundational knowledge in math, science, history and language arts allows a practitioner to not only do better on their own, but to discriminate between high quality and poor quality advice, and to identify qualified references.
    Additionally, anyone with half a brain knows that this is hogwash: "We are creating everything new -- NO ONE knows how to do the things many companies deal with on a daily basis unless you are a clerk of some kind. We are figuring it all out on the fly. Building alliances, search skills, knowing where and how to find information -- all these are what's valuable."
    This is a classic error that experts in collaboration fight against continually. This attitude is the result of inefficient management and a lack of communication. If you really believe that you are the first to face a particular problem, you deserve the inferior result you will get. It is more likely that peers and predecessors within your own company have faced the very issue, and that knowledge has been forgotten because no one bothered to write it down and LEARN IT. How many times on this very site is innovation discussed. For those of us who paid attention in class we learned that history is a powerful instructor. Even for the future.

     

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    pleasedontreadthis (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:23am

    Re: Doctor

    I think you have a misunderstanding about how reference material works. Doctors have been using software to help them identify medical problems at least since the 80's. They also keep large collections of medical books to reference. If they're still having trouble they will speak to colleagues to gain a better understanding. The human body is amazingly complex. You cannot expect any single human (even a highly educated doctor) to know more then the basics, and then a small subset of additional information about it.

    Just as a FYI, WebMD was built of off the expert system software that your doctor has been using for ages.

     

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    Michael C (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:29am

    The facts are the building blocks

    Ryan Scott's comment seems to miss a big part of the point of education: without enough people building up a solid grasp of facts and basic concepts, collaboration in the working world will be useless. Even memorized facts, such as the structure of Greek government, or the developments that led Rome to collapse, help build an understanding of important concepts that can be applied in many aspects of life. So, it's a bit of a contradiction to say, "teaching facts is dumb, but teaching how to think is ok, and teaching how to collaborate is even better." Focusing on teaching people how to get answers from others, without making sure that others will have the answers, or without giving them enough background knowledge to identify answers that make sense, would send people out into the world only partially prepared. You can't stand on the shoulders of giants without knowing anything about those shoulders.

    That said, I do believe there's generally too much focus on the what, versus the why and how associated with those facts. And emphasizing more practical skill by teaching applied knowledge and collaboration is also useful. Balance is definitely needed. But it's an overstatement to say that "cheating" (getting answers from others) is OK.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:35am

    Re:

    Well said! You can't know everything, but you're getting paid for your own level of competency in the chosen field!

     

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    OC, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:37am

    kind of agree, but...

    I kind of agree with the article but I would like to point out that the final sentence has nothing whatsoever to do with collaboration.

    "Standing on the shoulders of giants is important, or we're always reinventing the wheel."

    In order to stand on those shoulders you need to actually learn what the owners of them knew. You build on their knowledge. No collaboration here really, just boring facts that you need to go through.

     

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    scarr (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:38am

    Re: Re: Never disagreed more

    "Congratulations, this is officially the Overgeneralization of the Year."

    This is one of the most enjoyable sentences I've seen in a while. Kudos, sir.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:41am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "I don't expect Cameron to know the material that they hired Foreman to know and vice versa."

    Man I'd hate to tell you what I expect Dr. Cameron to do...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:42am

    Re:

    I agree wholeheartedly. And even if your doctor could consult the best texts and authorities, if he didn't know about a topic relevant to your case (see House try all the weird tests because no one in his team recognized the set of symptoms) well enough to realize he should look for specifics, your care would still suffer.
    We need to ensure that all students (from elementary school onward) know about a broad range of topics or they won't know what to look up. Presentation alone, does not ensure the intake of the data. The only way to ensure they have learned is to expect them to do the work alone and take the test on what -they- know rather than what some teleprompter is presenting for them to read and repeat.
    With the collaboration model, a 4 year old could be taught the rote skills to pass university finals, if their mentor were allowed to coach them during the tests. In this case, the group achievement says nothing about the skills of the dependent party.
    And the doing is important too. You might well learn everything there is to learn about swimming online, but if you only watch other swimmers and are never in a body of water deep enough, when you fall overboard, can you be sure you won't still drown?

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:44am

    Re: Re: Never disagreed more

    "Congratulations, this is officially the Overgeneralization of the Year."

    Already? It's only July, dammit. Give me some time!

     

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    scarr (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:50am

    Re: The facts are the building blocks

    Thank you for a balanced response. This is what I took away from the article. I'm worried that more people weren't able to grasp that there's a middle ground and you don't have to abandon all knowledge or individual responsibility to foster collaborative work.

     

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    reboog711 (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:51am

    In my education experience, the earlier grades ( 1-8 ) were focused on memorization and learning.

    High School (9-12) were primarily that too. But high school did have a handful of open book tests where the focus was on implementation and interpretation of ideas / formula's / facts; not memorization of them.

    College classes; at least in my major; were mainly open book style tests. Projects were almost always done as groups--whether the teacher new it or not.

    I've always said I had a better education than a lot of people in my field, I wonder if the collaboration study groups were the reason.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:54am

    Re: Re:

    At the same time people/doctors in different fields should have a lot of knowledge in common. It would be inefficient to have three doctors from different fields work together if one of them spoke English, another spoke Spanish, and the third spoke French.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:54am

    I had a Physics final that permitted any reference the student cared to bring. I brought a pile of books on luggage wheels and the head of the Physics Department (I was the only one who thought to ask, and he was amused so he assented) and then the only use I made of any of them was to ask him to look up Avogadro's Number.
    The questions were designed so that the student's ability to think and their knowledge of the building blocks of the subject were being tested.
    A lot of job interview tests are based on that model now, too.
    Collaboration is useless if you don't know what questions to ask.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:55am

    Easy solution

    The course in schoook that had one of the hardest exams was one where you were allowed to bring in any reference material that you wanted. Text book, cheat sheats, whatever....

    If you actually took the time to look at any of those materials, you instantly lost the time needed to answer another question.

     

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    Steve (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 10:59am

    This is just the fallacy of the excluded middle. Knowing stuff is important in team work.

    Jargon
    Basic facts
    Basic methods

    These are the tools of teamwork, required by all members of the team. If you lack the ability to reference basic concepts without a dictionary, things become much less effective. I've never seen high school courses or even many university courses that go past this level.

     

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    kerry (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 11:02am

    When I am working on group projects with higher level skills than the Pythagorean theorem, it's important that I know enough myself to contribute to the group. But, as someone pointed out earlier, some people are experts at not contributing. As the person that was always leeched upon, it's helpful when there is something of a supervisor/teacher you can report your delinquent partners to. Without someone keeping the collaborators in line, you're just asking for trouble.

    Collaboration is an important skill set, but implementing it in a school setting where you can only lower a grade, not fire a worker, is hardly conducive to an ideal collaborative effort.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 11:04am

    Classroom courses are often trying to instill understanding of processes, not answers to questions. They test the level of understanding by giving exams in which the student is expected to use the processes learned to solve problems. Sure, there are other ways to solve the given problems (asking your classmates, for instance). But that's not the point of the course. The course is teaching specific techniques and methods for solving problems, because they have been deemed useful for whatever reason. Going through every course using only one technique (asking your peers for assistance) will leave the student underprepared for real work in which many different techniques may need to be leveraged.

     

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    Robert Talbert, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 11:11am

    Ryan Scott's comments in the original article are well-intentioned and no doubt true from his standpoint as an employer in the private sector, but they are also naive from the standpoint of how education and cognition actually work. Different cognitive tasks -- such as memorization and application -- do not take place in isolation from each other. If students only memorize, then they are not necessarily ready to tackle larger tasks that involve the kinds of things Ryan's employees do. But conversely -- and this is the point that gets missed so often -- you cannot just "teach directly the actual skills the education system claims to want to create". Those skills are predicated on having a critical mass of foundational knowledge with which to work -- hence the role of memorization.

    The legal profession is a good place to look here. The skills we want lawyers to have tend to hover in the upper levels of Bloom's taxonomy: ability to analyze case law, knowing how to do efficient searches of existing legal code, ability to construct logical arguments to prove or disprove a hypothesis, and so on. But at the foundation, and before any of those skills can be put to good use, lawyers have to do LOTS of memorization of terminology, case citations, and so on. IANAL but I would suspect that this is for several reasons. Lawyers have to have that terminology not only at their fingertips but also because the process of getting it to your fingertips involves getting it deeply ingrained in your method and process of thinking. Although I've never seen an LSAT exam, apparently a good chunk of it involves memorization of various things. A person with good speaking, data search, and logical analysis skills is not automatically going to be an effective lawyer. I suspect if you look at any modern profession you will see a similar picture. You have to learn your musical scales backwards and forwards in order to be a good musician, even though scales are deadly dull and no professional musician gets up in front of Carnegie Hall and does a scale. And so on.

    So we don't want to stop at that basic info level of cognition in our classes, but it would be foolish and counterproductive simply to jump right to the higher levels too. First things first.

     

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    MBraedley (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 11:16am

    Re: Already Being Done?

    I think that in engineering (and probably the sciences, I wouldn't know since I am an engineer), your analysis is correct. However, some of my arts electives were either memorize facts and answer short or multiple choice questions, or memorize facts and spew out an essay without actually forming an opinion. Neither of these approaches are conducive to critical thinking, and collaboration is considered (or on rare occasions, mistaken for) cheating in this context. I was fortunate enough to take a history course that didn't rely on this testing paradigm for the entire mark. Sure, a good portion of the midterm and final were multiple choice and short answer, but there were also essay sections that required knowing more than just the facts.

    Unfortunately, I suspect the largest portion of offenders here are students in memorize and spew courses. In my experience, they're often the intro courses, which due to shear class size, precludes the use of collaborative projects and assignments. Memorize and spew is used in these courses because it makes it easy to mark the (100 | 500 | 1000) exams at the end of the term.

    There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I had a prof who was fully aware of, acknowledged, and to some degree, encouraged rampant "cheating" in the name of collaboration on his midterms, essentially making them group tests. Certainly some students took this further than was intended (I won't say one way or the other if I was one of them), but it does show that some teachers are open to new technologies (it was an online test) in order to foster teamwork.

     

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    imfaral (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 11:27am

    Re: Requires a new system

    It really needs to be a hybrid system. If you only teach principles people won't know how to apply them. The opposite is also true. I know my teachers that only taught the principles, but then on the tests they put only real problems. Without ever seeing any real examples the test were very difficult to complete.

     

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    teach!, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 11:35am

    Re: Requires a new system

    You are an idiot to blame teachers for this. Ask teachers! Most of them are NOT fans of standardized tests. To do these things you do however need small class sizes and parental/administrative support. This paradigm is dictated to teachers not created by them.

     

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    Chris Tromley, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 11:39am

    Depends on what you get through networking

    If we're only talking about gathering basic information, collaboration is fine. Beyond that I see a real problem.

    A committee is a creature with more than six legs and no brain. I'm an engineer. Far too often I've seen mediocre teams flailing at a problem only to come up with a mediocre result. Just as often I've seen that it takes one person taking charge or going off by themselves to come up with something that really shines.

    When was the last time you've seen a solution produced by this lowest-common-denominator kind of collaboration that made you say, "Wow, that's really slick!" That kind of creativity doesn't come from information gatherers.

    Collaborate to gather information and background. Creativity needs to be guided by one or two people. Encouraging a search-engine mentality among students will deprive us of those creative leaders.

    Having reference material during tests is fine. Collaborating during tests is wrong.

    Chris

     

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    Michael Long, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 11:45am

    Re: Re: Never disagreed more

    If a student is cheating on a test, I can guarantee that it's not being done as some hypothetical execise in developing collaboration skills, but merely as a way to game the system and get better grades than he or she deserves.

    "... and merely working together to some degree on tests is not a necessary and sufficient condition to prove that an individual is incapable of performing a given responsibility as competently as one that took the test alone."

    So do it WITHOUT "merely working together" and prove me wrong. Because if you can't, then in that particular subject area you're NOT competent.

    There are usually plenty of projects given to teams in order to help build working relationships and foster collaboration skills. Tests given to individuals, however, are attempts to find out what the individual knows, and are not exercises given solely to determine just how well you can hide your cell phone.

    Which, in my book, pretty much invalidates the primary premise of the article. If you're hiding your phone or cheat sheet from the teacher, then you know it's something that you shouldn't be doing. Translation: you know that it's wrong.

    Whether or not you CARE that it's wrong is another thing entirely.

    Unfortunately, those that cheat fail to realize that the only one being cheated is themselves, and I promise to hold a gentle thought in my head for them as they stand there in those spify vests and greet me on my way into Walmart.

     

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    diddy, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 11:46am

    Re:

    Well put. Another tool in the toolbox.

     

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    ChrisB (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 12:07pm

    Collaborative learning and individual testing

    "Someone who ought to remain anonymous alerts me to a discussion of a recent study on student "cheating" on exams via mobile phones and similar technology, which found, not only that lots of kids do it, but that they don't think it's wrong."

    This issue is pretty simple. Collaboration while learning is fine, but _exams_ should be individual. The main reason is when a group does a test, who gets the mark? Your actual understanding of the subject is conflated with your groups.

     

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    Cait, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 12:46pm

    I reject the premise that the only options are memorization and collaborative work directly with other students (seen here as "cheating"). There is another form of "cheating" that is used far more often in the real world: looking at references instead of calling something entirely from memory. As a recent college graduate, I don't have to go back very far in my memory to recall courses in everything from computer science to history in which the instructor emphasized understanding and application over memorization. And, to see practical classroom application of this philosophy one needs to look no further than the open book test with a time limit. An open book test is all about having the skills needed to find the information quickly, and the time limit assures that the student must have enough familiarity and understanding of the subject beforehand to apply the work.

    Not every classroom treats the student as though they live in a vacuum. In my experience, very few still do.

     

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    New Mexico Mark, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 12:47pm

    Re:

    This is a good illustration of why elements of classical education have become so valuable today. In classical education a trivium of rhetoric -- the ability to successfully formulate, research, and defend ideas -- is built on logic (understanding relationships among facts, rules, and data) and under that is a foundation of grammar (rote memorization of facts, rules, and data). This trivium (three paths) is the basic (or trivial) part of education.

    Development of collaborative methods and reliance on external data becomes more appropriate for advanced education when the student has already proved their ability in foundational levels.

    Going back to the doctor example, I have no problem with a doctor who employs collaboration or research to diagnose a difficult or rare set of symptoms. In fact, I would appreciate that quality. However, if I come into an emergency room with simple fracture of the tibia, I'm going to be way more upset if the doctor gets my symptoms and vitals, then comes back over to me with a bottle of Vicks cough syrup and a syringe and asks the candy striper, "Nurse, how many milligrams are in a millennium? I never can remember that one."

    Finally, I may have missed this in the comments, but it seems pretty important to me that sharing answers when instructed not to is a major character flaw. I don't give a rip how good someone is at collaboration or looking up answers if they are dishonest and/or defiant. At that point I want nothing to do with them. The fact that defenders of these behaviors seem to be intent on breeding and training a morally bankrupt generation does not make me feel any better. But I'm sure some young psychologist who has cheated his way through school can ask around among enough colleagues to get a consensus about why I feel that way.

     

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    Ryan, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 1:22pm

    Re: Re:

    Finally, I may have missed this in the comments, but it seems pretty important to me that sharing answers when instructed not to is a major character flaw. I don't give a rip how good someone is at collaboration or looking up answers if they are dishonest and/or defiant. At that point I want nothing to do with them. The fact that defenders of these behaviors seem to be intent on breeding and training a morally bankrupt generation does not make me feel any better. But I'm sure some young psychologist who has cheated his way through school can ask around among enough colleagues to get a consensus about why I feel that way.

    I don't understand the rancor here. How is this any more deceitful/defiant than ignoring the walk-by EULA in the other techdirt post? Nobody is paying money to the teacher for the privilege of giving him favors(teachers' often arrogant and pretentious insistence of the importance of their own time over their students' notwithstanding); they are there to get an education and to make progress toward a degree that will allow them to get a job.

    Getting an answer from another student certainly doesn't make one less educated. You could say it misleads very slightly the achievement of the degree, but this completely ignores the capricious whims by which individual instructors assign grades. If anybody is being cheated it is the student cheating himself, but there is nothing "morally bankrupt" about this at all. Rather, I find your assertion to be presumptious and condescending. Obviously, there are a large number of people that disagree with you, and you are no more important or morally discerning than they.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 1:26pm

    Re: Cheating in school

    "The focus on memorization may not be a good idea, but it's what you've got to work with. If you don't have the self-respect to do what you're asked in school, how can I trust you as a co-worker to do your job?"

    That has got to be the most idiotic comment in this blog post. So apparently, the good thing about schools isn't that they teach you something, but that they make you get used to "do as you're told".

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 1:29pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Yeah but these doctors all know different things because they specialize in different fields (I know the characters have changed). Dr. House specializes in infectious diseases and the kidneys. Dr Chase specialized in how much medication each patient can get. Dr Cameron specialized in the immune system. Foreman was a neurologist. They each had to know different things and for them to hire an immunologist that doesn't know the material (and has to keep wasting time calling up his friend from college) is nonsense. I don't expect Cameron to know the material that they hired Foreman to know and vice versa."

    You must be watching a different show. All the while they're trying to GUESS what's wrong with the patient, they're all equally versed in about the same stuff: if it's Lupus, if there's an infection, etc. Only when they're tasked to do actual field or lab work (or surgery) is that each one's specialty really matters. So, when they're sitting talking about the possible diagnosis, they're "cheating" apparently.

     

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    Michael Long, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 1:39pm

    Re:

    "As the person that was always leeched upon..."

    Me too, but occasionally I'd give 'em the wrong answer just for the hell of it.

    Which is one problem with always depending upon others for your facts. Your knowledge is only as good as theirs, and theirs may be wrong. Worse, there may be ulterior motives at play.

    And if you're too ignorant to know better...

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 2:23pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "It would be inefficient to have three doctors from different fields work together if one of them spoke English, another spoke Spanish, and the third spoke French."

    Inefficient, yes, but also extremely fun to watch.

     

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    cburst, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 2:42pm

    as a teacher...

    As an English language teacher who routinely tests students, I do not view most collaboration in this subject area as useful. When knowledge must be applied in real time, most collaborations systems are inefficient. A doctor should be thoroughly prepared for a procedure, and all contingencies, and perhaps could collaborate beforehand. A language speaker must be able to communicate in unfamiliar environments and in unpredictable situations. Certainly there is some dividing line between fields where collaboration is acceptable and those where it is not. Perhaps such a line might be the relatively predictability/pace at which one must recall and/or apply knowledge.

     

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    hegemon13, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 2:43pm

    Re: Re: Requires a new system

    I did not blame just teachers. I made the very point that you bring up: that a primary problem is the nation's obsession with standardized tests. I understand that teachers do not necessarily want to teach toward standardized tests, but that programs like No Child... leave them with no choice.

    That said, the majority of the teachers I had in both high school and college did as little as possible to get by, especially in college. I had some very good teachers that went the extra mile, but the majority did the bare minimum. So, no, I am not an idiot. I am speaking from life experience. The majority (note that I did NOT say "all") of teachers/professors would not be willing to go that extra mile, and would resist any effort to force them to work harder.

     

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    hegemon13, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 2:51pm

    Re: Re: Requires a new system

    Good points. I guess the vast majority of my teachers taught facts rather than principles. Most who did teach principles had enough understanding to know that they also needed to show us how to apply them. I had one chemistry teacher like you described, and it was a miserable class because we only had abstract knowledge.

    However, I don't think your post really disagrees with what I said. I did not say that we needed to teach principles exclusively. I said we need to teach them instead of facts. Teaching application is not the same as teaching facts. Take math, for example. A teacher can give you a formula to memorize, or he/she can start with the principle of where the formula came from, so that the formula actually makes sense and is not just a string of numbers, letters and symbols. Both teach the formula, but only the first is likely to "stick," plus it eliminates transposing elements of the formula because the student understands what it means, not just what the symbols are.

    In short, I was not saying that teachers should not give examples, but that they should not make the example the entire lesson.

     

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    hegemon13, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 2:58pm

    Re: Never disagreed more

    "To say that allowing kids to share answers on tests is ok or should be encouraged is bullshit."

    Not if the test is designed to be collaborative. The way most classes are currently taught, you are probably right. However, the original article is not lamenting that students can't copy each other on current tests. He is pointing out the inherent problems with testing the way we do, based solely on the individual, on memorization, and on solo efforts, when the real world works in the opposite way, where collaboration is the majority of the way things get accomplished.

     

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    6 (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 4:28pm

    "I'm paying the doctor based on what he knows, not based on what his friend in class knew 5 years ago."

    Only for his simplistic every day routine bs. For other more complicated things the docs are expected to consult the literature about. Why do you think you go to the docs office sometimes and he leaves the room, then comes back a half hour later? Or why specialty docs don't just spout out a diagnosis, but instead go and sit and think about it for a few days?

     

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    DTS, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 5:21pm

    Quoting Bill Watterson

    What does memorising facts for regurgitation teach us? Bill Watterson, in his comic strip Calvin & Hobbes, had something to say in one of his dailies with Calvin taking a history test:

    Calvin: (writing) As you can see, I have memorized this utterly useless piece of information long enough to pass a test question. I now intend to forget it forever. You've taught me nothing except how to cynically manipulate the system. Congratulations.

     

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    Jordan S. (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 5:42pm

    Re: Re: Already Being Done?

    Now that you bring it up, I suppose that a few of my intro courses have been the "spew" courses. However, I think that those were mostly just to give a foundation in the subject (the ones that come to mind are chemistry, history, and calc 1 and 2). Each class after that (even liberal arts courses) have been largely collaborative, and not "memorized exam" based.

    I think that the best news is that the concept of constant connection and collaboration is starting to catch on more and more as the internet gains more ground, so your light at the end of the tunnel is probably accurate.

     

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  73.  
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    Jesse, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 7:41pm

    "Plagiarism is an exception. Passing off someone else's work as your own is clearly wrong. But forcing kids to memorize facts and not giving them what's truly important -- that is to say thinking skills is the big problem here. "

    Is it though? What about ghostwriting? That isn't "clearly wrong," it's an age old practice.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 9:55pm

    Re:

    "For other more complicated things the docs are expected to consult the literature about. Why do you think you go to the docs office sometimes and he leaves the room, then comes back a half hour later? Or why specialty docs don't just spout out a diagnosis, but instead go and sit and think about it for a few days?"

    I never suggested that doctors shouldn't work together but in order to ensure effective collaboration it is also important to ensure that doctors are individually competent.

     

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    Michael Long, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 11:18pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "... they are there to get an education and to make progress toward a degree that will allow them to get a job."

    If they went through school cheating at tests and deceiving their teachers and instructors, what makes you think that their behavior is going to suddenly change once they're out of school and working in the real world?

    Are they going to be honest employees, or are they going to continue their practice of doing as little as possible to get by? What makes you think that they're not going to "cheat" at each and every opportunity?

    Lack of moral character is lack of moral character, period. Cheating at school and getting away with it just leads to the mindset that you can continue to cheat and get away with it.

    And then, eventually, they go to work for Enron.

     

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    Oz, Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 12:03am

    Learning, knowledge, and collaboration

    Fallacy 1: Obtaining answers from a friend on an exam in which this act is prohibited is an example of collaboration.

    Collaboration as alluded to and quoted by the OP is characterized by complex interaction between individuals pursuing a common goal as a group. As an ideal, collaboration is balanced, receiving equally valuable (or near-so) input toward the goal from each member. If one accepts the notion that members of the group do not contribute equally, then one must accept that the unequal contribution is due to unequal individual knowledge of the area and/or unequal ability to synthesize that knowledge toward a resolution of the problem.

    By contrast, obtaining answers from a friend on an exam involves neither "complex interaction", nor is the goal common to all members of the "team". The friend sees little to no benefit from providing the help. It requires zero skill on the part of the student (aside from the operation of a mobile phone, at best), and can be accomplished by any student with the ability to send a text message. And, intellectually, the student gains nothing from the act. This is in contrast to the student who, not knowing what was to be on the exam, did collaborate with classmates in studying for the exam, and with them (perhaps only partially) achieved the common goal of *learning the material* (not to be confused with memorizing facts). An exam is not (read: should not be) given for the purpose of assigning a grade. It is given to start the process of bringing together and solidifying the material in the students mind, so that he or she might know it for a period beyond the duration of the course.

    If the student is "memorizing" facts, whether or not the course or instructor allows for or encourages this, the student is shortchanging himself, period. Whatever happened to learning as an end in and of itself?

    Fallacy 2: A person's knowledge of an area is disjoint from his or her ability to know where to look for, sort through, find, and recognize information relevant to a problem in said area.

    In fact, the two are very highly correlated. Indeed, the correlation becomes stronger as more and more information is readily available to the person in question, for then, the person must have enough knowledge to sort through the increasing amount of noise in an efficient manner.

    Fallacy 3: The ability to find (or suggest in a collaborative environment) a *creative* solution to a problem, and having knowledge required to solve the problem optimally, are disjoint.

    If you reexamine what you mean by *creativity*, this becomes nonsense. Creativity, as referred to here (in relation to the solving of a problem), is the ability to get at the heart of something in a way that is unique, that is, in a way that has not been thought of before. In practice, a creative idea often manifests itself as a slight modification of a known method or a way of rehashing a solution to an analogous problem. Indeed, one could argue that this is the *only* way creativity displays itself.



    The point is this: if collaboration on a project requires any kind of intellectual input whatsoever, the efficiency of the project and the optimality of the solution to the problem is directly related to the knowledge and individual abilities of the group members. This is why I would hire a person with a strong knowledge in his or her area over a person who knows how to "collaborate effectively" in a heartbeat.

     

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    Walker Thompson, Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 5:19am

    Great post

    Excellent posting... When I think of cheating vs. collaboration, sports comes to mind. A meritocracy is probably the best way to gauge true learning and this CAN be done within a group setting. Sports training is an example of this. Everyone trains together and then applies that training. Peer influence will do more than teacher pressure not to cheat. What's more, on a team, people HAVE to work together.

     

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    Sean, Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 6:17am

    Re:

    Using a doctor example is awful; I recall reading, sorry to not have the article, a piece about doctors collaborating their findings and documents to determine similarities and differences between patient's illnesses so they could better treat their patients.

    You really chose the worst possible example, medicine is the perfect forum for collaboration and NOT memorization, since only through collaboration and sharing through doctors can they learn about the diseases and illnesses.

    Also, you think the doctors really, "know nothing?" They had to get into medical school, pass, and then become a doctor and are.

     

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    Sean, Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 6:20am

    I'm sort of curious about the age/profession of the opponents of this, those who see this as 'cheating.'

    In school they also want to see the work, and you get tested on things in a way you never would in a work place...at work, when I don't know something...I look it up. Or I find out how to do something...by looking it up. And yet on tests, it is demanded I KNOW all of this, completely unlike the much-famed 'real-world' that is so oft spoken of by college professors.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 9:29am

    Re: Re:

    "Also, you think the doctors really, "know nothing?""

    Never said anything of the sort.

    "They had to get into medical school, pass"

    They had to "pass" an exam that tested their individual knowledge, not their ability to copy from their neighbor. This is why they are knowledgeable, where did I say they know nothing? As someone already pointed out, a four year old can practically pass the hardest exam if some mentor/tutor gave them all the answers during the exam. Doesn't mean they know the material.

     

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    Charlie, Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 10:54am

    Compare the following:

    Chemist working in a lab that "looks up" chemical structures in order to conceive of ideas for developing new materials vs. the chemist that already knows the chemical structures and is able to think about them without spending time looking them up.

    People seem to forget that a major component of expertise is the speed at which they can solve a problem and solve it well. People forget that the brain is involved in problem solving, in fact, it is responsible for problem solving. A brain that has the information "at the activation of a network" is simply better than the brain that has to google it. I see that authors and web celebs (such as Leo Laporte) who, some in their ignorance, like Leo, criticize the memorization aspects of education. They fail to take into account the brain. Some things need to be memorized. Please don't conclude that when I say memorize that I mean the simple droning on of rote rehearsal, the repetition saying something over and over. While that is a TYPE of memorization, it is not an effective form of learning. However, avoiding memorization is also problematic.

     

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    dlsayremn, Jul 24th, 2009 @ 1:01pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Would be hilarious, but not real-life. Most BS/BA degrees from major schools now days require a 2nd language as an elective. For most Pre-Med in the US usual choice would be either German, French or Spanish. Also, medical terms for deseases, procedures, medicines are either Latin or Greek no matter where you live and learned.

     

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    Shiv, Jul 28th, 2009 @ 5:34am

    Re: Re:

    really??? .. then would you consider someone who has better medical texts or doctors to consult to diagnose you?

     

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    WAMALA JANE, Jul 29th, 2009 @ 3:06am

    It cheating Or Is it collabotion

    Sure
    The mode of education and the exams structure for the children gives no chance to use the information other than memorizing and producing it exactly in their exams, scoring high marks.when they graduate they cant think and use the information aquired from school

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 1:33am

    It seems to me that the point the exams is to test it the students know the answers to the questions. In which case getting the answers from another student is cheating.
    If people think that testing if students know the answers to questions is not as good as seeing if they can collaborate then they have a problem with there being too much emphasis on exams, not as to whether sharing answers in exams is cheating.
    And I would note that you will still need at least some way to test a students individual abilities, otherwise you will only be testing the abilities of the class as a whole, which is unfair and pointless.

     

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    chase, Dec 1st, 2009 @ 1:46pm

    yall are stupid

     

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    Adam Taylor, Jan 25th, 2010 @ 9:48am

    Re:

    Agreed! School is for learning basics. You can't read if you don't know how to pronounce a word. You can't pronounce a word unless you know the sounds that different letters represent. Collaboration is vital! But collaboration to read a sentence is ridiculous.
    People must know the basics before they can collaborate.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2011 @ 8:56am

    Group work and collaboration is way overemphasized in school! I teach high school and its ridiculous that very few of the students are capable of doing anything on their own. They can't think independently, they can't figure anything out. It may be fine for adults in the working world, but it only works if everyone in the group is competent and well educated. That is the purpose of schools. This is NOT the fault of the teachers, most disagree with it. It is administration and those that are NOT directly working with the kids and legislatures that have very little clue of education itself, but sets policy. I recently gave a simple exercise showing them the end result of what they were to achieve and they were to come up, INDEPENDENTLY, how to achieve the result. Very few were capable… this is the future. You say that they could have solved it working together. If we lower the standard. If it was a collaborative exercise, it should have been much more challenging.

     

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    Leanne, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 12:52pm

    In today's day and age, I would agree there is no way we can know everything, but it is important to be able to know where to Find the information needed. Internet is a great tool! When I was in college we had to pass a series of efficiency exams in order to pass the education program. One of the exams was a list of random items/questions and we were asked where would you go to find this information? I thought exam was Fun! Others hated it. I see no reason to memorize random information. Instead, I feel as long as we know where to look, have a support system of information in place, we will find success in the world.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 20th, 2012 @ 12:01pm

    I feel that schools are in the middle of a huge reformation. The technological world has advanced so fast that schools are scurrying to "catch up".

     

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    HoustonREF (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 10:29am

    IT is CHEATING

    Sorry, Ryan Scott, but there is a case for cheating. Did everyone who responded here have a group to help them with words and letters, as well as typing? Nope, we all had to learn the English language. School is where we learn the basics, and HOPEFULLY, we ALSO learn to use them in a group. Most schools are doing an excellent job of giving the students an opportunity to collaborate. Whether they take it or not, that is another question. Unfortunately, we are looking at students that copy another student's quiz, and they call that "collaboration". They seriously do not know the difference. So, yes, there are time when collaboration is great. There are times when it is good to use others to help. But you have to know that you need help, not just always assume it, or you will never be able to solve problems. THAT is the skill which you need to teach your employees, not "unteach" the thought of doing something by one's self.

     

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