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The so-called Facebook Scandal

[rant]So, if you organize a study-group online instead of in meat-space, the old fogies who still remember dinosaurs go all berserk. A student is threatened by expulsion for organizing a Facebook group for studying chemistry. Moreover, as each student got different questions, nobody did the work for others, they only exchanged tips and strategies. See the responses:

The Star:

Yet students argue Facebook groups are simply the new study hall for the wired generation.

Yes, they are.

Greg:

How much of this is a matter of administrative fear of the internet?

100%.

Larry:

Today, that sense of “honor” seems horribly old-fashioned. To most students it will not seem like cheating if they ask their friends for help with the assignments and share information. That’s what happened on the Facebook study group.

Old-fashioned is too nice a term. It is outdated and anachronistic.

Post-Diluvian Diaspora:

Honestly, do you not see the difference between studying together and exchanging answers on a graded assignment?

The problem is in a stupid professor who thinks in terms of “graded assignments” in the 21st century.

This all stems from the old German universities of a couple of centuries ago, where getting a degree was essentially a hazing process. Toughening the individual. For what? For replicating and preserving the hierarchy, both within the academia and in society as a whole. The educational systems around the world, at all levels, are still based on such outrageous ideas.

No individual can know everything needed knowing. No individual can make the necessary societal changes on one’s own. So why teach them as if it is all up to an individual? Both learning and social change are communal processes. What we need to be teaching is how to be a member of a community, how to network, how to contribute, how to share, how to pull together in order to increase the global knowledge and, by using this knowledge, to increase the global welfare.

Science is supposed to be a collaborative activity. Why is it organized (and taught) as if it was a competitive activity? How does that affect science? Negatively, by increasing secretiveness and sometimes outright fraud.

The Web is changing all this. The teenagers already grok that the old selfish notions of intellectual property are going by the way of the dodo. They naturally think in terms of networks, not individuals. And thinking in term of newtorks as opposed to a linear, hierarchical, individualistic focus, is necessary for speeding up the advancement of knowledge and societal good.

In other words, it is not important what each individual knows or does, it is important what the interactions between individuals can do, and how the group or community (or global community) learns and acts upon the knowledge.

Thus, education, especially science education, from Kindergarden through post-doc and beyond, should be organized around collaborations, teaching people and letting them practice the networking skills and collaborative learning and action. Individuals will make mistakes and get punished by the group (sometimes as harshly as excommunication). They will learn from that experience and become more collaborative next time. The biggest sin would be selfish non-sharing of information.

If I could, I would not give individual students grades on their individual performance at all. I would give a common grade for the entire class. Each individual will then get that same grade. If the last semester’s cohort got an A, do you think that this semester’s group would settle for anything less? And how do they get an A? By pooling their resources, sharing all the information, closely collaborating on all assigned projects, and coaxing/teaching/punishing individuals who are not pulling their weight. Neither the reward nor the punishment would be meted out by some outside self-appointed ‘authority’, but by peers – the people who matter the most.

Then, they would take this approach to the Real World, where such things really matter, where sucess is that of a community, not that of any individual.

So, if you do not get this, if you are not mentally ready for the 21st century, if you still harbor the outdated competition-based, individualistic mindset, you should not be in the teaching business. Quit today. Save yourself the embarassment of being laughed at by your students. Save your students from having to deal with an authoritarian. Save the society from promulgating the counter-productive, anti-social methods of knowledge-acquisition and knowledge-use.[/rant]

Comments

  1. #1 Greg Laden
    March 8, 2008

    not mentally ready for the 21st century

    Or much of the 20th century, actually.

  2. #2 Coturnix
    March 8, 2008

    I wanted to be gentle, in the midst of a strong rant.

  3. #3 Umkomasia
    March 9, 2008

    Anyone that thinks science is no longer competitive has not applied for a grant recently.

  4. #4 Coturnix
    March 9, 2008

    Which is exactly the problem we need to change.

  5. #5 Coturnix
    March 9, 2008
  6. #6 nlightnmnt
    March 9, 2008

    A student is threatened by expulsion for organizing a Facebook group for studying chemistry. Moreover, as each student got different questions, nobody did the work for others, they only exchanged tips and strategies.

    After the professor specifically stated that each student was not to obtain outside help.

    If I could, I would not give individual students grades on their individual performance at all. I would give a common grade for the entire class. Each individual will then get that same grade.

    Students: pick classes based on who else is signing up for them! The idea is to do as little work as possible – the bad students will know that getting a good grade means more to the intelligent, hard-working students than it does to them, and so they can sit back while the other suckers do all the work.

    How much of this is a matter of administrative fear of the internet?

    100%.

    Nope. The fact that the cheating was on the internet is irrelevant. See above.

  7. #7 Coturnix
    March 9, 2008

    Not obtaining outside help is not learning. The prof is an idiot.

    Bad students will be punished by their peers until they shape up. As stated in my post, if you have read it.

    They did not cheat. They collaborated in learning. Nobody did each other’s assignments.

  8. #8 Coturnix
    March 9, 2008

    But the whole concept of “cheating” is screwed up, if it means “having to do everything in isolation”.

  9. #9 Coturnix
    March 9, 2008

    In other words, the kids were set up. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t. If they do what they are told by this idiot, they will not learn. If they decide that learning is more important, and do it right, then they are accused of “cheating” by someone who has power over them.

  10. #10 The Flying Trilobite
    March 9, 2008

    I agree with your points Coturnix, by and large. The one thing that continues to shock me time and again is how so many people don’t understand that their voices on Facebook are essentially public.

    About half of Canadians are on Facebook. The part I don’t understand is how they were found out: did they use the course number as a group name? If so, it is essentially announcing their intention to defy the teacher by putting a sign on cork board down the hall from class. At least be discreet if the teacher is frowning on study groups.

  11. #11 derek
    March 9, 2008

    I disagree with one thing in your article, which is that the notion of “intellectual property” is an old one. I think it’s relatively recent, corporate propaganda designed to argue that they have a right to unlimited revenue from, ironically, the very creators they’re busy screwing.

    The original arguments for, e.g., copyright wisely avoided claiming that work of the mind gave its creators “ownership” of some combination of words, or musical notes, but argued instead that it was in the interest of the people that the state grant creative artists a *time-limited* right to demand compensation for their work.

    Nowadays, that right has pretty much gone; instead they sell the right for a pittance to a big company, which then uses its lawyers to use the alienated right as a cash cow, for as many decades as they can get the law changed to allow.

    “Intellectual property” is not only a bad concept to have in your head, it’s not even an old-fashioned sort of bad, but a creeping new idea.

  12. #12 Maffie van Eck
    March 9, 2008

    Ah, the self-righteousness of the Science Bloggers! Anyone you disagree with is an idiot or a dinosaur, eh? Scope for all opinions, provided they agree with yours? How does your statement that cooperation is important in this modern world square with your slagging off with cheap name-calling any outfit doing things slightly different from your prescribed theology?

    One thing these students have demonstrated is that do not respect for rules. Sometimes that’s good, but will they comply with other procedures that they disagree with? “No naked flames near the inflammable liquids, naaa, that doesn’t apply to me, I know better…”?

    Your almost nihilistic attitude to grading is puerile. There’s no point in class grades that give no indication of any individual’s level of contribution or achievement; what could anyone use that grade for? Ungraded courses are fine, but your proposal amounts to “turn up, google some words, collect your A”.

    In short, grow up.

  13. #13 vavatch
    March 9, 2008

    Your proposed alternative to grading sounds like it would make it impossible for the students concerned to get a job anywhere – how could they when employers could not know if a given student were actually any good.

    Cooperation between individuals is not in any great danger. Our entire society is based on ever increasing cooperation. Globalisation is just that – “cooperation”. Some people are blinkered and can’t seem to see that competition and cooperation are in fact complimentary and intertwined. Usually ideological sorts who dismiss the spontaneous and undesigned systems we have today, with their combination of cooperation and competition, and replace it with some crap they have designed themselves in their own heads. Arrogant people, usually. “I’ve read a couple of books and therefore I can replace the fruits of thousands of years of human striving and tinkering, with this crap I just thought of, cos I’m so smart.”

    Your proposed ideas are ridiculous. For one, the students would betray your hippy ideals and find a way to be competitive despite them. Secondly, they’d be harmed by it in the long run when they find nobody will hire them after university – why would you when you don’t have any idea whether they have the skills you need. They most likely wouldn’t learn as much too – why bother when you won’t get anything out of it like a better grade.

    The reason the facebook students are being disciplined is not because they used facebook but because they cheated. They copied answers. The ones who were cool enough to get invited to the facebook group, anyway. That makes them freeloaders upon the group, and that makes them anti-cooperative. The students and college as a whole are cooperating in a system designed to teach the students as best as possible and some of those students are betraying that cooperation and cheating. And they should be punished for forming their little freeloading clique, online or not.

  14. #14 Barn Owl
    March 9, 2008

    I think instructors and course directors have a responsibility to make the rules very clear from the outset, and if the rules differ for various assignments in a given course, then they need to be listed clearly in each case. In graduate courses, I can (and do) assign cooperative assignments, but in professional (medical and dental) school courses, I have a responsibility to prepare students for national licensing exams, which are very individualistic.

    Just as our elders had to adapt to our outlandish and annoying differences, those of us who are “baby boomers” or “Gen X” have to get used to the fact that “Gen Y” or “Millenials” do things differently, and view intellectual property and communication differently. I’m not remotely interested in participating in sites like Facebook, but for many of my students, it’s an important networking tool to interact with their friends and peers. I’m similarly disinterested in instant messaging, but nevertheless I have to consider it, in the context of teaching. What I think of Facebook or instant messaging or file-sharing sites, or whether I use them myself, is not important; how I cope with such things and adapt to their existence and popularity in my job *is*, however.

    I mentioned the Prelinger Library, and an article in Harper’s by Gideon Lewis-Kraus, previously in the comments on this blog (and I have a short post on my blog about the bookshelving aspect), and there is some very interesting discussion of intellectual property issues. In the US, for example, copyright changed from an “opt-in” system to an “opt-out” system in the 1970s (as an aside, I realized that it was silly for me to “copyright” my own lame photos on my own stupid blog, so I’ve removed them). The Prelingers are very concerned with intellectual property issues, in a “good” way, such as to provide free access to resources and information for researchers, writers, and artists. Unfortunately, the Lewis-Kraus article is only available to individuals with a Harper’s subscription. :-(

  15. #15 Jefrir
    March 9, 2008

    This attitude of sharing knowledge is actually one that has been encouraged by my better teachers – if you don’t understand, ask your classmates. They will often explain it in a different way to the teacher, which may make it easier for you to understand, and the act of explaining will help them clarify their own understanding. Everyone’s a winner – provided of course that the aim is for everyone to learn as much as possible. Sure, students shouldn’t be just writing assignments for each other, that is cheating and doesn’t help in the long run, but then that’s hardly likely to be tolerated by the students doing the work anyway.
    I’m not sure about class grades, as that may give future employers the impression that someone is competent when they’re really not, but certainly more use could be made of group projects.

  16. #16 David Marjanovi?
    March 9, 2008

    One thing these students have demonstrated is that do not respect for rules. Sometimes that’s good, but will they comply with other procedures that they disagree with? “No naked flames near the inflammable liquids, naaa, that doesn’t apply to me, I know better…”?

    Come on. You don’t believe this generalization yourself.

  17. #17 Larry Moran
    March 9, 2008

    One of the things I try to teach students is that they will encounter many Professors with different styles of teaching. These Professors will have different personalities as well. They can’t all be the stereotypical nice guy, easy grader, that student evaluations seem to want.

    I explain that, for the most part, all Professors have something to offer and students have a certain responsibility to adapt to each style and personality. They shouldn’t try to cram everyone into the same mold. If they insist on doing this they will miss out on the benefits from some some very eccentric, and brilliant, Professors.

    Boris, I gather that you teach very differently. You seem to be of the opinion that every lecturer has to conform to your concept of pedagogy. I think you are making a huge mistake.

    Concerning the particular Facebook issue, the Professor specifically said that the students were supposed to work out the problems individually and not as a group. Just because you disagree with the reasoning behind that request does not give you the right to condone cheating by the students. The students broke the rule and they did it in a very open manner on Facebook. You seem to think this is okay because the Professor is old-fashioned. You are wrong. It is not okay.

  18. #18 Nomen Nescio
    March 9, 2008

    Bad students will be punished by their peers until they shape up.

    mob hazing as the alternative to simply getting a bad, individual, grade. now there’s an idea straight out of… actually, i’m not sure how many godsdamn centuries ago.

    coturnix, you’re usually a fairly sensible person, but on this point you seem to have been dropping hallucinogenics. i hope you sober up soon; the trip you’re on looks to be a very unpleasant one.

    (in another several years, i may end up in a position to hire somebody. if prospective employees then come to me with college degrees that were based explicitly and mainly on the performance of their entire classes as groups, the way you seem to be proposing, i certainly would want to know about it — so i could pass on hiring them, since i’ll definitely not ever be in a position to hire on an entire classroom full of people as a group. if those degrees are to be worth anything to anybody else outside the group, they must by necessity say something about the individuals that hold them!)

  19. #19 Cherish
    March 9, 2008

    My take is that homework should be collaborative. That is the opportunity to learn the material, get feedback from peers, and try to work out all the kinks in the problems and process of solving them. Very often, even if you have an incredible teacher who explains things very well, you’ll still find huge gaps in your understanding once you attempt working homeworks. Exams are for individual assessment.

    I think an ideal scenario is similar to a class I’m taking now. We have group homeworks and ideally discuss them in the class on the day they are due. Our labs are also done as a group. But all this counts for less than a quarter of our grade. We have 3 exams and presentations that account for 75% of our grade. This gives you an opportunity to spend time collaborating with your group and learning from each other while providing the instructor with a good assessment of individual learning.

  20. #20 Julie Stahlhut
    March 9, 2008

    The reason why many people disrespect rules is because many rules disrespect people.

    In a well-functioning workplace, people collaborate, build, and learn. A person who is a good collaborator is a real gem. A person who merely tries to take credit for other people’s work without doing any of his own quickly develops a bad reputation, at best. Giving exams and grading students individually is fine, but forbidding them to study with anyone else is NOT preparing them for the jobs they’ll have after college. In fact, it’s actively sabotaging their future attitudes towards work.

    If students copy someone else’s work instead of doing work themselves, they’re guilty of academic misconduct. That’s true whether the student copies the paper remotely from an online site or directly from her roommate, and students who commit this kind of offense should be held responsible. But I’ve never known a professor who forbade students to form study groups. (And, a student who merely parasitizes a study group as a source of free homework answers is not going to learn enough to pass the exams.)

    I hope this “academic misconduct” case is laughed out of the room by the university administration.

  21. #21 qetzal
    March 9, 2008

    I agree with nlightnmnt. From the article:

    While Neale admits the professor stipulated the online homework questions were to be done independently, she said it has long been a tradition for students to brainstorm homework in groups, particularly in heavy programs such as law, engineering and medicine.

    Sharing ideas on Facebook is NOT working independently. If the students thought they should be able to work together, they should have made their case to the prof, not gone behind his back.

    I suspect this partly reflects an attitude that profs are too clueless to know about things like Facebook. In many cases, that may be true, but it’s not a valid justification.

    Coturnix wrote:

    In other words, the kids were set up. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t. If they do what they are told by this idiot, they will not learn. If they decide that learning is more important, and do it right, then they are accused of “cheating” by someone who has power over them.

    Frankly, that’s just BS. Collaborative learning is certainly valuable. But independent learning is valuable too. It’s ridiculous to claim that the students won’t learn if they work an assignment independently, and calling the prof an idiot only reflects badly on you, Coturnix.

    In this case, doing it right meant doing it as instructed. And using scare quotes doesn’t change the undisputed fact that the students violated clear instructions.

    By the way, have any of you ever been to Yahoo!Answers? At least in the biology section, more than half the questions are students outright asking others to answer their homework for them. Is that ‘collaborative learning?’ I don’t think so.

    The article suggests these students didn’t go that far, which is good. Nevertheless, I can definitely understand why a prof might forbid on-line collaboration on specified assignments.

  22. #22 bill
    March 9, 2008

    Nice rant, Bora. Sometimes it’s good to come out swinging, stir up a few strong opinions on the other side.

    The work in question was homework, not an exam — in other words, it was assigned to help the students learn the material, not to test whether they had already learned it. Making it worth a small portion (10%) of their grade seems like just a way of trying to make sure they do the work — that is, receive the assistance in learning that it’s designed to provide.

    (I’m not a teacher, so if that’s not how homework is viewed by professional teachers, someone please correct me.)

    But if I’m right then yes, it seems idiotic to insist that they do the work in isolation — it merely cripples their learning. I agree with Cherish, homework should be collaborative, and with Bora — we should be teaching collaboration explicitly.

    I don’t think, for reasons (strongly!) expressed above, that 100% of a student’s grade should depend on the class grade. Individual exams still have a purpose… perhaps each class could give two grades, one for individual and one for group work? For that to be meaningful to, say, an employer reading a resume, it would have to include more information — the means for the class, and for a selection of that teacher’s classes. The logistics of that would be difficult, though, to say the least — which is why I prefer the model that embeds collaborative learning in homework and take-home assignments, then tests individual mastery of the material in exam format where cheating is much easier to define and detect.

  23. #23 Andrew
    March 9, 2008

    While you seem to think you are more in touch with the way youth envision the future of their education, I’m afraid you are wrong. I’m currently a senior at a large, research-focused university in a life science field. I’m familiar with the types of students who share answers to assignments. Frankly, they’re not the motivated, intelligent, eager, forward-thinking scientists-of-the-future you imagine them to be. Rather, they’re lazy. They want to do as little work as possible to get their marks. While I don’t think that what they did warrants expulsion, I’m quite certain they did not intend to rock the foundations of university education by starting a Facebook group.

    With regards to your group marks idea, I think it is laughable. Every smart, motivated student I know wouldn’t venture near a class like that. Whether you like it or not, not all students care. In group projects, the ones who do care end up shouldering the load. And trying to build some sort of Lord-of-the-Flies learning society is equally ridiculous. I don’t care if Slacker A doesn’t want to learn about glycolysis, and I have no right to punish him for it. I also am under no responsibility to take the time to teach him about it.

  24. #24 Larry Moran
    March 9, 2008

    Julie Stahlhut says,

    Giving exams and grading students individually is fine, but forbidding them to study with anyone else is NOT preparing them for the jobs they’ll have after college.

    The purpose of a university education is to teach students how to think. It is not to prepare them for some job. That may be the attitude that many students–and their parents–have but that’s part of the problem.

    As university instructors we should be working hard to convince the general public that a university education is important for its own sake because it teaches you how to learn. It should also teach you how to behave properly in a society (i.e., don’t cheat, follow instructions). Those are valuable commodities. Incidentally, and only incidentally, those are commodities that some employers value.

  25. #25 A. Mercer
    March 9, 2008

    I’m not a scientist, but I hope to contribute in creating the next generation of that profession. I teach in elementary school and my undergraduate major was in the social sciences.

    1. This is completely contrary to how students are taught science in elementary school. Yes, they get a state test once in elementary on science where they work on their own, but most science lessons involve cooperative work, and exploration. There is a movement bringing back texts (and getting rid of project kits like FOSS), but I expect that as the texts get (rapidly) outdated, the kits will be back.

    2. In college, many classes featured group projects. The business majors I was friends with had similar projects. The common complaint about the grading was, what if I do all the work? My husband’s professor said basically, welcome to life. Many times you work on teams where not everyone pulls their weight, you need to work that out in the group before you talk to me about it. Many also did team self-assessments to suss out such problems. I’m hearing from profs today that they like wikis for projects, because it tracks the authoring and edits of pages, so they can see exactly who did what work.

    Last I checked, it’s a competitive world, but you still have to work in teams. I can’t think of many work situations that depend on you keeping information from your co-workers.

  26. #26 Ian B Gibson
    March 9, 2008

    Last I checked, it’s a competitive world, but you still have to work in teams. I can’t think of many work situations that depend on you keeping information from your co-workers.

    Last I checked, most bosses frowned upon workers ignoring specific instructions about what to do and what not to do. Saying the instructions were stupid is also unlikely to help matters.

    Ironically, if they’d had the brains to cheat in private they would have probably got away with it; perhaps they should set up a facebook group to discuss how not to get caught in future?

  27. #27 SDyuaa
    March 9, 2008

    I’ve had classes like that. Only one where the entire class was graded as one, but three or four where 75%-100% of our grades was based on smaller group work, and many more where a single assignment (for 10%-25% for the grade) was entirely group-based.

    The whole-class one was a bit imbalanced. We had the option to grade each other. If one person received a significant number of low grades from his or her peers, they could be excluded from the whole class’s grade. We kept track of who did what work by doing it all on a wiki, where we could see changes, how much, and when, and determine quality ourselves. This prevented the lazier people from doing nothing at all, and no one got “voted out.” However, some people did a lot more work than others. Some people provided more quality than others. Some had more initiative. We all benefited from our classmates – but some people clearly benefited more and gave less, and they still got the same grade.

    This, except for the wiki and the high amount of data on who did what when, is representative of all such group projects and classes I, personally, have experienced. YMMV.

  28. #28 Mike Fox
    March 10, 2008

    One thing that you could try doing in terms of grades is to have a class-group component to the grades. Say that 10-15% of your grade is based on the average class grade. It wouldn’t be enough to pull the lead-butts grade to a pass, but it would be enough to encourage the top quartile to help out the bottom quartile. I think this would better create a positive work / teamwork attitude.

  29. #29 Azkyroth
    March 10, 2008

    Concerning the particular Facebook issue, the Professor specifically said that the students were supposed to work out the problems individually and not as a group. Just because you disagree with the reasoning behind that request does not give you the right to condone cheating by the students. The students broke the rule and they did it in a very open manner on Facebook. You seem to think this is okay because the Professor is old-fashioned. You are wrong. It is not okay.

    Bullshit. There is nothing morally wrong about violating an unjust and illogical rule. (There is not necessarily anything morally right about it, either.) An authority figure has an implicit responsibility to create policies that will efficiently and and reliably accomplish a legitimate and beneficial aim for those concerned without unduly burdening them. When a person in a position of power, through stupidity, closed-mindedness (but I repeat myself), ignorance, pettiness, malice, or a materially selfish agenda, creates policies that a reasonable person in the same position would recognize as contrary to the above criteria, he or she betrays the trust of his or her subordinates. In so doing, he or she thereby forfeits all moral authority within any context relevant to the issue, and the weight of his or her demands shrinks to the scope of his or her practical ability to enforce them.

    When those who oppose such rules do so out of a sincere and principled belief that they are unjust and should not be applied to anyone, then it is these rebels who are in the right. When, as is much more common, people defy the rules simply for their own benefit (trying to sneak around them rather than change them is often, but not always, evidence of this), then the issue is reduced to a morally neutral (provided no substantive harm is done to innocent parties) contest between two purely self-interested parties – business competition, of a sort, if you will. I contend that even in the most uncharitable of reasonable interpretations, the latter is what happened here. In any case, the servile habit of mindlessly ascribing the moral high ground to the higher-ranking or more powerful party in such a contest is, I think, the single greatest factor contributing to the redefinition of copyright and formulation of the concept of “intellectual property” described by “derek” above – not to mention many other societal tragedies with a far more substantive and devastating impact.

    Honestly, though, I don’t like the idea of class grades and an extensive emphasis on group projects. I remember too many of my classmates all too well.

  30. #30 Larry Moran
    March 10, 2008

    Azkyroth says,

    There is nothing morally wrong about violating an unjust and illogical rule.

    You are free to form your own personal opinion about the justness of a rule. If you think that a rule is unjust and illogical then you may choose to violate that rule.

    But you must suffer the consequences. That’s what civil disobedience is all about. You aren’t entitled to a “get out of jail free” card just because your opinion differs from the rule makers.

  31. #31 Opisthokont
    March 10, 2008

    Individual and group learning each have their place. I say this as a grad student myself: I am a member of a research team, but I also bring (or at least like to think that I bring) unique capabilities and knowledge to that team, some at least of which I learned through the sort of individual hurdle-jumping that is emphasised in traditional classwork. I would question the utility of grades that were given to the whole class equally. It could result in a blot on the record of outstanding students, unless the whole thing was scaled to the best students’ performance, in which case one might as well not mark anything. Anyway, like it or not, there are situations in which one has no avenues for collaboration, and one must know things oneself — or know how to find things out by oneself. Individual learning is important, any way one looks at it.

    Networking, however, is a good thing, and setting up a Facebook group to work on problems together cannot but help in the long run. I have always found that I retain things better if I have to explain them to others. Telling students not to have some sort of study group to work on problem sets is stupid.

    What outrages me about this case is the mismatch between the “crime” and its punishment. What this student did does not merit expulsion, let alone a failing mark. The treatment meted out here is appropriate for plagiarism, which is manifestly not what is described here. Letting this punishment go through would be a gross injustice.

  32. #32 Coturnix
    March 11, 2008

    More comments by Kim and Propter Doc.

  33. #33 Silver Fox
    March 11, 2008

    I agree with Nomen Nescio | March 9, 2008 10:43 AM and Andrew | March 9, 2008 4:08 PM about mob/group enforced learning and punishment. Anyone who wants to see how far punishment can be taken in the scientific world where group collaboration wins over independent thinking should read The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin.

  34. #34 Mike
    March 13, 2008

    You seem to be the kind of idiot who thinks (and I use that term loosely) that knowing things as an individual is valueless. Here’s a tip: you can’t think if you don’t know anything. You obviously know nothing, and should never be allowed in a classroom.

  35. #35 Tracy W
    March 13, 2008

    I would give a common grade for the entire class. Each individual will then get that same grade.

    The thing about the real world is that often the individual is expected to be an expert on whatever they learnt at university.

    For example, I did an electricial engineering degree at university. I have seldom worked with someone else who has that training. I work in teams, but I am working with people who are experts in their own subject areas. My value to the team is dependent on my individual knowledge of what my professors taught me at university, not on how my class at the engineering school performed overall.

    No individual can know everything needed knowing. No individual can make the necessary societal changes on one’s own. So why teach them as if it is all up to an individual?

    Because they will go out into the world as individuals. And the more you know as an individual, the more effective you are at working with other people. It’s also darn useful to know things as an individual for those times you are alone. For example, say you are out hiking with a friend, somewhere without communications, and your friend suddenly collapses with a heart attack. What happens next is up to you as an individual.

    Thus, education, especially science education, from Kindergarden through post-doc and beyond, should be organized around collaborations, teaching people and letting them practice the networking skills and collaborative learning and action.

    This should most definitely not be at the expense of teaching children as indivduals, and teaching them the knowledge they will need as individuals to survive and thrive in the world around them.

    Individuals will make mistakes and get punished by the group (sometimes as harshly as excommunication). They will learn from that experience and become more collaborative next time.

    Or they will learn to give up. Punishment has unpredictable effects on people’s learning.

    Then, they would take this approach to the Real World, where such things really matter, where sucess is that of a community, not that of any individual.

    Communities do not succeed unless the individuals in them succeed individually.

    You appear to be operating from the old, linear, 20th century view that there is a dichotomy between the individual and the community.