Questions about Cheating as Learning

This theme of cheating as learning or cheating in learning is really rich for Week 1.  I’ll start with some quick observations and assumptions around cheating in the learning process. These observations assume that learning in whatever manner, should be applicable in the “real world” (whatever that is, if your learning is already taking place in the real world).

1) If I can cheat easily, ie, look up the answer to a question to find an answer accepted as “fact”– well, where is it, exactly, that I will be in the real world that I won’t be able to use the same method to find this information. Why are are you asking me this question anyway?

2) If a class is organized to encourage group work, or study groups and we share methods and answers on practice tests or exercises, is that cheating? Or is that group work? Where is the line?

3) What kind of cheating will have real consequences in one’s professional world? Plagiarism comes to mind. But there are boundaries and nuance around “borrowing” work as long as it’s properly synthesized and cited–ie, there are requisite ethics around remixing, but certainly being aware of and referencing the work of others is a requirement of being part of a world of knowledge.

Dave’s challenge this week was: Use cheating as a weapon. How can you use the idea of cheating as a tool to take apart the structures that you work in? What does it say about learning? About power? About how you see teaching?

What if we replace the word “cheating” with “challenging the status quo?” Does that fit? It doesn’t feel like the same question. Cheating is just a little too pejorative a term for me to get comfortable with. The idea of cheating implies that there are right and wrong ways to demonstrate knowledge. At the same time, those might translate into professional ethics in particular circumstances. The problem with the term is that someone, somewhere is setting the rules about what cheating entails. Some of the source of acceptable practices might be from those in charge, some from traditional practice, some from professional best practice and standards. How can we be certain, when we are part of those defining what it means to “cheat,” that we focus on creating learning situations that by their very nature are asking the learner to engage in experiences where it is challenging to cheat.

An example might be having the learner apply key concepts to their own experience. There is a way that someone could cheat even with this… One could really just not try. I think there is a need to parse out the idea of cheating to separate clever solutions to problems that others perceive as a shortcut versus someone taking a short cut because they are afraid to try or don’t want to try. What do others think?

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4 comments on “Questions about Cheating as Learning
  1. […] different categories of cheating here?: I think there is a need to parse out the idea of cheating to separate clever solutions to problems that others perceive as a shortcut versus someone taking a […]

  2. balimaha says:

    This is really strange, but i was reading this post and an idea was starting to formulate in my head, then i found it RIGHT THERE, you said “focus on creating learning situations that by their very nature are asking the learner to engage in experiences where it is challenging to cheat.” – now that, my friend, is cheating! You stole the idea out of my head and wrote it even before i thought it 😉 haha

    More seriously, though, i think some of us took the whole cheating thing to mean “challenging the status quo” but i agree they are not the same. Cheating implies not only breaking rules of authority but also possibly putting others (peers) at a disadvantage.

    I like your examples relating to real life. Some formal practices address those issues to some extent, like take-home and open book exams (assume learner has access to knowledge/content while doing the assessment).

    Plagiarism is the hardest one because the line gets blurred, and that in real life you are almost always offended by someone “stealing” your ideas, words, etc. i was in kindergarten when my friend plagiarized my picture that i was drawing, made an identical one with the same color, and i was sooo annoyed when the teacher showed it to the rest of the class As a good work of art. Ouch, still stings. Attribution is a tough one

    • htillber says:

      Haha. Love it. I would love to know how I did that, stealing the idea from your head. It is challenging because at some level, it’s not possible to create something someone hasn’t done before. There are fresh spins on things, but cutting through all that’s been done to get to a fresh innovation is challenging.

      • balimaha says:

        Haha. Am sure it is more the case that “great minds think alike”, or “connected minds read similar things and have similar paradigms”such that the way your article was going led me to that thought (which is not terribly original if mr, since i had thought it before, as had many people) – so I think it only speaks to the quality of your writing that i automatically reached your conclusion before you wrote it explicitly. There is something interesting there.

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