This past Wednesday’s assembly on integrity presented many different interesting and thought provoking scenarios. The majority of topics debated were clear cut: you knew, without question, what was right. However, others blurred the lines. They were the kind of topics in which you knew what they wanted you to say, but you didn’t actually believe it.Perhaps the most troubling is the issue of collaboration in its relation to academic integrity. Suppose you are presented with the following situation: Did you violate your integrity by working together even when you knew you probably shouldn’t Yes. Did you cheat? Yes. Did you learn by collaborating? Yes.
You and your friend are assigned a math problem set. The problem set does not specify whether or not you can work together, but your teacher has set a standing directive that you should work alone until otherwise instructed. Your friend approaches you and asks to work together. You work together and both gain a better understanding for the material because of your collaboration.
Herein lies the problem. Even though this situation is a clear and classic example of a violation of academic integrity, it is also a perfect example of working together to accomplish something greater than what could have been done individually. By collaborating on the problem set, you and your friend guided each other to a deeper level of understanding.
We are certainly not recommending cheating. Working together on the problem set when you knew you weren’t supposed to is a problem; while you may have had good intentions, you violated the trust between you and your teacher. He is unable to fairly grade if he does not know who really did the work.
Rather, in communicating our concerns, we hope to point out a flaw not in Milton, but in our whole education system: the focus on individuality. How many research papers (we’re talking published by PHD’s, not by US History students) are written by one person? How many vaccines are developed individually? How many books are published without the help of editors and proofreaders?
In the “real world,” people work together. They do not focus on how many people it takes to accomplish a goal, but rather on the goal they accomplish.
We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that many teachers do truly value collaboration, and for this, we praise them. While the Milton classroom certainly promotes collaboration, once we leave the classroom, this collaboration is meant to end. For instance, instead of viewing peer editing as a constructive way of becoming a better writer, we view it as cheating. Students, afraid of getting caught, are afraid to work together.
We realize that teachers have no choice but to assign grades based on individual merit. Yet the ultimate goal in teaching is not the ability to assign a grade, but rather to ensure that your students learn. And there is no better way to learn than to work together.
Our society emphasizes grades, and, in the end, students will need to demonstrate their own personal knowledge. As a means to achieving this understanding, working together gets us much further than working alone.
The Milton community surrounds us with intelligent people who have something to teach. By working together with these people, we can take our understanding to a whole new level. By changing the focus from the individual, to the group, we will be able to reach whole new heights: together.
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=1556