Collaborating. . .or cheating?
If we accept the notion that “effective collaboration is a 21st century skill,” then our teaching and learning should focus on the careful development of social learning skills. Why “careful”?
Collaboration that is not effective is easy to see. People may not listen to one another, or not seek to understand one another. They may blame others for problems, rather than seeking a solution. They often give up or withdraw from seeing the project through to the end, rather than finding ways to ensure that everyone contributes. And sometimes, they do little or none of the work, yet take credit for the group’s outcome.
Effective collaboration demands a great deal of the participants, both in terms of social development and also in the work that is done. Teachers and students are one example of a collaborative team, where both parties are working toward one goal: high levels of student learning. Student-student collaboration is another form of collaborative learning that we develop through classroom, extracurricular, and online learning exercises that ask students to interact in a virtual learning environment.
However, students must also individually demonstrate their own learning. “Working independently” is a basic expectation for many tasks, including independent homework (practice of skills, reading new material, or answering questions), essay writing, and quizzes or tests. Teachers give clear instructions to students when they may collaborate, and frequently structure discussion, peer review, debates, and other forms of collaborative learning before asking students to compose independent responses to show their learning.
Cheating—or academic dishonesty—occurs when students are meant to demonstrate their own learning, but give or accept help that is not authorized by the teacher. This might include copying another student’s homework; using an online translator for a Spanish or French writing assignment; finding an article or essay online and “copying-and-pasting” parts of it into one’s own work. Cheating during tests can involve taking notes—on paper or on an electronic device—into the test room, or finding ways to share information about the test with others.
Learning honestly, and taking responsibility for one’s own learning, is a fundamental value of ICS. As an international school, and as an International Baccalaureate World School, we strive to be Knowledgeable and Principled. In learning, that means working in order to understand for oneself, acting with integrity, and taking responsibility for one’s actions.
As we move toward our end-of-year exams, we encourage all students to work collaboratively with their teachers and their peers in preparation for performing well independently on the June examinations.