Is Teaching Collaboration The Catch-22 Of Education?

October 1, 2012 | Forbes |

Recent cheating scandals, at Harvard University and elite Manhattan public high school Stuyvesant, have brought new attention to the increasingly grey area of academic integrity. As more and more employers value teamwork, looking to encourage collaboration while safeguarding against cheating has become the Catch-22 of modern American educators.

“It’s an ambiguous area,” says David Callahan, PhD, a co-founder of the think tank Demos and author of The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead. “Professors who want to teach students to work collaboratively must be constantly vigilant. Working together when explicitly acknowledged and encouraged is collaboration. Working together under any other circumstances… is very often cheating.”

In May 125 Harvard University classmates were accused of cheating on an “open-book, open-Internet” final exam. The one stipulation of what seemed to be an anything-goes exam was that students not speak with one another.  Just one month later at Stuyvesant high school, students used cell phones to share test questions and answers on the 2012 Regents exams, a test used by New York State to evaluate core subjects. The collaborating test-takers were caught call-phones in hand, and administrators were given a clear data trail of the more than 140 offenders.