On cheating and philosophy (for #rhizo14)

I’m participating (as much as I have time for, which isn’t much) in a course on Peer 2 Peer University called Rhizomatic Learning, run by Dave Cormier. The first topic for this course is on “cheating as learning” (here’s an intro video about the topic).

My day job takes up all of my time and more, so when I kept finding myself unable to sit down and write a blog post, I took a cue from Scottlo over at ds106 radio, who often does live broadcasts or recordings while in transit–in the car, walking, etc.

The only problem with this one is that I was rushing to get to work, walking quickly, so I got pretty out of breath sometimes talking at the same time!

I realize that by recording rather than writing this I am limiting my audience to those who don’t mind taking 15 minutes to listen to something and try to remember enough to maybe comment. I’m also limiting my own future use of these thoughts, because it’s much easier to go back and skim something than to listen to it all the way through. It’s very hard to “skim” an audio recording! But it worked for the purposes of me not having much time to sit down and write. Hopefully I’ll be able to write posts for later on in this course.

For now, here are my thoughts on what “cheating” might mean in terms of questioning rules of traditional practice when teaching philosophy.


  1. Listening now as you walk …. enjoying the sounds of your stroll and your thinking … I am sympathetic to the conflicts you feel about the role of teacher saying “this is the way you write this essay” and I often struggle with bringing mentor texts to my sixth graders because …. many will just completely copy the format and tone and content of the mentor text because they assume that if I brought it in, that’s what I want to see. Trying to keep the door open to their creative process is a balancing act.

    1. Thanks for listening! Yes, leaving the door open to creativity is hard, and good point about bringing in texts as good examples of writing. I think that giving students marks for their work can also add another barrier to creativity. They’re going to want to do what they think we want to see because marks are so important to many of them. I wonder how many students in my class will actually take the “non-traditional” option because they don’t know exactly what to do or how, whereas they know how to write a philosophy essay by this point (they’re in 4th year in Uni), so they probably feel like they’ll get better marks if they do the essay.

      Sometimes I wish it weren’t part of my job to give marks. If I were just giving feedback for improvement, or feedback saying when things are working well, I’d be happy and students might be able to take more risks. But the marks really make my job harder (how do I quantify the quality of this writing?) and can stifle creativity. That is, unless I make the creative options worth less in terms of marks. That’s something I’m going to consider for next time.

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