Dumb Plagiarism

There’s this article from MIT that claims that, “Now educators at MIT have shown that homework copying is associated with greatly decreased learning — and have developed changes in instructional format that reduced copying by a factor of four in certain physics classes at MIT.”

Now, that triggered a thought in me because – I have rarely done homework in my entire life and have largely survived on copying work off my friends at the last minute. I think that the piece of research makes one major assumption – that people learn by doing homework. The motivations for the copying need to be investigated as well.

Personally, I only copied homework because I was too sien to bother with the homework. Most of my life, I was ahead of my peers and the homework wasn’t adding to any of my learning. In fact, I do most of my learning outside of an academic setting, primarily through practice. I have learned enough to earn my way to a PhD in a field that I have never attended any formal classes for.

While it can be considered a little unethical to copy homework, there is no choice for me except to do that because the homework is usually compulsory – it is often included as a percentage of the final grade. I do not understand why homework has to be made compulsory since it does not add any value to learning at all. I care about learning, not homework.

I see this as a potential issue with one of my nephews too. He is barely four and his teachers are already complaining about his behaviour. When they try to get him to repeat things after them, he refuses to parrot because he already knows the stuff and doesn’t see the value in parroting. He turns around and surprises them weeks later by demonstrating what he learned, without towing the line. The teachers need to understand that he learns things very quickly and absorbs knowledge on-the-fly like a sponge.

I think that the study actually shows a weakness in our pedagogic methodologies. Some people need homework in order to work through the steps for further clarity. Some people need homework in order to learn through repetition. Some people do not need homework because it bores them thoroughly.

Maybe we should consider different modes of learning and not try to force homework down everyone’s throats.

Published by

Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered/Professional Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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