What is it about learning that inspires cheating? If seems that if you make it to Harvard, you are one of the “smartest [people] in the room.” Yet the latest from Harvard is about a number of students who cheated on a take home exam. And according to MIT behavioral economist Dr. Ariely’s blog, there were LOTS of students who (allegedly) cheated–125!! Students claim that they thought collaboration was allowed (although the exam instructions said something different) because they collaborated for other things during class, they skipped lectures and shared notes and because the student guidebook, the Q Guide, said students in the past had collaborated with the teaching fellows (of course, that’s probably why the instructor included the statement NOT to collaborate!). (Source of this student perspective: Harvard Students Fighting Allegations of Cheating on Exam). And these are students that educators claim are the brightest and best–that’s how they merited entry into Harvard.
How can educational institutions encourage learning without promoting cheating? I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the “smartest people in the room” remained there and graduated by cheating. Maybe we need to figure out different ways to measure intelligence.