Cheat… ethically!

1 minute read


Apart from simple application to the tasks at hand, one of the prime problems I see in teaching students is their preconceived ideas about how things should be. This means, before they get to learn, they have to unlearn their previous ways of thinking.

Simply telling them to do this doesn’t work; each student is different and most teachers do not have the bandwidth within the time constraints to be able to make bespoke adjustments to each student’s course.

So I try to get their attention by working through problems or scenarios on the board. And when we get to the end, many of them will say: “But that’s cheating!

Nothing in my delivery or content is unethical. Nothing that I’ve suggested they do will break any laws of society or physics.

However, they almost always say the same thing.

My response to them is always: “So, cheat… ethically!”.

The reason they think I’m cheating is because they believe I am breaking some unwritten rule that they believe to be in place. The trouble is, the rule usually isn’t there or, if it is, it usually isn’t in the form that they think it is.

Let me be clear: I am not advocating any academic impropriety. They must all do their own work (unless working in a group is required). They must not copy from the internet or other sources without referencing.

What I do want them to do is challenge their assumptions, even the ones they don’t know they’ve made. We all have preconceptions about the way things are or the way they should be. No one has perfect preconception. So, learn to find the limits of your understanding by breaking a rule that you believe to be there but no one told you was there.