Weeds, Cheating and Success



I remember pulling weeds in a vegetable garden and coming across a strong healthy canola plant whose seed must have drifted in from the neighbour’s field. Was it a weed? If it had grown in the field then it would be considered a strong specimen, but what about in a vegetable garden? What about milkweed, wildflowers or grass?

Stray Canola
Sharing ideas and drawing on one another’s skills to reach the best answer, process check or polish a report are valued skills in the workplace and even within group projects in classes. However, during a typical test these same behaviours would be considered cheating.

In his post, UCLA Biology professor Peter Nonacs challenges us (and his students) to consider whether these behaviours are really cheating or valuable. His students faced a test where their goals for grades aligned with his goals for their learning, and the usual rule constraints were removed. The rules were no longer to sit silently and from memory write, but rather seek information you need and collaborate if you want. What do you think about what these students did and the extent they learned the game theory underlying behavioral ecology?

So what are our goals? What is a successful garden or a successful learning experience and how does our view define what is a weed and what is cheating?

By recognizing that we get to choose what are weeds and cheating when we define success, we have the power and awareness to transform our gardens and courses to what we really want them to include, including perhaps a few “weeds”.

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