12 October 2009

Student Sharing (legitimately)

While students are warned repeatedly against plagiarism, are there any advantages to have them share their work with each other after submission? One of the possible benefits is that students get to see how their peers have completed their assignments. This is particular useful if the assignment is open-ended where students are free to choose the problems they like to solve, the essays they like to write, projects they like to work on, or any areas of interest related to the course subject they may want to pursue. This in turn creates a multitude of contexts of learning that promotes knowledge transfer. According to Bransford et al. (2000), knowledge transfer is influenced by a number of factors. Some of these are:
  • degree of mastery of original subject (without a good understanding of the original material, transfer cannot be expected)
  • degree of understanding rather than just memorizing facts
  • amount of time to learn, and more specifically the time on task (or deliberate practice)
  • motivation (whether students are motivated by performance or learning)
  • exposure to different contexts
  • problem representations and relationships between what is learned and what is tested
  • student metacognition .. whether learners actively choose and evaluate strategies, consider resources, and receive feedback (active transfer), or depend on external prompting (passive transfer)
Open-ended assignments where students are encouraged to pursue problems that they are interested in and to share their work with one another and even critique each other's work touch upon many of these factors. Poogle (Head and Wolfman, 2008) is a framework for students to submit, share, and assess open-ended, interactive "unknown-answer" computer science assignments. The SWoRD system (Cho et al, 2007) allows students to review each other's writing and studies have shown that peer reviewing can empower learning to write from many angles. Both have been successful in promoting student learning through the process of student sharing.


Head, C and Wolfman, S. (2008). Poogle and the Unknown-Answer Assignment: Open-Ended, Sharable CS1 Assignments. SIGCSE 2008. pp 133 - 137.

Cho, K., Schunn C., Kwon, K. (2007). Learning Writing by Reviewing. Retrieved on October 13, 2009 from here.

Bransford, J., Brown, A., Cocking, R. (eds). (2000). How People Learn. Washington: National Academy Press.

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