The Chronicle of Higher Education
July 28th, 2015
A recent exam question
by a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, who
presented his students with the opportunity to raise their grades if the
class acted altruistically, has gone viral, revealing — although no one
seemed to see it — the delicate balance between incorporating life
lessons into exams and the legitimate assessment of performance.
The question, which illustrates the "commons dilemma,"
goes like this: "Here you have the opportunity to earn some extra
credit on your final paper grade. Select whether you want 2 points or 6
points added onto your final paper grade. But there’s a small catch: if
more than 10% of the class selects 6 points, then no one gets any
points. Your responses will be anonymous to the rest of the class, only I
will see the responses."
The Internet responses to the question were largely laudatory. Most
saw it as a clever, well-crafted lesson in human behavior, and many
viewed using a test question to conduct a social experiment as inspired