Encouraging Collaboration

I've been meeting four new grad students (Samira, Jeremy, Carolyn, and Jon) on Monday mornings this term. Initially, the point was to pick apart some research papers: what good ideas do they contain, what are the strengths and flaws in their presentation, etc. For next week, though, I've set them a different goal: each of them is to come up with one thesis idea for each of the others. The point is partly to get them thinking about research topics---under the new rules, they're supposed to finish in a total of 17 months, which will fly by pretty fast---but what I really want is for them to get used to bouncing ideas off one another. Our educational system discourages this: when students in my classes talk in detail about their work to anyone except their officially-assigned partners, we call it plagiarism, and take off marks. It's a hard habit to break; I'll be interested to see whether the academic equivalent of picking an outfit for someone else will do it. And of course, given David Crow's comments about last night's DemoCamp, I'm wondering whether this can be generalized and scaled up in some way (assuming, of course, that it works...)
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