Kobayashi Maru Test

Develop a version of the fictional "Kobayashi Maru" test from Star Trek that observes students responses to a no-win scenario.

Photo of Patrick Skerpon
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I love the idea that students need to learn to fail, but it is more important than just failure, its how they react that matters.  By setting up a no-win scenario, we can see how they react when confronted.  The only way to 'win' would be to cheat, which could be problem, but also depending how the test is set up, could also be an ingenious solution to the problem.

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Photo of Elsa Fridman Randolph

Hi Patrick, 

This is such an intriguing idea! I emailed you a couple days ago to collaborate more actively on this with you, just wanted to make sure you got my email. Hope to hear from you soon! 


Photo of Lisa Yokana

Interesting idea... it makes me think about an ethics scenario where we talk about right versus right answers-in other words there is no one right answer and every answer has a "cost" ethically. 

Photo of Chris Good

Um Yes! Allow students to develop their own open-ended solutions!

Patrick, how might we use this scenario to rethink the approach to high school, or the process of entering college?

I would bet there are a lot of students who see THAT as a pretty big No-Win Scenario.

I'm not top of class - cant get into good school (no-win)
I cant afford it - need high interest loans (no-win)
I can afford it - can't qualify for aid (no-win)
I need a part time job - can't focus on class (no-win)

the list goes on and on.

I wonder how we might tap into our students to answer THIS very real Kobayashi Maru test?

Photo of Patrick Skerpon

I think this could go two ways, both of which are very very useful for our students.
1. Perseverance through a no win scenario, and then recap with them how the struggle, and how you take control of the struggle (even if you can't change the outcome), affects their personal development.

2. Sometimes ingenious thinking can 'cheat' your way around or through a situation that was supposedly impossible.

I like both aspects, provided they have oversight and decompression at the end, as the would greatly help our students in their future struggles.

As far as those entering college, I would love to see a college application process set up as one of these.  At least for me, I would rather see how a student does in the face of defeat rather than what they have to say about themselves.  It would give you a much better idea of who they are, and what they can do.  It is a slant connection, but there was an article I read at some point over the weekend about how Walt Bettinger (the Charles Schwab CEO) takes his candidates out to eat, and tells the staff to mess up the candidates order, to see the reaction.

Photo of Molly McMahon

This made my morning! There is a lot you could do with Kobayashi Maru Test, and it would be neat to prototype with some students and see some of the reactions to both failure and how they cheat/hack their way to solutions. Super interesting! 

Photo of Matthew Buckley

I think the possibility for cheat/hack is what makes me so fascinated with this idea as well.  It can also speak to what it means to cheat.

Photo of Katie White

Yes! What a cool and meaningful way to talk about academic integrity without reciting a list of rules.