Saturday, September 22, 2012

Turning Plagiarism into a Learning Experience

After reading the article by Karon (2012), A Positive Solution for Plagiarism, I began thinking about how I can turn incidents of plagiarism into a learning experience for the students involved. Karon suggests that the first paper students write in lower level writing courses should be about plagiarism. This is based on the assumption that in many cases students do not understand what constitutes plagiarism. I am not sure this is true, but it begins with a positive approach that we need to teach students what plagiarism is before we can punish them for engaging in it. For the purposes of this discussion I am only using plagiarism to refer to using large portions of text or online materials without citations. And while citations might not be in correct APA style, if the student attributed the work to another, I do not consider that plagiarism. Such students need to learn to APA citation style. On the other hand, using another student’s paper or purchasing a paper is clearly academic dishonesty and does not allow for the student to use the defense that they did not know that what they were doing was wrong. This behavior requires appropriate academic discipline.

But I am not a teacher of writing and most of my students are in upper level courses. So while I can hope that others have taught students not only about plagiarism, but also strategies to avoid it, each year Turnitin finds multiple cases of plagiarism in the papers I review. This occurs even when I tell students what Turnitn will do and I allow them to submit their papers multiple times before the due date so that they can see their own originality reports and correct potential plagiarism.

Historically, the first time a student plagiarizes in my course, I have told them that I will not grade their paper and that they must fix their errors and resubmit the paper. Until they do so, they have earned “0” for the assignment because an “F” indicates they have tried to do the assignment and did it poorly, but such papers do not have extensive plagiarism. But aside from highlighting the plagiarism in Turnitin, I have not taught them how to fix their papers. Does such a student know how to fix their papers? The cynic might say yes, but maybe the student does not understand plagiarism or how to fix it. Many times students say “but I used the textbook”, “I did all the readings” and “I worked hard on this paper”.  They almost never say “What is Plagiarism?”

So maybe I have to be prepared to help students learn what plagiarism is and how to avoid it. I can turn their acts of plagiarism into a learning experience. So based on the suggestion of Karon, I have developed an assignment with resources to help students learn about plagiarism and fix their papers. Using, I put together some web resources on plagiarism and how to avoid it, which can be viewed by all students. I plan to add a link into all my Moodle courses. The Storify page offers students the opportunity to understand plagiarism before they write papers. I have included the plagiarism paper  requirements to for those who need them. I hope that the publication of the additional work may also act as a deterrent. Of course these papers must be submitted through Turnitin.

After reviewing the materials, students who have been found to plagiarize are required to write a 3-5 page paper on plagiarism with relevant references in proper APA style. Each paper must include:

·      a definition of plagiarism,
·      identification of the kinds of plagiarism found in the student paper that was submitted and the means for correcting it
·      discussion of three strategies that could be used to avoid plagiarism in the future.

Since I use Turnitin for grading student papers, I have created a grademark that I can place on plagiarized papers that directs the student to complete the paper on plagiarism and the Storify resources. 

The writing of this paper is no guarantee that the student will be allowed to rewrite the paper, because I want them to understand the gravity of the their behavior and want them to take the written assignment seriously. After this paper is submitted, I will inform students whether they will be allowed to fix their plagiarized paper and resubmit it for review. Not only does this assignment require the student to demonstrate that they understand plagiarism and what portions of their writing are plagiarized, but it also asks them to show that they have some understanding of how to fix the paper. If they are unable to do so, I will refer them to the Learning Enhancement Center for additional work.

What to do about patterns of plagiarism? I indicate to students that a second incident of plagiarism with result in academic review and possible discipline. While writing this paper, I began thinking about students who have multiple episodes in different classes with different faculty. While we might not wish to initiate academic sanctions against a student with one incident, we might want to track events in some way to determine if students have multiple incidents. For example, while I may use Turnitin, others may not so do not know a student is plagiarizing. Or the student tries to plagiarize in every class to see if they can get away with it. Since we do not have faculty meetings to discuss students or their progress, maybe we need to report all instances of plagiarism to department chairs, who can decide if further academic discipline is needed.

I would like to hear how others deal with plagiarism in their classes. Please feel free to use my storify page - What is Plagiarism and How to Avoid It and/or my assignment in your classes. Let me know if you have other links or resources that could be added and shared.

No comments:

Post a Comment