Friday, July 07, 2006

NECC06 Beyond Acceptable Use: Developing and Implementing a Plagiarism Policy - Debbie Abilock

The Ethical Researcher -

Knowledge Quest is the print and online journal for the American Association of School Librarians

Having a policy in place is only the tip of the iceberg. We need to understand why and how plagiarism is happening in order to correct the reasons plagiarism is happening. And is isn't just the kids that are plagiarizing – teachers and administrators borrow and adapt lessons without giving credit.

-Everybody understands the problem
-A policy will solve the problem
-The problem belongs to ... (English teacher, librarian etc)
-Students understand academic standards

Why develop a policy?
Identify the problem
Create buy-in by all stakeholder
Set the tone (punishing verses teaching)
Define the responsibilities
Outline the disciplinary procedures (redoing, giving zeroes)
Identify the teaching strategies (ethical use of information – if 1st graders copy info from the encyclopedia, because they don't understand the)
Map the curriculum context

When is it the problem?Respond to a crisis or chronic concern (usually prompted from an event. However, if we realize that 50-60% of high school students plagiarize, then we, as teachers, need to be more proactive.

What is the problem?
Plagiarism is a situational problem. Therefore, just teaching rules does not take into account the context of the work. Every rule has an exception, so we need to teach kids the reason behind the rules. There is also a high pressure cultural expectation of competition for money, career, success etc. In the news, we constantly hear about cheating and drug doping in sports, so much so that it is almost expected. Shattered Glass, a movie about Steven Black, who invented articles for the newspaper he worked at. A good movie to show to kids and talk about the reasons behind it.

Sometimes a policy may encourage cheating. When the kids feel that the assignment is too long, too difficult, or without enough time – they will resort to cheating. At home, there are also mixed messages being given. There is a varied amount of parent involvement – from purchasing materials to the parents doing the work. Cultural differences influences the view of plagiarism.

Template for a Plagiarism Policy - (You MUST read this site – it has so many great examples!)

Ideas to discuss and questions to address:
Inspire and anchor: On what principles does this policy rest?
Build consensus and leadership: Who owns the problem?
Clarify and resolve differences: What concepts and strategies are taught?
Convert concepts into behaviors: What responsibilities and rights are identified?
Develop a response plan: What disciplinary process is to be followed?
Develop an ongoing prevention program: What proactive teaching supports the policy?
Interrelate policies, programs and practices: How does this fit with other work?
Plan for change: What is the policy review process?
How many of us were taught how to use information ethically or how to teach students how to use information ethically? It is a little like the elephant in the room, we try to avoid it by assuming kids know what to do, not assigning work so kids can't plagiarize. However, even within plagiarism policies there is plagiarism going on. From
The policy should reflect responsibilities – students, teachers, administrators and parents should be involved in the creation of the policy. We need to examine all the different possibilities – tutoring, group work, pdf citing, dating of websites, websites that quote other sources. By giving just a list of MLA citation rules, there are so many weird exceptions to the rules and with technology, new sources that aren't addressed. How much information is public domain and common knowledge – people's definition of these things are different.

Instead of just a policy – think about developing a response plan.
How do we weigh intention of the plagiarizer? In the news lately, many authors have been sited for plagiarism, such as Stephen Ambrose, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Kaavya Viswanathan. We need to look at how we are working with kids. Many schools just ask students to sign a policy or listen to a leacture about Plagiarism. We need to show examples, help students learn how to “unplagiarize” something. Also, we need to address the issues that encourage plagiarism – time pressures, work load, redesign assignments (though this doesn't always work), assign in-class work, foster a workshop approach, build a culture of critique, build in checkpoints, keep portfolios of student work and work for an authentic purpose.

Wikis and blogs encourage building on ideas and linking to other's ideas. Ms. Abilock believes that blog especially encourage citing sources because in a blog, hyperlinks are expected and easy to do. Plus, if something isn't credited, someone will comment on it.

Schools need to interrelate all their other policies, such as acceptable use policies, selection policies for library books or website recommended links, honor code, and student handbook. Too often, these policies are created by different groups at different times without linking.

School Leadership that Works - Robert J. Marzano, Timothy Waters and Brian A. McNulty
(from ASCD)

We need to create a culture of trust within our schools, rather than the culture of competition that now tends to happen.

An audience member stated that a policy statement needs to be under two pages, because anything longer than that will not be read, so what would be the main points that should be in a statement. Ms. Abilock stated that it isn't the policy itself that is important, but rather the process that goes into the statement, and the fact that it needs to be reviewed yearly, not just written by a committee and enforced by the teacher. In addition, the policy will not solve the problem – the entire culture need to change to teach students how to think ethically about using information. And, this can't just be a beginning-of-the-year thing, but needs to be a constant focus throughout the students' careers.

Does honesty build ethos and credibility? An audience member mentioned an author who didn't credit her researchers until she was questioned about her sources. Ms. Abilock stated that almost every non-fiction author have researchers, but they are hardly ever credited.

1 comment:

  1. I have seen the movie "Shattered Glass" and was deeply shocked by his actions. It just goes to show how a little lie could go a long long way. Too bad for him he got caught and too bad for some of our students now most of the time they just get away with it and bring this bad habit with them in their lives.