20 Things to Do Before Accusing a Student of Plagiarism

This is not a traditional blog posting for this site. What happened is that I ran into writer and KPU Applied Communications instructor Arley McNeney on Twitter who posted a rapid -fire dozen tweets on addressing plagiarism, TurnItIn, and sound teaching practice. This struck a deep chord in me – I really needed to read this. It is a reminder of how important empathy and compassion are, not just for teaching but being human. I asked if I could post the tweets here and she said yes, with the caveat that some of the solutions are particular to her campus, but I think you will get it – the focus is on student support.

I empathize with faculty who feel like they don’t have the tools to address plagiarism, but Turnitin isn’t the answer. Here are some things you can do instead.

  1. Trust and respect students. See them as partners in learning.
  2. Book a session with our wonderful librarians.
  3. When a student plagiarizes, invite them for a conversation. Stress they’re not in trouble. Listen. Every time I have had one of these conversations, I have left with more respect for the student than when they walked into my office. Have the student revise the paper.
  4. Direct students to The Learning Centre or book a consultation with a learning strategist yourself. I am so impressed by the work that our colleagues at the The Learning Centre do. .
  5. Trust students.
  6. Ask your students how they learned to cite. Create a bridge between the citation practices they learned and what you want them to do.
  7. Take an Interculturisation Workshop.
  8. Lesley McCannell and others have developed a session on an intercultural approach to citation……She will come to your department meeting!
  9. Trust students.
  10. Involve students in creating assignments and rubrics. Are they valueing what you value in this assignment? Do they know what role sources play in the assignment?
  11. Use the skills assessment developed by Lesley McCannell, , Christina Page and others to find out what your students know about citation at the beginning of the semester.
  12. Talk to students. Get to know them. You will be surprised by the challenges they are facing.
  13. Trust students.
  14. Frame citation as an act of generosity. Someone gave us the gift of their knowledge or their words and we’re showing respect by crediting them. I forget where I learned this from (see? I am not perfect at citation and i teach it!) but it’s effective.
  15. Create assignments that are non-disposable and that draw on your students’ own experience.
  16. Have students practice paraphrasing and synthesis by having them write a scene where their sources are having dinner together. (I think this is a Peter Elbow exercise).
  17. Have students practice paraphrasing by having them read a draft of a peer’s assignment then explain the main point in less than 2 sentences.
  18. Have students bring in a draft and highlight quotes in one colour, paraphrasing in another and their own ideas in a third. This helps them identify places where they forgot to cite and also lets them see when they need to insert their own voice into the piece.
  19. Discuss how citation happens in your industry and why. When is it appropriate to use a colleague’s work? Focus on the decisions communicators make in the workplace. Not just how to cite by why.
  20. Trust students. Trust students. Trust students. Resist edtech. Trust students. How do you help your students learn citation?

Even the solutions that are specific to her campus describe a campus with a high degree of student support. It suggests a great model for student support. I, of course, would not dare attempt to speak for Arley, but what I hear in the phrase “Resist edtech” is that technology is not a substitute for teaching. I have written elsewhere about my feelings about TurnItIn on this blog, as well as trying to get faculty away from concerns about cheating and back to teaching academic integrity.

A special thanks again to Arley McNeney: the click-baity title is mine, everything else worth reading is hers. I would also be interested in your thoughts on this – technology can facilitate learning but it can also create barriers and false solutions (sometimes to problems that are created by tech in the first place!).

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