Is plagiarism a problem with your students?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Caesar753, Jun 11, 2007.

  1. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Jun 11, 2007

    Having just finished my first year teaching, I've been reflecting a lot on how the year went. One thing that has been on my mind a lot is the problem of plagiarism.

    I think many of my students don't really understand how serious plagiarism is. We talk about how it is passing off someone else's work as your own, whether you copy it exactly or change some words around. Kids verbalize that they get it, but their actions don't confirm that. I can't tell you how many times I've caught kids in my class copying worksheets, homework assignments, special projects... you name it. They even copy during quizzes and tests.

    Here's an example: I accepted an extra credit assignment from one of my upper-level students. She's very studious, polite, cooperative, and a generally good student. As I was reading her PowerPoint, however, I began to wonder whether I was actually reading her words. Well, after a very short search online I located the bulk of her presentation--on Wikipedia!

    I've had students sign "honor codes" at the bottom of big assignments, but that didn't work out very well. I'd watch students copy the entire assignment when they thought I wasn't looking (like during the morning announcements), and then watch them sign the honor code. It's like their name and their word mean nothing to them.

    In talking with other teachers at my school, I've been advised to do only creative, open-ended assessments like essays and posters. The problem for me is that, as a foreign language teacher, I need students to practice things like conjugating verbs and declining nouns. They just HAVE to do that in order to learn the language. Don't get me wrong--I love essays and assign them with some frequency in my class. But when it comes down to learning how to make a Latin verb passive, you just have to know how to do that. And you learn to do that by practicing it over and over.

    I feel that assigning homework which is harder to plagiarize isn't really the answer because it doesn't address the bigger problem of why students feel that it's okay to cheat, steal, and lie.

    What do you all do in your classrooms to lessen this problem? Or is it not a problem for you?
     
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  3. Mamacita

    Mamacita Aficionado

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    Jun 11, 2007

    At the college level, we fail the student and if it occurs again, we expel him/her.

    It's stealing, exactly the same kind of stealing as if they'd swiped money from the cash register of a store.

    I agree that some students don't seem to comprehend the seriousness oft it, and that is why we need to crack down HARD and make them experience some really serious consequences.

    Even a tiny child can understand it if he/she sees enough examples of it, AND of what happens when someone does it.

    And if we stop being "sorry" for the poor things and actually require them to have some standards.
     
  4. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Jun 11, 2007

    Agreed. I feel like I do hold my students to a higher (but perfectly attainable) standard, and that's probably why this whole plagiarism thing is so frustrating for me. It's like they have no integrity!

    During our semester 1 finals, I caught a student text messaging during our exam. I can't be certain that she was cheating, but based on her previous behavior, it's a pretty reasonable guess. I sent her to the deans' office, who in turn gave her a "warning." And that basically amounted to absolutely nothing. I was livid because it completely undermined what I was trying to accomplish and it sent the message that cheating wasn't all that bad.

    This student ended up being one of my worst offenders all year long. I always gave zeros on the assignments I knew she had cheated on, and even that didn't deter her. I'm getting totally angry just thinking of the whole situation. Bah.

    In any event, I see that you teach at a college in Indiana. Do you mind if I ask where? I got my masters in Latin from Indiana University in Bloomington.
     
  5. Tasha

    Tasha Phenom

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    Jun 11, 2007

    First I would check the district and school student handbook to find out what it says about cheating and what you can do about it. Most handbooks are serious even if the principal isn't about cheating. I would then talk to the principal about cheating and explain how serious it is in college and that you want them to learn before they get themselves in serious trouble (which is a goal of school) Then, you can set up specific consequences for plagiarizing or cheating (all offenses receive a 0 for a grade)
    First Offense - teacher conference with parents and student where you explain how serious it is etc... Also, before the meeting have the student write a statement about what they were doing and both of you sign it, keep the original.
    2nd offense - written documentation, and goes to dean/principal with both write ups and any other evidence of cheating (hopefully it will be serious at this point)
    3rd offense - removal of the student from the class & subject or suspension etc..(whatever the most serious punishment is at your school)
     
  6. mrduck12

    mrduck12 Companion

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    Jun 11, 2007

    Academic dishonesty is a real problem. Laziness, feeling the assignment is too challenging, etc. I don't know what else. But when I can catch them, they get a zero grade for the first offense, and a disciplinary review with possible suspension for the next. Third offense is an automatic failing grade for the course and removal and possible expulsion from the school.

    Our standards are fairly stringent, but students have to understand that this type of behavior is not in any possible way acceptable. Thankfully, our district and building administration back us up fully.
     
  7. tsrmom

    tsrmom Rookie

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    Jun 19, 2007

    Not since I watched a 60 Minutes episode on turnitin.com! I recorded it, showed it to my principal, and our school now subscribes to this program each year. It only took one kid to "test the system" and I haven't caught anyone since. It did, however, take a full year before the kids quit complaining about *having* to electronically submit their work. Now, however, students enter my class knowing that I no longer accept hard-copies of essays. This year, the senior project advisor started using it, as well. She caught a gal who plagiarized her entire senior paper. Word got out quickly--now the students know that it is becoming a schoolwide standard.
     
  8. DustyPete

    DustyPete Rookie

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    Jun 21, 2007

    Wow! With all due respect, how many of you actually took at least 2 or 3 classes to show students how to do research and extract information from an article? It is a skill that is not taught and it is often the case that students come to us without no clue how to do this. It should be standard in elementary/middle school science curriculum, but its not. We are often too preoccupied with content to teach skills in science.

    Yes, plagarism is bad. Yes, students should be punished for it when it is done out of laziness. But let us give them the opportunity to make the mistakes, show them how to do it right, before we come down with disciplinary actions that lead to suspension or expulsion. You can always make them redo the assignment or give them 0 points.
     
  9. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Jun 24, 2007

    I agree that my students haven't been taught to research and cite properly. I do my best to show them how it's done, to provide examples, to assess their understanding along the way, and to clearly state my expectations.

    The problem for me is that students verbalize understanding of my plagiarism policy. They aren't dumb kids--they get it that they aren't supposed to copy stuff. And yet I watch them copy assignments during class.

    We're not talking about correct methods for research and citation. We're talking about students not doing their own work and thinking it's okay to copy someone else's.
     
  10. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Jun 24, 2007

    We have a Research Class at our school that freshmen are required to take for one quarter of the year. That is 85 minutes of it for a whole grading period! Honestly, the course is completly useless. When kids come to my American I Honors class in tenth grade an they have no clue how to properly format something using MLA, how to correctly use parenthetical citations, using footnotes, set-up a works cited sheet, etc. Some of them even do not know how to properly conduct research.

    The main problem is who this course is taught by, the Business Department, who have not consulted with, to the best of my knoweldge any history, english, or science teachers.
     
  11. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Jun 24, 2007

    At the beginning of your post, Brendan_Ryan, I was thinking, 'Wow! That would be fantastic!'

    Then I saw that it was taught by the Biz department and my heart sank. It's stinks that such a good opportunity for your students is basically wasted.


    We had to do extensive research papers from the time I was in the 8th grade. Usually we did 3 or 4 per year with one big one at the end. By the time I left school, writing a research paper was like breathing to me. I knew how to cite in both MLA and APA format, I could write everything from a phenomenal 5-paragraph essay to a 20-page paper, and I never considered stealing someone else's work.

    I feel like our students are so busy preparing for all these standardized tests that they aren't being taught how to read and write on even a basic level. It all makes me very sad because reading and writing are what made my college and grad school years so enjoyable for me. I got a lot of pleasure out of the learning process; school wasn't just a waste of time until I could send text messages to my BFF.
     
  12. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Jun 24, 2007

    You should see the Business Department Chair, too. She is mean, old, and crusty to site the words of my students. She wanders the halls looking for ways to get the students in trouble, but acts so sweat to the staff. Ughh what a fake! She also gave a kid an F becuase they had a naked Renaissance Picture on their cover page of the their report on Renaissance Art.
     
  13. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Ick!
     
  14. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Jun 24, 2007

    I had a few of my sixth graders turn in work obtained through the internet this year. On another post I had explained the best/worst example: a student turned in a scholarship-winning report on Adolph Rupp (University of Kentucky basketball coach legend). It was 100% the exact same paper - from title to last punctuation mark. This was later in the year, and so I didn't realize how much they didn't know about research.

    I've spent some time this summer and I have developed some lessons about research, citing, and just using the computer and internet in general. We hear all the time about kids being able to use a computer at the age of two, but really...they can't. They can send short-hand emails, look up pictures of naked celebrities, and illegally download music - but that is the extent of their knowledge (generally speaking, of course). So, I'm rather excited about teaching my students about how to truly use a computer and all of the internet's resources!
     

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