Sunday, February 26, 2017

Week 5: Honors System Part II

In my experience, students cheat and plagiarize when they run out of time to work on an assignment and when they misunderstand what plagiarism is, especially when they come from another country that has different understandings or an absence of copyright. After all, in many places, saying that one "owns" certain knowledge probably seems a bit strange. I like to believe that students don't plagiarize or cheat simply because they're lazy or they think they can get away with it because they think I'm a young and inexperienced teacher. I tell them I have Spidey senses for being able to detect plagiarism, and some of think I'm kidding, but when you teach writing, I think you really do get a sense of how a person uses language and what seems unnatural or inauthentic. Increasingly, it seems like students are taking heavier course loads, and that definitely decreases the amount of time they have to complete assignments, which can cause more dishonest behavior. I really wish students didn't have to take more than 4 courses per semester, or were even prohibited from doing so, because I think it cheapens and makes shallow the rest of their learning experiences. Double majoring and all this kind of stuff to be more competitive on the job market just doesn't make sense if you're not getting a real depth of interaction with various subject matter.

To avoid academic integrity violations, I think it's a good idea for instructors to be up front about the Honor Code (we include it in all our syllabi in the department), to be familiar with it themselves, and to discuss the conventions of plagiarism in this country. My husband has an interesting idea about this whole problem, which is to teach students how to plagiarize. That way, he argues, they will know exactly what they're not supposed to do. That idea probably seems silly, but I almost wonder if maybe it's something I shouldn't try. Then again, I think there are plenty of other ways to be dishonest that I probably would never think of when it comes to completing an assignment. The best way to avoid problems is just to talk to your instructor and make sure that what you're doing is acceptable. That way, they can head you off at the pass if you're going astray. 

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