Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Plagiarism: Part 1- Policies for your classroom

I don't know about you but if one thing really gets me going and upset in my classroom it is plagiarism. I'm not 100 percent sure why but I think it makes me feel like my students think I'm an idiot and I'm not going to notice that they copied something off of the internet.

This issue pops up at least once, if not many times a semester so I thought I'd do a series on it over the summer to help people prep for Fall semester.

Up first- Plagiarism Policies for Your Classroom

Things to consider:

1. Will you differentiate consequences based on the type of plagiarism?
2. What grade or level are you teaching?
3. District, school, or college policies

I've taught 7th grade through seniors in college. For all of them my policy for blatant-copy and paste plagiarism was a zero on the assignment. I typically print out the original source, highlight the offending passages in both the students' paper and the internet source, staple them together and hand them back. (I keep a copy for my records.)

If a student uses a paper they wrote for another class in my class I do the same. It's a zero.

If a student attempted to paraphrase but didn't change enough of the words and still has a citation I take off points in the appropriate section of the rubric.

If a student has a quote but does not add a citation I take off points in the appropriate section of the rubric.

If a student has statistics or facts that aren't cited but are not word for word I take off points in the appropriate section of the rubric.

I do the above three things because I typically find that this is unintentional plagiarism and reflects more on their understanding of the skill than trying to be dishonest.

Higher Standard for College Courses

My college students are required by the state to write 20 pages of formal writing each semester. If a student copy and pastes the majority of a 5 page paper to me that means they have not met the 20 page requirement. My syllabus says you must have written all 4 or 5 papers to pass. So for students who are caught in blatant plagiarism they get a zero and have to rewrite the paper on a new topic for zero points. I tend to tell them it needs to be at a "C" level or better to ensure they don't turn back in a steaming pile of you know what!

Maybe that's harsh- but I want my students to know that they will not save time or effort by plagiarizing.

Any student with copy and paste plagiarism is also reported to the Dean. Their first offense tends to result in a conversation with the dean about the honor code. The Dean tracks whether they've had an offense in a different subject area as well. If they are caught more than once then the consequences become more significant and can include expulsion from their program or the school.

Whatever policy you choose make sure you lay it out clearly and at the beginning of the year. If you teach middle or high school you may want your students' parents to sign off on the policy and explain that the stakes will be much higher when they get to college.

How do you handle plagiarism? What is your administration's policy?

Future posts in this series include:

How to teach your students about plagiarism
How to write semi-plagiarism proof assignments
How to spot plagiarism

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