Monday, December 19, 2016

Establishing a Culture of Academic Honesty for Students AND Teachers


Reinforcing that it feels good to be honest is huge, so keeping a positive spin is always good.  I feel that developing a healthy culture of citation is about getting students to reflect deeply on how they feel about someone stealing their ideas, or taking credit for someone else’s ideas in school. Getting over the laziness - and academic dishonesty, I think, mostly comes from...laziness.

It also has to be a concerted effort and supported across the board - all faculty reinforcing the same positive attitude toward citation. Something I’ve done in my Technology Coach role (50% of my portfolio), as well as in my classes, is teach Chrome extensions such as ‘Cite This For Me’ and “Apogee’, which makes online citations really easy. (note: I reinforce the need to review the citation and check that there aren’t any errors - extensions aren’t perfect.) Schools need to have a continuous discussion with regard to academic honesty. I am a 50% History / Social Studies teacher, so this is an inherent part of my teaching, though I would argue it applies to everything across the learning spectrum. We bring students into the library to help them learn to use the online and paper sources, but in classes we have to continue to reinforce a positive attitude towards citation. It takes a bit of effort, too. Since formatting changes in MLA almost yearly, I’ve created a sample sheet that students can use as a guide, but done so on Google Docs so I can make quick changes and keep it online without students having to download a new document. Feel free to copy / comment on errors on the sample above. Having a clear reference point in a document I created has helped my students - no websites with a lot of text and / or advertisements. It's clear, we used it from the very beginning of the school year, and it's all or nothing - cite it all or you're making a mistake. We also have to be clear that working in groups requires action and contribution to receive credit for the final product. (slightly different from the theme of this post, but certainly related)

What are some other strategies?

  • Have activities in which students read about intellectual property being stolen, using real life situations to catch their attention. (I suggest music and film pirating, but also literary theft)
  • Think of activities that require students to identify the differences in citation styles, and / or "find the errors" in sample Works Cited.
  • Check out this contest by Next Vista for Learning. It’s an NPO that has video contests for students (and teachers), with a focus on creating video tutorials that follow strict citation guidelines. My students in Middle School love it. Here’s a sample from last year. (about 90 seconds) We're participating again this year and like last year, it was a valuable exercise, especially in the beginning of the year to set the standard.

Not only a problem for students, but also for teachers...

Read this short article, "Plagiarism Isn't Just an Issue for Students" by Deborah K. Reed. Reed’s article makes me think of us as teachers who need to sit with students in situations like the one mentioned in the article, in which two students decide that since the citations won't be checked it's not a big deal to flub one. We need to continue the discussions on copyright laws. We need to have frequent and frank discussions with students about doing the right thing, but we have to do so as educators as well. There is another anecdote in the article in which teachers committed the same act. So, as professionals, should a teacher be required to report a colleague practicing academic dishonesty, particularly when presenting publicly? I’ve made a much more concerted approach to my own citations in worksheets I assign. I don’t copy and paste anyway, but I am much more diligent in providing sources of content for my sheets and websites. I think we need to model in this way. When educators are dishonest I believe they have to be called out (especially if they’re getting paid!); academic dishonesty by educators undermines the values we teach. I do admittedly have a softer spot for youth, who need to be guided, not ambushed, but not for educators.

*This post originates from an IB workshop reading noted above.


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