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Cimasko TESOL 2011


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Punishment into Opportunity: Re-Conceiving Attitudes towards Plagiarism

Punishment into Opportunity: Re-Conceiving Attitudes towards Plagiarism

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  • 1. Punishment into Opportunity: Re-Conceiving Attitudes towards Plagiarism Tony Cimasko Miami University Oxford, Ohio, USA
  • 2. Introduction
    • In recent years, significant scholarship has been generated on the particulars of plagiarism—and perceived plagiarism—among L2 writers
    • Intercultural conceptions of plagiarism (e.g., Canagarajah, 2002; Hu, 2001; Liu, 2005; Pennycook, 1996; Scollon, 1995; Wheeler, 2009)
    • Attempts to construct appropriate academic and disciplinary voices (e.g., Abasi, 2006; Ouellette, 2006)
    • Perceptions and practical considerations (e.g., Currie, 2002; Myers, 1998; Park, 2003; Pecorari, 2003; Sutherland-Smith, 2005)
  • 3. Introduction
    • The bulk of this scholarship has remained theoretical, historical, and conceptual, with limited attention to addressing day-to-day work with student writing
    • Faculty responses within disciplines and across disciplinary boundaries are vary widely
    • Aside from punishment, many faculty are uncertain about how to address (perceived) plagiarism
  • 4. Questions
    • What are current attitudes among faculty across university disciplines toward perceived plagiarism among L2 students?
    • How have they addressed perceived plagiarism in the past?
    • What new strategies are shared and devised at workshop?
    • How have attitudes and practices changed since the workshop?
  • 5. Context
    • Large, research-oriented university in the Midwestern United States
    • Historically a “public ivy” almost entirely focused on regional students
    • Previous five years have experience a tremendous growth of international students, from 1% to 8%
    • Recruitment of international students has resulted in a large Chinese (PRC) population
  • 6. The Workshop
    • Complete a brief survey on experiences with ESL writers in the classroom and incidents of actual or suspected plagiarism
    • Discussion—share results, investigate responses, compare with responses to L1 students
    • Emphasize turning both suspected and actual plagiarism into learning opportunities
    • Brainstorm exercises and responses
    • Review results and come up with basic standards to apply
    • Promise to continue reporting
  • 7. Participants
    • 12 faculty members from a range of university departments and disciplines
    • 4 from the university’s School of Business
    • 3 from Computer Science
    • 2 from Education
    • 1 each from Architecture, Mathematics, Psychology, Sociology, and Zoology
    Most had had some experience with L2 English students; Sociology was expecting students in following semester
  • 8. Data
    • Questionnaires completed by participants in first several minutes of the workshop
    • Notes taken during and immediately after the workshop
    • Responses to e-mails from me, plus e-mail updates volunteered by participants
    • One-on-one interviews following up on significant e-mails
  • 9. Workshop Questionnaire Results
    • 2 with ample experience; 5 with limited experience (up to 3 at one time); 5 with no experience/ preparing for the future
    • Most rate students with limited knowledge of US academic culture and “intermediate” to “poor” writing abilities
    • All 7 with experience have encountered different degrees of “academic dishonesty,” all but one in the form of plagiarism
      • 5 gave students warnings
      • 1 gave student a 0 on assignment; no formal record
  • 10. Workshop Questionnaire Results
    • 7 of the 12 generally prefer a “teachable moment” approach grounded in lack of familiarity with US academic culture
        • Inter-cultural differences assumed
        • “ School culture is less likely to push individual creativity.”
    • The remaining 5 were more punitive:
        • “ Being able to know what is one’s own work and what is someone else’s work does not depend upon culture.”
    • Wish to avoid “misinterpretations” and “administrative entanglements”
  • 11. New and Shared Strategies
    • “ Amnesty” discussion of prior plagiarism
    • Explain rationale for strong anti-plagiarism attitudes
    • “ Blind” summarizing activity
    • Evaluate samples of plagiarism
    • Offer basics for effective summarizing
    • Website readings (e.g., Purdue OWL, On Plagiarism, Cornell plagiarism tutorial)
    • Devote class time to academic integrity guidelines and penalties
    • Review cases of suspected and actual plagiarism with the student writer
    • Limited re-write opportunities
  • 12. Basic Principles at Workshop’s End
    • Assume misunderstanding of concrete definition of “plagiarism,” not misunderstanding of or flouting of abstract concept of “academic integrity”
    • Do not assume or rely on culture-based explanations
      • Do not single out second language students
    • Provide concrete explanations and solutions
    • Provide brief exercises when time allows, OR offer outside resources
  • 13. Since then . . .
    • 6 of the original 12 provided updates:
        • 1 devoted an entire class to plagiarism in writing Zoology papers—5 ESL students enrolled
        • 2 (Computer Science and Architecture) did 1 half-session activity—4 and 1 ESL students, respectively
    • None of these three encountered “clear” problems.
        • “ Completely satisfied with the results.” (Z)
        • “ I had been planning something bigger but then switched to something more time efficient, and just as effective in the end.” (A)
    • However . . .
  • 14. Since then . . .
    • School of Business (B)—1 term paper (store management plan) and 1 online forum posting, by same student
        • Extensive use of sophisticated business concepts
        • Some obvious but very limited attempts to paraphrase
        • Casual warning after forum posting
        • 2-day rewrite for paper
    • Education (E)—1 project/paper (science curriculum case study)
        • Joint work with L1 student
        • Findings similar to project in previous semester emerged in pre-paper presentation
        • Interviewed both students about division of labor, compared with older students’ text
        • Strict warning
        • Separate papers ordered for each student
  • 15. Since then . . .
    • Sociology (S)—1 mid-term paper (gun ownership in the US)
        • Content was found on a “buy a paper” site—therefore obvious intention to plagiarize
        • Automatic failing grade on the project
        • To avoid official sanction, mandatory exercises in office hours (sample review plus formal letter from student explaining rationale for plagiarism punishment)
        • Rewrote paper on topic chosen by professor
        • Difficult to “work with student”
  • 16. Interviews
    • No “preventative” plagiarism activities for students in the classes
        • Difficult to fit into existing curricula and TA preparation: “We have four sections of this class, all working off a standardized syllabus. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what can be sacrificed and what can’t.” (E) “ There just wasn’t something that could be safely cut. I’ve tried streamlining the syllabus before, and it showed in everybody’s performance.” (S)
        • Minimal ESL students in classes: “I re-planned the semester schedule, moving things around for two half-day lessons, but with only one international student at the beginning, it was excessive all of a sudden and I returned to the original schedule.” (B)
        • Reliance upon direct intervention with student, if suspected: “One student and a ten-minute meeting should suffice.” (B)
  • 17. Interviews
    • One suspected case of plagiarism in native US student paper—more difficult to confirm academic dishonesty
        • “ There’s more savviness to the way this student did it. It’s either more experience with what American professors look for and how, or being more familiar with the language. The problem is, it’s harder to confront a student when this is the case. They will automatically be less receptive even to constructive comments.” (B)
    • Two of the three ESL students were deemed “lower than average” in writing skills
        • “ Tests in the class were average, but anything of a written nature was definitely lower [skilled] than other internationals I had met, other non-natives.” (E)
  • 18. Interviews
    • Education & School of Business professors were considering, but had not committed to, new plagiarism units in curricula
        • School of Business faculty concerned about more plagiarism among a growing international student population, not about existing L1 population: “Anything I do really needs to be for them. I don’t want to say it’s cultural, but it’s just more prevalent.”
        • Education faculty would implement if anti-plagiarism itself could be integrated into subject matter: “If I could, I’d like to look at what’s plagiarism and what isn’t in different kinds of assignments, and even at different stages of these assignments. It would make explanations much clearer to everyone involved.”
    • Sociology professor would not add brief plagiarism unit— limited room in curriculum, and wants something specifically suited to sociology: “The content in sociology is going to lend itself to plagiarism in ways that are different from business or engineering or most any other discipline.”
  • 19. Discussion and Conclusion
    • Punishment is widely seen as the least desirable option for treating (perceived) plagiarism among L2 writers, making constructive, education-oriented approaches easier to implement. However . . .
    • L2 writing and plagiarism will be seen as unique in the long term, despite encountering similar problems with L1 students
    • Strategies that work with L2 writers can benefit L1 writers, but almost by accident
    • New, “ homegrown ” approaches must be encouraged over prescription, in order to fit each context
  • 20. Thank you [email_address]