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Sent: Monday, May 7, 2007 9:28 pm Re: Plagiarism [In response to Benay Blend post, below] Benay: Good points. I agree completely that students must accept responsibility for what they do. We must do so as well. Sometimes, unwittingly, we do things that contradict or undermine what we say to students about citing sources and avoiding plagiarism. If texts and lectures are to be exempted from the expectation that all sources will be properly cited, we at least ought to explain what makes them different from papers and deserving of the exemption. I have found over the years that students have a hard time understanding the ways and rules of academe. We, likewise, have trouble understanding their perspectives on what we are trying to help them learn. For the most part, we don't even know what those perspectives are, because we don't ask. It's pretty clear that they don't share our views on plagiarism. If they did, then their behavior would only be explicable as a form of moral turpitude. I assume (without much real evidence, I admit) that they are using a rather different calculus than the one we have exercised and explored in this discussion today. Theirs is what some cognitive psychologists would call a "simple heuristic" based on goals that involve "satisficing," not the pursuit of excellence and top grades in every course. The satisficer will take shortcuts whenever possible. Supposedly, we are employing a more demanding, scholarly heuristic, but I suspect we do a bit of satisficing as well -- maybe unintentionally. The satisficer, whether student or teacher, is one who does "just enough to get by." If assessments show that students are not meeting our expectations, one important reason (that we almost never explore) is that they are not /trying/ to meet those expectations, but are satisfied with achieving their own scaled down goals instead. I'm not sure that plagiarism and assessment need to be examined together, but this is at least one of the ways they might be linked. We assume too readily that the human brain must have evolved as an organ specializing in thinking and learning. In fact, it seems more likely to have evolved by specializing in learning to survive. Is the latter a brain that is well-suited to academic kinds of inquiry? This is certainly open to debate -- ALL of it is debatable -- but I would hazard a guess that it is not especially well suited to such tasks. In a fraction of the population -- including but not limited to many of the maladapted -- it does a wonderful job of, say, deciphering Mayan glyphs or predicting the outcomes of arcane experiments in quantum physics. The implication of the above for the study and "treatment" of plagiarism is this: we might consider it to be less an issue of morality and character than an issue of survival. What are the risks, costs, and benefits attached to various forms of plagiarism? Is it a "good enough" paper writing strategy for a lot of people? Or do most plagiarists get caught and punished? Are those caught and punished likely to abandon this strategy for good if it fails just once, or will they refine their technique and try again (and again)? I'm no expert on any of this. I'm just suggesting some possible lines of inquiry. Doug Deal History/SUNY Oswego > From: firstname.lastname@example.org > Sent: Monday, May 7, 2007 3:51 pm > Re: Plagiarism > > In reply to the message below, that we as scholars do not cite others in > our lectures, I've been teaching for twenty years. I did not have this > problem until a few years ago. I also taught English, where the problem is > more rampant, and students indeed had sources in their case study texts > that showed how to footnote. The last position I held in the English > department used a text with more examples of footnoted material than you > would ever want to see and students still plagiarized. As for the texts, > my departments uses a standard text but also several supplementary > readers, with footnotes. In my lectures I often mention historians whose > interpretations I am using but shy away from too much historiography > because they have a hard enough time apparently grappling with the > material as it is. I do stress often that the ideas are not my own, but > others. Still, I had a student write on evaluations that I taught my > version of history, despite the fact that I often said in class that most > of us use the interpretations that we feel comfortable with, and that > there are many interpretations. I feel there is far too much shifting of > the blame to instructors as it is. Students usually have many examples of > how to footnote, we have a lengthy discussion of plagiarism on the school > website, I go over and over it in class. If students want to steal the > ideas of others, I am no more responsible that if they want to steal from > a department store. > > Benay Blend > CNM Albuquerque, NM