In my remedial class, we have been talking for two weeks about paraphrasing, integrating quotations, citing sources and so forth. Nevertheless, three students have received zeroes on the first version of their final paper because of incorrect use of source material.
There are a few mitigating factors here. First, I don’t believe that any of the students intended to plagiarize – they simply don’t understand, still, what constitutes plagiarism. Second, this version of the assignment is worth only 10% of their overall grade, so it is not going to make or break any of them. Third, this is their first draft, and, given that I don’t think any of them are wilfully cheating, I am willing to allow them to make up the difference in their final version and adjust the grades accordingly. Nevertheless, it has made for a week of very stressful email and face-to-face exchanges, and I’m exhausted by it all.
Here’s what’s driving me crazy: why aren’t they learning how to use sources correctly when they’re in high school?
Here’s a consequence of using Turnitin.com that I hadn’t foreseen: discovering that a student has submitted the same paper for your course and for someone else’s.
But then, what do you do? I have been told in the past that this is not acceptable; to fulfill a course’s requirements, a student’s work must be specific to that course. However, I can find no guidelines in our college policies as to whether submitting the same paper for two classes actually constitutes cheating.
You tell the student that you know he’s done this, obviously. You communicate the problem to the other teacher. But in the end, is it really such a big deal? As far as I’m concerned, as long as the student wrote the assignment himself and has met my assignment requirements, it makes little difference what else he’s done with it.
Here’s the question, though – why didn’t the student ask us if it was ok? Did it not occur to him to ask, because he just assumed it would be all right? Unlikely. He assumed we would say no, and so kept his mouth shut. And this is not cool. To be expected, but not cool.
It reminds me of another situation I encountered a few years ago: during an in-class essay, a student was trying to hide a paper under her books. As it turned out, the notes on the paper were completely acceptable and so there was no reason for her to hide them. But if she thought there was a problem, why didn’t she just ask, or not bring them at all? This kind of sneakiness makes me mad.
3. Students Who Submit None of the At-Home Work and Do a Half-Assed Job on the In-class Work and Do Not Come for Any Extra Help and so Currently Have an Overall Average of 29% but Still Keep Coming to Class
Because their only motivation for being in school is the joy of talking about literature? Because they are in love with me? What do they think is going to happen?
At least a couple of them will send me panicky and/or angry emails once the final grades are in. A week or so before that, one or two others will show up in my office asking “what they can do to pass this course.” I know there are all sorts of biological, neurological and environmental factors that cause 18-year-olds to be completely detached from the knowledge that their actions have real consequences, but dammit, people, you’re making me nuts.
Phew. I need to get myself to a yoga class, stat – or maybe I just need to get a little drunk and stay that way until Christmas. Only two more weeks to go. Wish me – and all of us – luck.
Image by Channah