Creating a Climate of Trust in the Writing Classroom
Often plagiarism detection services are adopted at universities not because writing teachers are unaware of their drawbacks, but that campus-wide their disciplinary views about effective writing instruction are found reasonable in theory but horrifying in practice by disciplines used to scantron testing convenience. Teaching writing effectively IS labor-intensive. More than once, I have had a colleague from the humanities or the sciences take me aside and whisper, "I know you're right about multiple drafting and comments, but I just don't have the time and [insert name here] ensures that my students don't cheat." The WPA Council's recommendations are clear and lend insight into why this simplistic approach won't work in the long run:
When assignments are highly generic and not classroom-specific, when there is no instruction on plagiarism and appropriate source attribution, and when students are not led through the iterative processes of writing and revising, teachers often find themselves playing an adversarial role as "plagiarism police" instead of a coaching role as educators. Just as students must live up to their responsibility to behave ethically and honestly as learners, teachers must recognize that they can encourage or discourage plagiarism not just by policy and admonition, but also in the way they structure assignments and in the processes they use to help students define and gain interest in topics developed for papers and projects.
In short, those who want pedagogy not based on fear should
- avoid generic, not classroom-specific writing assignments
- Give instruction on plagiarism policy, and note that it differs by school
- Give instruction on appropriate source attribution
- See the teacher's role as a coach rather than as police. Facilitation, not prosecution.
Next: Fighting the Fear