second chance for “cheaters”

At the end of the semester, I had four students whose papers that were plagiarized.  All from one class.  Out of 22 students.  This was shocking. 

I called every one of them and asked them to rewrite those parts that were plagiarized and take a penalty for late (re)submission – this instead of being reported to the Vice President of Student Services for academic misconduct.  I came to this decision because I had to consider how it could be that I had so many students who made this “mistake.”  And some of these students really seemed to not get it – that what they had done was indeed plagiarism.  (I’m not that naive, I don’t think, when it comes to these things – if that’s what you are thinking.  Academic honesty is something I study and look into very carefully – it’s the theme of my promotion project at the college.  I sincerely believed that they were careless rather than deceitful.)  I wondered… Maybe I didn’t explain it clearly enough.  Maybe I should have gone over it more often in class. 

I think it’s important to consider that despite our best efforts, sometimes – somehow, somewhere along the line – our lesson doesn’t click with students.  In my head, what I’m saying is very clear… but maybe that’s not how it’s being heard. 

I learned a lesson from this incident myself.  I will put more energy and perhaps creativity into teaching citation and documentation – and how to cite/paraphrase/quote accurately.  I hope these four students learned the same lesson.  I can only hope.

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