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.