In my first post on plagiarism, I argued that Christians need to look out for people without power. Obviously teachers and students have an unequal power relationship, which means that Christian teachers have an obligation to look out for the rights of students. In my second post, I discussed the rights – of the author, the teacher, and the student – that may be violated when plagiarism occurs. I believe that teachers have a professional obligation to place a priority on the right of the students to receive instruction and practice in a complex skill before they are required to use that skill.
These considerations could lead a Christian teacher to adopt what Joel Bloch (2012) calls “a pedagogical approach” to plagiarism. Rather than focusing on penalizing plagiarism, a pedagogical approach prioritizes teaching the skills that students need to avoid plagiarism. Many of these skills are practical: students need to compose sentences of their own in English. If they incorporate ideas from reading, they need to practice paraphrasing and using quotation marks. As they decide which phrases need quotation marks, they need to be able to distinguish between fixed phrases (e.g. idioms) and special language use. Citations systems can also be confusing to students who are unfamiliar with them. I do not think it is reasonable to expect language learners to acquire these skills without explicit teaching and ample practice.
Students should not be expected to get all of these skills right the first time. Even well-meaning second language learners will make mistakes, and teachers should treat these mistakes as learning opportunities. When students put quotation marks in the wrong place and when they create paraphrases that are too similar the original material, they should receive constructive feedback and an opportunity for revision.
A Christian pedagogical approach may also include the cultivation of empathy (Beversluis et al. Undated). I think that one of the best ways to help students understand the authors whose work they use is through the experience of having their own work cited. In my class, I ask students to write opinion blogs on certain topics. The students read one another’s blogs and then write new articles which compare their classmates’ views by quoting and paraphrasing ideas from different blogs. When the students read the resulting articles, they experience what it is like to have someone else cite their work, and many students find it pleasurable to have their own work noticed. Through this process, students are able not only to practice academic skills like quotation and summary but also understand how giving proper attribution honors the original author.
This approach to plagiarism both protects the rights of students and teaches students sensitivity toward authors. Of course, institutions and teachers also have rights. They have the right to expect honest work from their students. My next post will address the issue of penalizing plagiarism in cases when students may be held accountable.
Bloch, J. (2012) Plagiarism, Intellectual Property and the Teaching of L2 Writing. Multilingual Matters.
Beversluis. C., Bratt, J., Hoogstra. S. & Hendriksma, J. (undated) “Teaching Toward Virtue: Curriculum as Character Formation at Calvin College”
Heidi Vande Voort Nam (MA TESL/TEFL University of Birmingham) teaches in the Department of English Education at Chongshin University in Seoul. She is co-facilitator of the KOTESOL Christian Teachers SIG and the Chair of CELT Seoul 2016.
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