I'm almost through the book Cheating Lessons by James Lang. Already, it feels like an answer to so many of the questions I have had over the years. Lang doesn't pretend that there are quick fixes in the area of academic dishonesty. Still, the hope comes in the fact that all that we can do to reduce the likelihood of cheating has the added benefit of making our teaching more effective. That's been the biggest inspiration to me. The negative aspects of taking steps to address issues of plagiarism and other forms of teaching may also result in giving me new ideas for improving my teaching.
It is fortunate that I have not had to address plagiarism in my undergraduate courses for a couple years now. I was so dumbfounded that I hadn't had any issues come up in my upper division marketing class that I asked some of the top students why they thought that might be. While the setup for the conversation would hardly qualify for a research study, here's what they informally told me about why they perceive that people hadn't been plagiarizing in my course:
Consequences of plagiarism clearly communicated
While I don't usually like to rely on fear as a motivator, apparently it was in this case when it came to plagiarism in their major writing assignments. They told me that they knew that people had failed the course in the past for plagiarizing and they didn't want to find themselves in the same predicament.
Knowledge of APA format assessed in advance
I've grown weary of the excuse that students like to use that they didn't know. In my classes, that excuse goes away. All students take a quiz that tests their knowledge of how to avoid plagiarism, cite sources, and quote directly from other authors. They demonstrate their skills in paraphrasing and academic writing. While my quiz is kept on Moodle and not publicly accessible, Lang recommends an even better plagiarism resource from The School of Education at Indiana University Bloomington. Their site includes practice tests and a test that anyone can use to assess students' knowledge of plagiarism.
Citations manager made it easier not to cheat
I started requiring all my students use the free references manager, Zotero, a couple of years ago, too. While they initially were less than happy to go through the effort of setting it up and learning a new tool, they universally told me later on how much easier it made their work. One student told me that when she saw how her entire references list could be produced with one click on the toolbar, she couldn't believe what had just happened. She said she really thought that using Zotero made things so easy, it seemed far simpler than the work some of her peers put in to cheating.
Project broken down into multiple steps
Another approach that students said was likely reducing the incidents of cheating was that I had broken the major, individual written paper into multiple steps. There was an accountability check at each milestone and points earned along the way. While I am still looking for a more automated way of assessing that each student has Zotero installed, along with the Microsoft Word add-in toolbar on their computer, I am pleased that separating out the phases of the project has made plagiarism less likely.
The last factor the students thought was probably creating greater academic integrity was the close alignment that the projects had with what was happening in the business world. One semester, I had the students working on a marketing plan for a subscription box company for kids. A friend of mine worked there, so the students got to receive feedback from her and see how their ideas might play out in that industry.
Another semester, their assignment was based around wearable devices, such as smart watches and fitness tracking gadgets. Even as we progressed throughout the class, news stories came out weekly about what changes were occurring in this industry. The students genuinely seemed to enjoy talking about the market, as evidenced by them regularly coming early to and staying after class to share something they had read in the news about wearables.
[reminder]I still know I have a lot to learn as I continually seek to find ways to prevent academic dishonesty. What about you? Are there steps you have taken to reduce cheating in your classes? Where do you still struggle in preventing incidents? [/reminder]