The EdWeek story on the anti-plagiarism service Turnitin.com discusses how concerns over plagiarism and cheating cause conflicts between students rights and teachers strategies in the writing classroom. We expect the texts students turn in to be original. Students should be the authors and owners of whatever compositions they submit. Yet anti-plagiarism services take away that ownership.
Its not just the legal problem of services like Turnitin.com. Its a deeper pedagogical problem when we ask students to take ownership of their work and then deny them ultimate authority over that work.
Like Laura Hennessey DeSena, author of NCTEs Preventing Plagiarism: Tips and Techniques, I believe that the best way to avoid plagiarism is to focus on strong writing pedagogy. When students are engaged in the writing process and share their work from inspiration to polished copy, plagiarism problems disappear. Practices such as these can help eliminate any worries about plagiarism and cheating:
- Encourage students to choose topics that matter to them. When students want to know more about a topic, their research is authentic and meaningful.
- Ask students to share their drafts (all of them, from jotted notes to sloppy copy to published submissions) in class and in conferences. When everyone in the class sees texts from beginning to end, students work is obvious and open.
- Have students write and revise drafts in class. Writers workshop models not only produce stronger student writing but also focus on authentic student writing. When you see students writing, you dont question where student writing comes from.
- Invite students to share their process and the thinking behind their compositions. When students show how they move from outside resources to specific references in their own work, they identify their sources and open the door to discussion on any questions about formatting and citations.