Complex systems thinking provides a holistic framework for discussing Academic Honesty with students. Complex systems thinking leads us away from hierarchical structures of power and authority toward an emphasis on connections, dialogue and individual autonomy. Complex systems thinking embraces individual identity and diversity where students construct their own meaning through respectful and meaningful interactions with their peers. Rather than attempting to homogenise student understandings of academic honesty, a complex systems approach provides a rich context for individual and shared understandings to emerge by fostering interactions, collaboration and iterative feedback.
The imperative from the class teachers: “We are concerned that academic misconduct may be on the rise and while teachers have discussed this with students having someone different to lead some sessions with this grade level may help them to understand academic honesty better and understand the importance of academic honesty with the hope that their behaviour will improve”. So the librarian was invited to take two sessions with this grade level which included 29 students.
Purpose of the lessons:
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Plagiarism is an issue of concern for every educational institution across the world. Plagiarism is a serious issue requiring serious attention, however, a more holistic approach is required to support sound pedagogical practices that avoid the use of punitive measures to enforce sound practices. A more refined approach to the issue of plagiarism will do less to strike fear into the hearts of students and more to support and enhance authentic inquiry. Addressing academic honesty with a more holistic approach therefore becomes an opportunity to further support student learning and the development of deeper understandings through proficiency in information literacy.
A more holistic approach draws students and teachers into a deeper engagement with sources of information. Student ability to then communicate this engagement allows them to:
- Demonstrate a deep understanding of the content they are presenting,
- Demonstrate the breadth of their research,
- Provide a transparency to the claims they are making,
- Argue for the credibility of their arguments,
- Demonstrate impact of the context on knowledge
- and allow an audience to connect with their sources.
Avoiding Plagiarism : the big idea
Taking a step back from the plagiarism issue, one of the key ideas is to build student understanding of our place in the continuum of knowledge and the connections embedded within complex information systems. We are able to acquire knowledge through connecting to these information systems and make sense of that knowledge to construct new understandings. Through our own senses and reflections we are also our own source of information but we must also be mindful of the many factors that have influenced our thinking. Our current understandings are therefore a result of accumulated ideas, information and influences throughout human history that have a unique manifestation in each of us. Knowledge and understandings are therefore an emergent phenomenon that is at once passed on to us but also entirely uniquely synthesised by each individual to create meaning. Our own understandings are the result of the enumerable connections throughout our lives.
While we construct new meanings throughout our lives, we are also constantly contributing in constructive and destructive ways to others who are connected to us. We are therefore part of a continuum and complex network of information, knowledge and the construction of meaning both individually and shared.
Understanding this continuum and network of connections draws the antiplagiarism emphasis away from a rules based approach with punitive measures toward a deeper understanding of the fundamental role the sources to how we come to know what we know and the meanings we construct. Our ability to recognise those sources and the influence they have on our understandings is fundamental to our learning experience and how we communicate those experiences with others. This is the broader context that citation styles fit into. Citation styles should not be the primary focus of antiplagiarism measures.
Plagiarism and the IB Learner Profile
It is more than being principled.
Here are just a few ideas about how a more holistic approach to antiplagiarism can be expressed through the IB Learner Profile:
The process of pursuing meaning requires investigation and searching which can end in new discoveries and dead-ends. Documenting and celebrating this process with it’s successes and frustrations emphasises the process of inquiry. Connections to sources, both relevant and redundant, provide a key to understanding the process of inquiry.
How do we know what we know? Where have our new understandings come from? Do these sources support our new understandings or has what we thought we knew been challenged? An idea might make perfect sense to us but did we develop that understanding from somewhere else? Was that idea drawn from a range of sources?
Providing ourselves and our students with the time to dwell on an idea and to consider the role of various sources that contributed to the development of that idea is vital to allowing new understandings to emerge. New understandings can come from taking the time to dwell on new information and considering how it impacts our thinking processes. How that information came to us may alter our perceptions and determine the importance we place on that information.
As we pass on our knowledge to others, discussing relevant sources enables those we communicate with to connect directly with that information and understand how we have formulated a unique synthesis of ideas. Discussing relevant and reduntant sources provides the listener with a deep framework for understanding the ideas we are communicating. Linking the audience to sources ensures they are adequately connected with the broader information system and knowledge continuum surrounding a topic of interest.
Finding sources that challenge our thinking and lead us to new and more comprehensive understandings demonstrates an openness to ideas that may unsettle established patterns of thinking.
Recognising the contribution of others to our own ideas reflects an empathy and respect for the part they have played in building collective understandings.
Being prepared to risk sharing our own ideas, particularly if they are found to be incomplete and require refinement, is fundamental to learning. Permission to take these risks, explore a range of sources, opinions and approaches provides greater opportunities for authentic research and learning. If the focus is not on achieving “correct” answers, we are more prepared to risk being “wrong”. The result is less focus on the “right” answer, and permission to risk generating our own ideas. Fear of being incorrect and failing as a result, is a strong motivator for copying someone else’s well written work.
A balanced research process incorporates sources of information that contradict each other and offer different perspectives. We then draw together this information to develop our own perspective demonstrating a deep engagement with the focus of the inquiry.
Reflection allows us to connect relevant sources of information to what we know and identify sources that are incomplete or unsupported. Having time and support for us to consider how we know what we know provides us with this opportunity. An awareness of our self as a source may lead us to deeper inquiries that challenge or build our understandings.
What can an holistic approach look like?
- Students and teachers using Creative Commons licensing for their own artwork.
- Transdisciplinary understandings: students making connections to sources across all disciplines demonstrates a deep understanding of how sources of information connect to what we know.
- Students and teachers discussing the role of specific sources in how they came to the new understandings they achieved.
- Using social media as a virtual referencing system to connect an audience with the sources of their information (eg. Twitter hyperlinks).
- Displaying the books used during research at an exhibition (eg Personal Project, PYP Exhibition).
- Providing an audience with “if you would like to know more” links.
- Using the Process Journal during the Personal Project to record the frustrating sources of information that led no-where.
- Using fiction to illustrate new ideas and perspectives.
- Young students using picture books to help express their ideas.
- Academic citation methods applied consistently when writing the Extended Essay.
- Young students able to describe the Who, When and Where components of sources of their information.
- Students who are able to describe the significance of the Who, When and Where components of sources of their information.
- Students can identify when they need to stop an inquiry and describe research needs if that inquiry was restarted or taken on by someone else.
Some useful additional resources
The 6th Asia Pacific Conference on Academic Integrity occurred during Oct 2-4, 2013, Macquarie Univeristy, Sydney. “The Asia Pacific Forum on Educational Integrity (APFEI) is a multi-institutional, cross-disciplinary and non-profit organisation that fosters research and collaboration on issues relating to educational and academic integrity. Currently based in Australia, APFEI aims to provide a platform for the discussion, investigation and promotion of ethical research and writing practices.” [from the APFEI website].
Also available through APFEI is the International Journal of Educational Integrity IJEI published twice per year. “The journal challenges readers to consider the changing nature of education in a globalised environment, and the impact that conceptions of educational integrity have on issues of pedagogy, academic standards, intercultural understanding and equity.” [from the IJEI website].
Purdue Online Writing Lab is a place I frequently visit as a reference for citation guides however there is also a wide range of writing advice available here. Very comprehensive.
Presents extensive but concise and clear information about plagiarism. Excellent resource.
No need to re-invent the wheel with resources like this. It is important to note that Plagiarism.org is sponsored by iParadigms LLC, makers of Turnitin, WriteCheck, and iThenticate.
International Association of Academic Integrity Conferences (IAAIC) is an alliance of key academic integrity and plagiarism conferences worldwide, formed to facilitate international conversations on educational issues ranging from cheating and plagiarism to pedagogy and best practices. The IAAIC currently has members from academic integrity bodies in the UK, US and Australia and supports research initiatives from practitioners and institutions throughout the global academic community.
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