If an assignment can be plagiarized, it’s probably not very valid.
Well, maybe not the same exact wording, but roughly the same idea. How many times do I cringe at assignments that I know will be easily copied/pasted from an online website, encyclopedia, or database, or copied word for word from a book. I’m not sure there are many of my students savvy enough to realize they can find papers easily online for purchase, but when my kids spend more time looking for pictures than information, there is a big clue they are probably planning to use the copy/paste function for both info and pix.
In a session we shared about assignments that lent themselves to plagiarism, and how we could deal with them–propose action statements. Here’s an example shared at conference recently:
A teacher shares that her kids are coming to research animals. Librarian asks which animals, and the teacher says the kids can choose any animal they want. The librarian asked her how she would keep this from becoming just another boring assignment? The teacher asked if the librarian had any ideas? Of course she had some. After a brief intoxicating conversation, the teacher settled on allowing students to choose an exotic animal and then research its potential as a household or domestic pet. The project now had an essential question, and the assignment allowed students to have choice, a definite component of an engaging lesson. The librarian was disappointed though because she had gone on a torrent throwing out ideas for how to get a real audience by having the kids use their research to make PSAs for news clips to be used on the school news program. The librarian also wanted to use the recent media frenzy over the recent mauling of a family friend by the family’s pet gorilla, a topic sure to instantly engage the students and get them thinking in the right context for answering their essential question. The collaborating teacher, though could not allow that much time for the project. She shared her tight schedule and the need to be ready for upcoming high stakes testing, so settled on the research paper for now, with thoughts for collaborating more later. Excited that at least the appetite was whet, it would have to be enough.
How does one not walk away deflated with a conversation like that? The librarian did say she felt she’d made headway with the teacher even if only a little.
If an assignment can be plagiarized, it’s probably not very exciting or engaging, much less valid.
Wonder if posting the above phrase as a banner in the teacher workroom would get me in trouble. Must’t be negative. So how could I post it with a positive spin? Let’s break out the Schlecty manual for creating engaging work. Here’s my first attempt:
Students love assignments that call for creativity, collaboration, choice, authenticity, and excitement. They don’t even realize the assignments are standards-based and that they are learning. Does this resemble any of your classroom assignments or homework?