December 17, 2012

Library Skills for Academic Integrity

In an effort to improve retention rates and let students learn from their mistakes, the university now issues sanctions for students to attend mandatory, multi-part workshops when caught plagiarizing, instead of immediate expulsion. This is really great, because a lot of the time plagiarism is not intentional. Students may have procrastinated and just sloppily put a paper together at the last minute. This way, they can learn better study skills and what plagiarism really is instead of just being kicked out. It's really up to the faculty member and how s/he wants to handle it, but the Dean of Students Office has a general outline to follow.

Since this falls under student retention, it's my area, and although we have worked with the Dean of Students Office in the past to deliver a standalone library component workshop for the series, I am working with Student Affairs and the tutoring center to revamp this model. The Dean of Students Office presents their own workshop on what academic integrity is and the UA's honor code. Then, the tutoring center has hired a Graduate Assistant (GA) from Education to teach the three hour workshop on study skills and putting knowledge of what plagiarism is into practice. So my portion will be embedded within improving study skills and how to write a paper. We're using the train-the-trainer approach here once again though to keep it scalable since there are about 10-15 workshops per semester. So I will be training the GA, and delivering the first session or two, then he will deliver the library portion along with what he is already covering while I observe, and then he takes it from there. We will be checking in throughout the semester and plan to re-assess before summer.

The Dean of Students is also hoping to offer this to the campus community at large for anyone interested, caught plagiarizing or not. So, I will be working with the tutoring center to market this workshop to a wider audience. I am also hoping to tie this into the Libraries' badging system in the works. This workshop, or a component of it, could be a challenge or a badge in itself.

As far as the instruction goes, the last thing these students want, I'm sure, after feeling irritated, uncomfortable, and probably embarrassed about attending these sessions, is someone standing up there scolding them and making them memorize searching skills, library jargon, and dos and don'ts. I'm trying to make my portion for library skills fun and relatable, showing them it's actually pretty easy to not plagiarize. My thoughts are most have procrastinated, slopped a paper together at the last minute, and then thought having a list of references at the end would suffice. I don't believe the majority of these students intentionally plagiarized with the hope that others' work would be passed off as their own. I really do think they just wanted to get their assignment done for a class they might not think will affect them in the long run. I was not the best student during most of undergrad, so I can certainly relate to those feelings.

Here is my pretty-close-to-final draft of the Libraries' portion of instruction for these workshops. The presenters' notes, which you probably can't see through SlideShare, have more detail on what I'll be covering in each slide.