A survey of students at 23 colleges has found that 38% of them admit to plagiarizing material for an assignment from the Internet. What’s worse is that half of the students polled thought this was "trivial or not cheating". Many of the high school teachers I work with also suspect that more than a few of their students have copied material from the Internet for assignments. Some of our schools have even begun subscribing to online services that will check student papers to see whether the writing is similar to material posted on the web.
There’s another side to this problem, however, and that’s the assignments themselves. Very often these teachers are telling their students to do the same kind of research paper that they (and their predecessors) have assigned for decades, and which may no longer be relevant.
Five years ago, Jamie McKenzie (editor of From Now On) wrote an outstanding article called The New Plagiarism in which he outlined seven "antidotes" to preventing students from using cut and paste to construct an assignment. None of his ideas involve catching students after the fact. Instead Jamie stresses creating new ways to assess student knowledge that go beyond just the digging up and rewriting of information.
Antidote 2: Discourage "trivial pursuits."
Even though students must learn how to find discrete facts such as the population of Chile or France, we have labored too long in those vineyards. We need fewer treasure and scavenger hunts. It is time to emphasize questions which challenge students at the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy . . .
We launch projects which require: Explanations, Problem-solving, Choices & Decision-Making. We build our programs around what I called The Prime Questions…Why, How, Which is best?
We transform topical research into projects which demand that students move past mere gathering of information to the construction of new meanings and insight.
I highly recommend the article to any teacher, not just high school since elementary and middle school students are getting into the copy and paste plagiarism act.