by – Mary Havens

In a classroom in Austin, a group discussion over plagiarism took place. An EDUC 1300 class of juniors and seniors from Garza High School thoughtfully discussed the topic. It was awesome.

I expected every class I taught after that to have the same results. But I could never replicate the discussion.

It wasn’t until I attended the most recent Computerside Chat, led by FCTL and Missi Patterson, that it all finally clicked. I’ve attended many of these chats and incorporated several of the concepts into my revamped plagiarism presentation. For this blog post, I will highlight one successful active teaching method.

Snowball Activity

Before I began to explain the nuances of plagiarism, I told the students to take a piece of paper and answer this question: what has been my experience with plagiarism? Then the students crumpled the paper into a ball and threw it at a designated spot at the front of the classroom. I emphasized that, although I will be reading these aloud, I do not recognize anyone’s handwriting, the professor will never see this, and I will have no way of knowing who wrote what.

I quickly realized that I had no idea what experience the students had with plagiarism. We hear from many of the high schools we partner with that plagiarism is rampant. Students have skirted this issue by being “passed along” or receiving zero consequences when they do plagiarize in the lower grades. Then the students get to high school and are dually enrolled at ACC where the stakes become really high. The students are largely clueless about the consequences and when to cite their sources.

After I read all the “snowballs”, I shared my own experience: I plagiarized in this presentation! I outlined all the steps I took to create this particular presentation slide and asked the students how I plagiarized. Usually one student answers successfully and we spend some time talking about why citations are important. The rest of the presentation outlines kinds of plagiarism, consequences, ways to get help (including the professor, ACC librarians with our 24/7 chat service, school librarians at the high school, and the Learning Lab), and a few scenarios of “when should I cite?”

I’ve done this activity 5 times now and the response has been overwhelmingly successful!! Having a baseline of the students’ experience, I am able to expand upon specific points during the presentation. The discussion with the students is so much richer because I can understand their experiences.

At the end of the information literacy session, I conducted a Kahoot quiz that always creates excitement for the students.

It can be intimidating to make changes but it’s so rewarding to have engaged students and lively discussions! The response I have received from both students and professors has been overwhelmingly positive and I leave each session knowing that an important concept like plagiarism has been covered successfully.

Want a librarian to discuss plagiarism in your class? Schedule a library presentation!