My project, all in all, is an effort to help fellow GTAs communicate the importance of academic integrity while also being informative to the undergraduates that we teach here at Virginia Tech. Throughout the course of the semester, as I have needed to go over the lessons in my own classes, I have compiled Google Slides that help me relay certain information to my students. Actually, I created my slideshow on the last main topic last night for the class that I taught today.
These main ideas are Plagiarism, MLA Format, and Summary, Paraphrase, and Quotation. I hope that by creating slides on these topics, that I will help my students understand exactly what Virginia Tech defines as academic integrity, how to format papers in accordance with MLA format, and how to successfully and honestly incorporate sources into their research papers. I would also be overjoyed if these slides could benefit another GTA in any way, shape or form. Honestly, these topics aren’t the most fun to teach, nor do the students particularly like learning about them. However, it seemed that many of my students today didn’t know the difference between summary and paraphrase, which enabled them to actually learn from my presentation/activities today.
So far, I have created the initial Google Slides for my project. At this point, I need to compile them into one Google Slideshow and connect them together in some way. I also need to make a long Works Cited list, because although the project is in my own words, I have scoured the writing center cites for useful activities to include at the end of my short lectures, so the students can put the lesson into practice—I think this is extremely important. In addition to these things, I want to write a short 1-2 page explanation of my project in order to outline what I did and why I chose to include certain things or certain activities.
Since I identify as a Christian, I aim to live according to the teachings of Christ and the codes of moral conduct that the Bible provides to Christians. So basically, if one of the Ten Commandments states that I should not lie, I try to live with that commandment in mind. That’s not saying that I never make mistakes and lie, but ultimately, I keep this code in mind, and it guides my conduct.
With this in mind, I was rather appalled by “The Ethcial Dilemma Raised by Gay Talese’s Latest Article.” While the fact that he knew that his friend witnessed someone strangling a woman is mind-blowing (it seems like most people would try to stop that from happening), the article does point out that once the motel owner knew that the woman actually was dead, the owner reported it to the police (Farhi). It’s hard to fault Talese for dishonesty since this situation was taken care of at some point. However, had the owner not been spying on his customers and meddling with their personal possessions, I believe this woman’s death could have been avoided. The owner’s practice of spying on people’s personal sexual experiences is wholely unethical and illegal especially because they checked into a motel, trusting and paying for a private room. And Gay Talese actually took part in this action with his friend, not bothering to blow the whistle until thirty years after the fact. I think that is what bothers me the most. He sat on this information for thirty years.
Ultimately, I think this whole situation is disturbing, but after reading about Talese’s friendship with someone who did this type of thing, I think that it undermines his ethos as a person. If I think about it in terms of a politician—wouldn’t the comments about a politician being friends with someone who spied on customers having sex in spaces they believed were private be completely negative? Why is this? Because this is a questionable friendship. Because a politician shouldn’t take part in these types of activities, perhaps. Because we expect politicians to have upstanding moral and ethical character. Anything less than the standard ruins a politician’s ethos in the public’s eyes. I’m wondering if the standard should be any different for a journalist who is supposed to report the truth in a timely manner and expose injustice, no matter what form that injustice assumes? Because I believe that this should be the code of ethics for any human being—being truthful and standing up for those who are being wronged—I did not take too kindly to this article. However, not having journalism experience, I’m not aware of what their association might deem ethical or unethical. I’m only viewing this according to my own code.
Farhi, Paul. “The Ethical Dilemma’s Raised by Gay Talese’s Latest Article.” The Washington Post, 8 April 2016, link. Accessed 3 April 2017.
I thought both of the videos included in this blog were extremely thought-provoking. I remember thinking some of the things in the first video as an undergraduate, and now as a GTA Declining By Degrees forces me to see things from the other side of the fence. Two particular things that stood out to me from this documentary were the issue of textbook prices and the issue of “sleepwalking through college” (Merrow).
The issue of overpriced textbooks continues to be a conversation in higher education, I think. Is it ethical to charge such exorbitant prices for a textbook, let a alone for a new edition of a textbook whose only changes are so minor that perhaps a new edition wasn’t necessary at all? I had a friend in graduate school whose textbook for her class was several hundred dollars. College students, especially grad students, can’t possible afford to pay for overpriced textbooks. How is it that the industry continues to charge these prices? How is it that professors still continue to require these same textbooks (and some don’t even crack the book open once during the entirety of the semester?). Something interesting that I’ve come across this semester at Virginia Tech is that every GTA is required to use the Virginia Tech-created textbook for our English classes. I believe this book is around $100, and because it is Virginia Tech specific and gets updated, there is really no sell-back potential, if I understand this correctly. While it’s nice that everything they need for the class (readings and lecture related material) is in one location, whether they get their money’s worth out of it depends on if the instructor uses it or not.
Honestly, I think about the issue of “sleepwalking through college” a lot. Preceding this conversation in Declining by Degrees, John Merrow had a segment on grading in college, basically claiming that “Cs” have now become the “Fs” of undergraduate coursework. The reasoning behind this could varying from concern about backlash over retention rates to the “social contract” that seems to exist between students and teachers (Merrow). I think this pressure to curve the grades is all over the academy because students are pressured to fit all of their courses into four years. They have a lot of work, and I understand that. I think this pressure could also exist heavily in the humanities at institutions like Virginia Tech because many of our students are here for STEM related fields. We don’t want to make a gen-ed course something that is too hard because they have other major related courses that they need to concentrate on (I’m not saying that every instructor feels this way). BUT Is this ethical? Is this the real world? It’s hard to say. But it’s something to think about. Does this practice of soft grading encourage students to sleepwalk through their undergraduate courses? Students do respond to challenges. As much as I might have complained about coursework as an undergraduate, finishing a challenging assignment always left me feeling satisfied with myself and my ability to multitask. I think I am striving to find this balance as I begin my teaching career—balancing challenging students with understanding their stress level.
Merrow, John. Declining by Degrees. YouTube, uploaded by Bamboo Invasion, 18 September 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcxDVYo2wH8
I answered a very similar blog prompt for the Preparing the Future Professoriate course. For that blog, I chose to write about the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) code of conduct. You can find that blog post here. In order to refrain from writing the same thing in this blog, I chose to concentrate on a different code of conduct. After Googling “code of conduct for English teachers,” I found the Code of Ethics from National Education Association (NEA).
The National Education Association is an association that includes teachers from all levels of education, “from pre-school to university graduate programs” (NEA). So this explains the lack of specificity in the two main sections of the code. The first section pertains to an educator’s involvement with students; the second section pertains to the educators involvement within the profession. In the section about the student, the NEA basically lays out that an educator should keep a student’s safety in mind at all times, should not discriminate against a student based off his/her race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, politics, etc., and should not abuse their professional relationship with the student (NEA). One interesting inclusion that I think is important is that an educator “Shall not unreasonably deny the student’s access to varying points of view” (NEA). I like that the NEA advises the educators to be fairly partial and openminded when talking about different views and not biased (within reason). I think that is important, especially in today’s political climate.
The section pertaining to an educator’s involvement within the profession covers the bases of ethics pertaining to individuals in positions of power, including statements such as an educator “shall not misrepresent his/her professional qualities” and “Shall not assist any entry into the profession of a person known to be unqualified in respect to character, education, or other relevant attribute” (NEA). I also noticed that the section concentrating on relationships with colleagues had some inclusions that weren’t talked about in the MLA’s code of ethics, such as an educator “Shall not knowingly make false or malicious statements about a colleague” (NEA). I thought this one was particularly interesting. Workplace gossip happens everywhere; this doesn’t make it right. But I thought it was intriguing that this statement was purposely placed here. Why? Well, after thinking for a bit, I figured that saying the wrong thing about a colleague who works in education could effectively get them fired from a job and blacklisted for life. Words have extreme power, as educators know, and within this statement, the NEA reminds its members of the power of words and the potential they have to hurt a person’s livelihood as well as a person’s feelings.
I thought it was interesting that the section on the profession didn’t include any thing regarding an educator’s contribution to knowledge through publishing or writing of any kind. I attribute this to the fact that the members of the NEA are teachers from various levels of education and might not be concerned with the publishing aspect of the profession.
The National Education Association (NEA). “Code of Ethics.” NEA. www.nea.org/home/30442.htm
Copyright. This is a tricky topic indeed. Last semester, our department had a required talk on copyright, so I had heard about these issues and requirements before. This was mainly to discuss what we could and could not do as far as copying books or articles for use in the classroom. But even so, I still think this is a grey-area issue. I always wondered how course packs are legal. Are we allowed to play music in a classroom while students read or write? Authorship is a huge topic in academia; copyright reflects this. However, I’m intrigued by this because with the prevalence of certain programs like Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest, authorship of a photo can become blurred. I mean, does anyone know who generates those hilarious memes, new ones appearing daily? Do they claim authorship of those? Balancing out the copyright issues in academia and the frequent photo sharing on Instagram or Pinterest—how does one do that?
On another note, I appreciated this module’s direct linking to the Creative Commons website and the encouragement to play around with the site in order to familiarize myself with the process of using an image. I didn’t get the challenge to do that at the talk that I went to. As a member of the English Department, I’m typically not required to use photos or videos or anything like that in my papers, though I’m sure I could if I wanted. However, I want to include images in my project for this class, and now, I confidently know where to find acceptable images to use and what needs to be done in order to use them. I found that helpful.
In thinking about this project, I would like to do something that would be beneficial to me as a GTA and to my students in the future. As an English major, I’ve dealt with MLA citing and format for all of my academic career. In spite of this, I still need to refer to PurdueOWL almost every time I do citing of some sort, just to be sure that I remember correctly. I am currently sympathizing for my students because these nearly all of these freshmen are going into STEM fields—fields that do not use MLA formatting—and are being required in most English classes to use MLA format. After they leave this environment, most of these students won’t ever interact with MLA again, so effectively, they’re being required to learn in for one or maybe two semesters, and that’s that. And so far, I see they’re confused on how to correctly cite and format according MLA guidelines.
As a GTA, teaching students about plagiarism is part of my job. I also think that teaching them MLA citing and formatting should be part of my job as well. Thinking back to the beginnings of my college education, I only remember instructors telling students to buy an MLA formatting guide and figure it out ourselves. Ok thanks. Very helpful. Inevitably, I’d run into a source that seemed unprecedented as far as previous citing went and would nervously try to format it myself, hoping that I wouldn’t get in trouble for doing it wrong. I don’t want my students to feel this way.
So for this project, I’m thinking about making lessons for these two concepts that I’ll divide into different days: plagiarism and correct MLA citing. By means of Google Slides and a lesson plan, I’ll compile definitions and activities to make sure my students know what academic integrity at Virginia Tech is (because they should be familiar with the institution’s definitions/do they take the time to read the Honor Code?) I will also create a MLA Citation Guide, including popular sources that students may choose to cite and go over any questions my students have on citing. In all actuality, this project will be a large PowerPoint-like presentation on plagiarism and correct citation for my students that draws from my own personal experience of not having my instructors specifically lay down what they wanted us to know as freshman entering the academic world characterized by academic integrity.
Butterworth, Natalie M. “MLA Citation.” MemeCenter. n.d., accessed 11 March 2017.
I’ve never had to deal with authorship issues before. Collaboration is definitely a thing in the Humanities and in English, but I wouldn’t say that it’s the norm. As far as I know, I will be focusing on writing my own work during the time that I am here. But is that really true? According to the TEDx Talk “Steal Like An Artist,” what I just stated was false. I can totally see how Austin Kleon gets his argument that art is theft (Kleon). I agree, for the most part. Within higher education, especially in English, faculty tell students to “enter into a conversation.” This means that if I’m looking to publish an article, I don’t blindly write about whatever I want, but I look to see what conversation is going on amongst scholars at the moment and look for ways that I can enter into this conversation. If I look at this through Austin Kleon’s lens, I’m looking at these conversations, seeing a point that I find interesting or maybe one that I don’t quite agree with, and formulating a response to this point—I’m stealing something I found interesting and building off it, making it my own (Kleon). But the idea wasn’t necessarily mine to begin with. So yes, I see how his argument can ring true. Often, I’ve felt discouraged though, like he suggests. Is there really anything new I can contribute to a conversation? Are there things to say that haven’t been said before in some way or another? It’s definitely something that people in the arts think about.
Jumping from the arts to the sciences—was the article from The Chronicle of Higher Education appalling or what? The stories about those grad students whose work was stolen from them by their advisors were quite shocking. I’m sure it’s not the norm, but the stories provoke the thought of what a person should do in that situation. What do you do? In Padma Ashokkumar’s case, she became a pariah to her whole department and had to leave without obtaining her degree because she chose to stand up for herself (Patton). She practiced academic integrity and paid for it. I’m sure the pressure in the sciences is only going to increase. What was your reaction to this article, STEM friends?
Kleon, Austin. “Steal Like an Artist.” YouTube, uploaded by TEDx Talks, 24 April 2012, link.
Patton, Stacey. “‘My Advisor Stole My Research.'” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 11 November 2012, link, accessed 28 February 2017.
Thank God for Purdue OWL. I’ve been depending on that website for MLA help since the very beginning of my journey in higher education. I still use it very often and have linked the site into my syllabus so that my own students know how valuable of a resource it truly is. Actually, as far as forming citations, Purdue OWL is the only online resources or resource, in general, that I use. As an undergraduate, I found that websites that claimed to do the citations for me always ended up screwing it up somehow, and I was left with markings on my paper telling me that I needed to recheck the formatting. I quickly learned that it was much more reliable and in, most cases, more efficient for me to do the citations on my own. Because citation methods are ALWAYS changing, at least for MLA, I can’t depend on the sites to account for that. Often times, the citation-for-you sites are not up to speed with the current citation format. For example, even the game that was linked into this week’s module, has not been corrected for the newest MLA update. I’m sure citation managers work well for many other people, yet I do think it’s important for scholars to learn how to format citations on their own.
Last semester, I was introduced to cites like Zotero and Endnote in my online Library Research class. Mendeley is my new best friend. Somehow, I had never been introduced to Mendeley. While it has a reference/citation manager feature, I still never use it, but rather use Mendeley for the simple fact that I can store, read, and annotate all of my articles for my multiple research papers in one place. It’s great.
This was all very interesting because last week in my ENGL 1106 class, I went over the Honor Code and plagiarism with my students. I began by asking why students choose to plagiarize, and the answers that popped up matched the ones that the Turnitin.com video suggested, except I didn’t consider undermotivation as a category (Yeo). I mean, in other words, laziness might be considered lack of motivation, but this reminds me that though its ultimately up to the students to resist the temptation to cheat or not to cheat, I also have a responsibility to them to do as much as I can do to motivate them to develop the skills they need to complete an assignment.
The last slide of that video offered suggestions for teachers to apply to their course calendars. Many of these suggestions were based off of process pedagogy, of which I am a big fan. When teachers focus on the process vs. the product of an assignment, I believe it makes the assignment in general much more beneficial and less overwhelming. Building in draft days or assigning things like annotated bibliographies not only serve to help the students get started on the project earlier, leaving less room for procrastination and the stress that goes along with that, but also serve as a blockade for academic dishonesty. Students will most likely have to do this work themselves as opposed to finding drafts or anno bibs online. I appreciated seeing this idea reinforced.
Within that class last week, we also examined articles from popular newspapers that shared stories of successful people being accused of plagiarism. We got to see what consequences went along with the decision of engaging in academic dishonesty. I think the interactive movie did a good job of displaying consequences as well, making it more personal. For example, in one of the scenarios, if Kim chose to report her labmate for academic dishonesty, her labmates ostracized her and she became the recipient of retaliation (The Lab). This retaliation became so bad that she ended up transferring to another lab that had a different focus, a move that set her back a year in completing her PhD. So her decision to report dishonesty ultimately ended up hurting her—the cost of integrity. Her labmate’s decision to fudge his numbers affected more than just him; it affected Kim significantly. Our actions affect other people whether whether or not we intend for them to do so. I think this is an important thing to keep in mind in academia, especially as graduate students.
Yeo, Ikram. “Turnitin Webcast—Why Students Plagiarize.” YouTube, 31 January 2013, link
The Office of Research Integrity. The Lab: Avoiding Research Misconduct. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, accessed 14 Feb 2017.
When I first arrived here at Virginia Tech this past summer, I quickly learned that the Honor Code had undergone recent reconstruction and evaluation. I heard from multiple instructors and professors that the new Honor Code was indeed an improvement. Apparently, in the past, the burden of proving academic dishonesty fell mostly upon the instructors (who had multiple other things to do obviously than reporting plagiarism and taking on the load of work to report a student). This new system delineates that burden of research and hearing cases to a board. This seems to make things easier on the instructor or the professor as well as the student. For example. the Honor Code is structured so that the terms are defined and the punishments are tiered according to the severity of the act. I think its useful that for less severe transgressions there is the Probation option of punishment. This educates the student not only in how serious academic dishonesty is, but also educates him or her in how to avoid committing the same mistake again. So, it reminds the student of the why and how, so to speak. While more severe punishments might be appropriate for certain acts, the new Honor Code’s Probation option takes into account unintentionality or carelessness on the part of the student and works to educate him or her in a less harsh and more beneficial manner, educating and rehabilitating certain students as opposed automatically expelling them every time. This is not to diminish the gravity of academic dishonesty because I do think students need to realize right away how serious a violation these types of actions are in the realm of academia —and the world for that matter.
I think the Honor Code and Constitution is communicated very well. We’re required to have links to the Honor Code in the syllabus so that the students are aware of its existence. As a graduate student, I think I was required to attend three separate talks on the Honor Code last semester alone; this makes me think that not being aware of the Honor Code is almost impossible for students here at Virginia Tech. I think its important, again, that the Code defines its terms, describing what Virginia Tech views as plagiarism, cheating, falsification, and academic sabotage, leaving little room for ignorance on the student’s part.