March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

Battling Plagiarism in the Science Classroom

Posted: Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

by Minda Berbeco

When I was a graduate student teaching introductory biology courses, academic integrity was an issue every single semester. We’d go through what plagiarism looked like, how to avoid it, what the penalties were, and even have students submit their work through a program that searched the web and all previous submissions for similarities. And yet, year after year, we still had problems with plagiarism.

At first I was hopeful, promising an ice cream party to the class if we could avoid plagiarism in a semester. Then I became a bit of a cynic promising the ice cream party, knowing that I would never actually have to show up with an ice cream scoop. So, in this day of the Internet, where compiled information is already available and you can easily find someone on the other side of the country to finish that term paper for you, how can educators emphasize the importance of academic integrity in the sciences?

We first need to understand why it happens. Many times we chalk plagiarism or academic dishonesty up to laziness, but that is a lazy assumption to make! When it comes to the sciences, it may be more complex than simply a lazy student, but rather have everything to do with the student feeling overwhelmed, stressed out and not able to trust his or her own abilities in the subject area. What does the student do, then? They may be tempted to seek an easy way to ensure that the material is correct, and resort to plagiarism.

How can we help students avoid plagiarism? Here are a few tips:

  1. Break assignments down into smaller pieces. Rather than having a full lab report due at the end of the semester, break the report up into different sections that are written and reviewed throughout the semester.
  2. Give students the opportunity to correct mistakes. If students know that they have the opportunity to have trial and error with an assignment, they may not feel as desperate and scared about getting a wrong answer. Often more can be learned by having to go back and correct mistakes, rather than just being told that one is wrong.
  3. Tell the story of why plagiarism matters. We often tell students not to plagiarize without explaining why it matters in “the real world”. Having students read the true stories of scientists who were sanctioned, fired and ultimately discredited due to plagiarism and academic integrity issues can often be more effective than the simple lesson of a lost grade in your own classroom.

How do you handle academic integrity and plagiarism in your own classroom? Have you found techniques that work for you and your students? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Written by Minda Berbeco

Minda Berbeco

Minda Berbeco is the Programs and Policy Director at the National Center for Science Education and is CSTA’s Region 2 Director.

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LATEST POST

California Science Curriculum Framework Now Available

Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.

For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.

The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

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Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Call for Volunteers – CSTA Committees

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

Volunteer

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Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

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Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.

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Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

by Joseph Calmer

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Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.