September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

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 was the Programs and Policy Director at the National Center for Science Education and is now the Director of the Sierra Club San Francisco Chapter.

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State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. Learn More…

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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Cal

This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

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.