By Caroline Jones and Gill Mills
Report of an SRHE Professional Development Programme Event held in January 2018
This event was relevant and current for all who work in and across HE. Plagiarism is a contentious and serious matter for students in higher education and a challenge for staff; it made the ‘Preventing Plagiarism’ professional development programme both intriguing and attractive. We all want to know how to ensure our students never fall into the trap of attempting to pass off the work of others as their own. However many times we point students in the direction of institutional regulations and talk about ‘plagiarism’ and ‘misconduct’ there are still frequent cases. Sadly, plagiarism is becoming more accessible to students, owing to the perils of essay mills, contract cheating and now even spy kits. Institutional policies are rightly steeped in procedural routes and punishments can be severe, with misconduct panel meetings, outcomes logged on a student’s record, and even expulsion from the institution. Both staff and students report that these processes are stressful, severe and unpleasant experiences. In a bid to make changes Nicole Brown from the UCL Institute of Education has designed preventative training sessions for her international students.
With her expertise and experience, Nicole delivered an insightful, interesting and practical session encompassing an early interventionist approach to preventing plagiarism through education. These early intervention approaches had been tried and tested and the statistics stacked up in her institution on the benefits of delivering regular ‘Preventing Plagiarism’ training events for students. She further reported that her evidence-based method reduced the level and need for misconduct panels on plagiarism. Nicole was reluctant to claim to ‘know all the answers’ but she did provide generous scope for thought as she talked and walked programme participants through her student training sessions, explaining the rationale for every step along the way.
Useful practical resources were provided, with techniques being shared on how to help students discuss, debate and understand the meaning of both intentional and unintentional plagiarism through a ‘key terms matching’ activity. Examples of plagiarism on Turnitin were shared, creating the opportunity to debate and examine the identification of plagiarism, and the institutional procedural routes most appropriate for differing scenarios. Case studies gave real examples of plagiarism and its consequences and participants could contribute examples from their own experience.
We explored the shift in academic procedural language, with Nicole explaining that current thinking now aims to move away from the term ‘plagiarism’ towards language emphasising ‘the fostering of academic integrity’. This created further analysis in terms of students’ ability to understand these shifts in terms and language.
This was another fascinating, relevant and proactive professional development event from SRHE. We left feeling empowered, more knowledgeable, armed with resources and ideas for the development of early intervention ‘plagiarism’ educational approaches and practices. Open dialogue across attending institutions enabled interesting and informative debates on the topic of preventing plagiarism. Thanks to SRHE for hosting an excellent professional development event and we look forward to reviewing the network events calendar to seek further opportunities to improve our knowledge of the higher education sector.
Preventing Plagiarism resources can be accessed via http://www.srhe.ac.uk/events/pastevents/details/?eid=317 or from Nicole’s website http://www.nicole-brown.co.uk/
Gill Mills is Course Leader for the BSc(Hons) Health and Social Care/Foundation Degree in Health and Social Care and Caroline Jones is Lecturer in Health and Social Care at University Campus, Oldham, which supports their SRHE membership.