Monday, December 13, 2010

semester round-up.

i've had more cases of plagiarism this semester than i have EVER had before.  i think i failed at least 7 papers for plagiarism, and that doesn't count the assorted discussion board posts and parts of papers that i flagged but didn't wholly fail because, well, they weren't totally cut-and-paste jobs.

(you begin to get new standards when reality wants to slap you, over and over, in the face.)

on the other hand, i also had some of the most successful online students that i've ever had before. online learning strikes me, especially with writing, as one of the more prohibitively difficult things to do as a student. it's certainly not more difficult for me as an instructor, but i totally understand students who don't have the first clue as to what's going on. it's just hard. 

but these kids? they nailed it. it was impressive.

in one class, i think i had 5 As and 5 Fs.

there's the gamut, right there. they ran it.

(and i don't usually give As in 1101 classes--not because i am philosophically opposed to it, but because most of the time, students don't earn them.)

i could get all morose and woe is me about the state of our educational system when people don't understand plagiarism, despite me being all "hey! don't do it! here's what it is! don't do it!" but here's reality. people are lazy or stressed or don't have the first idea what they're doing. in some cases, they are 15 year old kids in dual enrollment classes, who probably don't have any business in a college class before they know their butt from a hole in the ground (no offense to you out there who successfully completed dual enrollment; i wish i had, and if you successfully completed it, then you are certainly not the population to whom i refer).

and here's the other reality: i'm still smarter than them.  it takes me not that long to find it and, when i can't find it but still have my suspicions, there's almost always some other reason that the paper is terrible. either way, i'm justified in grading as i'd like and i feel okay about that. 

here's one more bracing deal for you: we as teachers in the humanities just need to cope.  instead of railing against the heavens, our fists outstretched and a pressing sense of dread for the fate of humanity as our mantle, we need to cope with the fact that students get the majority of their information on the internet, see the internet as the bastion of all knowledge, and don't understand the first idea about source material and how to use it because nobody's teaching them.

so either we teach them or scare them straight or we do both.

my plan, for next semester, is to do both. 

i find a stiff dose of reality, which comes in a 0 on a paper, tends to do that. 

but i think it's time that we realize that students are writing papers on their phones.  they are writing papers on iPads, and they are not spending time in libraries and reading books to do so.  if they can get it electronically, they will use it electronically, and MLA be darned. 

i don't know what exactly i'm getting at, except that i think there's the ideal academic utopia and then there's the reality that we live in. we have responsibilities to our reality, and sometimes that's the only influence we have.  for example, one of the institutions that i am employed by doesn't have a plagiarism punishment policy. i feel ambivalent about it--i don't like honor courts, don't think they really do anything, and try to avoid them as much as possible--but i think that's an indication that plagiarism, as a whole, is something that can be dealt with in a multitude of ways and with a multitude of strategies, all of which (i hope) have the intent of getting the student where they need to be.

on the whole, a successful semester in the sense that i learned a lot and i think my students did too. i'm not sure every semester goes like that. i will say that i've had more push and pull from students this semester than i have in previous semesters, but i've also found myself adapting differently than i would have before. that's very helpful, because sometimes you can't just be hard line. sometimes you have to give people second and third chances, because they deserve them, and because they've proven that their goal is to learn, not to just get a grade.

and then there are the students who email you after you have sent the email that says "grades are final--don't ask for more latitude" and begs you to give him the 13 or so points that it takes for him to squeak by with a C, singing you a song about having taken the class already and needing it SOBADLY.  and you feel badly, because you gave other people chances, but don't feel inclined to do it for him. and then you realize that he hasn't turned in two assignments (which would have put him well over the top) or taken advantage of the extra credit opportunity (again, 20 points for free) or asked a single question about the papers despite repeatedly getting feedback that he wasn't meeting the goals of the assignment (ie. not following directions).

those ones? those ones you write diplomatic emails to that basically say "waiting until the last minute and begging are the not the way to success" and call it a day.

but now i'm without things to do and my husband is playing Mario and i'm bored and so i blogged for one thousand years. downshifting abruptly is jarring.

(ps to the powers that be at multiple institutions of learning: if someone would just throw me an extra class for the spring, i would have a lot less stress. right now i have 4, but i need just one more. i just need one more.  i know we'll be fine, but goodness.  sometimes faith is exhausting. wonderful, and peaceful, but sometimes exercising it is exhausting.)

1 comment:

  1. I was going to ask how many classes you're teaching in the spring, but you already answered. :)

    This is very smart: "there's the ideal academic utopia and then there's the reality that we live in." I think part of the problem is that the shift from book to online knowledge has happened SO FAST. When I was in college (late 90s), the majority of research happened in the flesh. Now it's basically a decade later and everything has changed. We need a new academic utopia that imagines what "ideal" learning in this new age would look like. Because the scholar slaving alone at the study table, surrounded by towers of books? Those days are done.

    OH, and teaching academic integrity in this new era? Yeah, MLA really needs to sit down and figure that one out.