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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ending with a little plagiarism...

I spent a fair amount of time with William today, going back and forth about what to do with a student whose paper turned up clean in Turnitin.com but who had very clearly not done her own work. He suggested a vocabulary quiz, but the problem was more profound than just whether she knew certain words; I wanted to challenge whether she knew the ideas. So, after running it through my own brain and his several times, I compromised: I wrote up a little quiz:



"Before I talk to you about revision, I’m going to ask you to write out the ideas that you expressed in your paper, and especially to explain your thoughts on the following:

"What is a metaphysical construct, and which constructs do you see in these poems? According to the poems, how can the metaphysical be obtained?

"How do you see the poems addressing tangible versus intangible concepts of love?

"When you say an idea remains static, what does that suggest?

"What are the ideas about temporality that you see in the poems?

"When you say that Marvell demonstrates love’s 'individuation from reality,' what do you mean and how does that connect to your overall thesis?

"Of course I understand that what you write in class will be more rough and less well developed than what you can write at home. I simply want to see your core-level thinking about these points."

To no one's surprise, she bombed the quiz--even though she was looking at her paper for at least part of it (on her phone, while I was talking to students who need to withdraw from the class). After class I said, "Yeah, this is what I thought: this isn't your paper." She told me that her boyfriend "helped" her, that the ideas were hers but he helped her with the wording. I didn't bother to challenge her on that, but I did say that what she'd turned in was more his work than hers (which is technically true, as it was entirely his)--and therefore, she'd plagiarized, and she'd get a zero on the paper. I was pretty forgiving about it: I did tell her that many would simply fail her for the class on the spot, but I told her I'd accept the next version, as long as it's really hers. I also said that if she submits any more of her boyfriend's work, he may get an A+, but she'll fail. She laughed--but I think she also gets it.

This is the student I was concerned about with the first paper, but I had told her she could rewrite the final version of that one--but I've now rescinded that offer. The final version of that paper stays as it was (I didn't record a grade--because I couldn't read it--but my guess is she won't pass the class in any event. She failed 102 once before, and I think this is because she's about reached as high as she can go for now. I don't know what her brain might ultimately be able to do, but at this moment, she doesn't have what it takes to think or write at this level. We'll see how she does.

I almost got out of the day clean, too: I very nearly got everything marked and back to students so all I'd have for Monday would be the logs from Nature in Lit (and I knew I wouldn't get logs from everyone--so I told them they could hang on to the logs until Tuesday). But no, there are still some random bits flopping about on the floor that I need to clean up. And I have to read a bunch of applications for full-time positions, in the wild hope that we'll actually have lines to replace faculty who are retiring, plus write up this week's observation, do another observation on Monday, and the usual work tribbles. (I hope everyone gets the reference. If not, the problem is frame of cultural reference, not generation: even my youngest nephew knows what tribbles are.)

I've reached the time of day and week when I am torn between the desire to keep running on fumes long enough to make it to dance class and the urge to simply strap on the feedbag before lolling on the couch with all higher functioning mental systems off line. I hope to put work pretty much entirely out of my head until Monday, no matter what I do. So, until then....

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