Achievement Profile: David Nunan
Jo Gusman on Raising Literacy Skills in Elementary ESL
Multiple Perspectives on Plagiarism?
Grandma's Tortillas: Book Review
/ Index /
/ Letters /
/ Search /
Beyond Good and Evil?
Teaching About Plagiarism Should Reflect Modern Contexts
Recently on the TESL-L listserv there was a very heated series
of exchanges regarding the teaching of plagiarism principles to
ESL/EFL students. Charles Nelson, of Kean University, in Union, New Jersey, posted the following perspective
on the issue, and has graciously allowed ESL MiniConference to
reprint his comments.
Some of the postings on plagiarism have treated it as a moral issue
instead of as a cultural norm, a perspective that in the age of
Internet "public domainness" can diminish the credibility of and
respect for the teacher, especially when doing so contradicts the every
day life experiences of our students, not to mention their awareness of
teachers' borrowing activities from other teachers without giving them
credit or, as it has been noted, photocopying copyrighted material.
To earn respect, we can model the learning behavior we want our
students to acquire. One such behavior is that of examining biases.
Rather than treating plagiarism simply as a question of morality, we
might compare and contrast the warrants and values that accompany an
individualistic approach to authorship to those of other perspectives,
for instance, a social constructionist perspective, in which ideas are
created socially and collectively, thus eliminating individual
ownership of ideas.
Another writing behavior to model is exploring the complexity of
issues, such as the situatedness of plagiarism. University presidents,
politicians, and others regularly present speeches written by others
without giving them credit. Academics have been known to self-
plagiarize and use, without citing, words they've published earlier in
a source that they do not own the copyright to. And
everyone "plagiarizes" after new ideas have become common knowledge.
Rather than laying down the law of plagiarism, the spirit of learning
might create an activity in which students analyze which situations of
using others' words and ideas are designated plagiarism, which aren't,
which are borderline, and to infer the cultural norms governing these
Story by Charles Nelson, Kean University, NEW JERSEY
2003 ESL MiniConference Online