On Being a Librarian

Trends, Achievements, and Perspectives

Rates of Plagiarism

Incidents of plagiarism at the college where I work are dropping.
It is true.
True, at least, in the experience of several instructors.

Over the past semester, I have facilitated active-learning Information Literacy Skills Development (ILSD) sessions within several courses.  Many of the instructors involved have noticed a significant decline in the number of plagiarized passages in assignments, research papers, and essays.

My conversations with instructors are couched loosely in inductive research methodology.

Over twenty instructors have requested library and information literacy support for their students since September 2014. There are many options to deliver information literacy support. For example, support can be provided through the introduction of an information literacy component into an assignment.  Some instructors choose to embed information literacy into the course, requiring students to consult with me individually on resource selection, maintaining academic integrity, and avoiding plagiarism.  All of this is graded as part of the student participation mark. Other instructors request support within the classroom, inviting me in to lead the learning experience.

After reviewing the various customizable and scalable instructional and learning options available, most faculty request two ILSD sessions, though several have requested a longer series. One session focuses on the specifics of research strategies and targeted resources to meet the information needs of a particular assignment.  The second session is dedicated to academic behaviour and avoiding plagiarism.  The sessions are either co-taught or led by myself or the instructor, with the support of the other. All sessions include at least one hands-on exploration of new strategies or resources, as well as a peer-to-peer demonstration.  Each session aligns with the learning outcomes established for the assignment and the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education.  The assessment takes place in the final few minutes of the class using a highly regarded online tool, ILAAP.

During these ILSD sessions, students develop a suite of information literacy competencies, as stated in the learning objectives for the session.   Instructors with whom I have spoken believe that students practice these newly minted skills, writing correctly attributed and referenced work.

Acts of plagiarism persist; however, faculty with whom I have worked to develop targeted, multi-pack information literacy sessions, have noted that those students who have not credited their sources, were also those students who did not attend any ILSD sessions.

That is telling.  However, I am keenly aware that to understand truly this identified change in student behaviour, a robust and relevant study will have to be conducted.

That is my aim – to research student information-seeking behaviour in the context of developing information literacy skills in a two-year university preparation program. Recent studies have followed a cohort through 4-year undergraduate programs; however, I have not found any studies based on following a two-year cohort. The conversation has begun within my community of practice and with my professional librarianship mentor on best practices, next best steps, and possible funding.

Of the more than 125 faculty at this college, few can find time in their courses to insert a guest lecturer or a session with support faculty.  For those instructors, I have Citation Expectations Imagecreated a customizable form which they may use for both their online courses and face-to-face sessions.   The form, Citation Expectations, is pre-populated to indicate the documentation required by the course.  The form also includes a section where students indicate whether or not they have accessed college-provided writing and citation support, or have thoroughly proof-read their work.  Students initial and date the form, signaling that they have understood and completed each requirement. Students then submit the completed form with their assignment, research paper, or essay. Instructors then send me a copy for my files.  I am keen to see what aspects of citation and plagiarism-avoidance instructors highlight and prioritize.

It is always challenging to provide online students with the same quality of learning experience available in the classroom.  One instructor confided in me that they have noted that online students achieve marks approximately 8 – 10% lower than face-to-face students.   To help support the online students, I have created an online quiz question bank for faculty to use.  Perhaps I will have some insight into how that support tool is used in my next post.

Oh, this is exciting.

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