While marking a student’s NCEA assessment, the teacher discovered most paragraphs are copied and pasted directly from a range of websites. No citations are provided. Students were informed that work submitted must be their own. At the time the work was submitted, the student signed an authenticity statement. When the teacher notified the student about the plagiarism, they responded they were “taught to write that way” (i.e. by copying and pasting from the net) from their parent, who “did it all the time at work.”
An obligation to act.
NZQA expects schools with authority to assess to maintain integrity of assessments. Plagiarism is unacceptable. If the teacher ignores the e-plagiarism and it is discovered (i.e. through moderation), they risk losing authority to assess. Also, their credibility and reputation might be damaged.
How might school policy and The Code of Professional Responsibility inform appropriate action?
The school’s policy on plagiarism states, “Intentional efforts to pass another author’s work as your own is dishonest,” and, “Plagiarism will be subjected to disciplinary action.” Policy requires informing the overseeing SLT member.
4.1 of the code requires the teacher to protect the student’s right to privacy when dealing with e-plagiarism issue. If knowledge of the student’s plagiarism became public they could lose face with peers and teachers or be labelled a cheat.
2.1 of the code states teachers are obliged to protect students from harm. If the teacher did nothing and the student continued e-plagiarising, this could lead to unwelcome consequences in future, such as, legal action.
In accordance with NZQA policy and code, the teacher should maintain that e-plagiarism is ethically unacceptable. Yet, the scenario is ethically complicated by the parent’s influence on the student’s moral perception of e-plagiarism. By maintaining the approach that e-plagiarism is unacceptable, the teacher risks breaching 2.1 (the very article they’re trying to uphold) by undermining the trust the student has in their parent. The teacher must not place an emotionally important relationship for the student’s well-being under strain. Reconciling the tension between these obligations requires careful consideration.
Additionally, Article 3 of the code requires building professional and respectful relationship with parents. The parent might feel humiliated by any attempt to address their said condoning of e-plagiarism. The parent might even disagree with the school’s position on e-plagiarism. Lai & Weeks (2009) reported some people feel information on the net belongs to the public. Mismanaging this situation could result in the parent laying a complaint against the teacher.
Planning a way forward with the SLT member is a good idea to obtain support and safeguard the teacher. One solution might be for Teacher X to contact the parent to inform them of the student’s e-plagiarism and they will work to support the student in developing skills in citation. Making the conversation about the student’s learning, rather than focusing on the parent’s role in the scenario could help maintain a respectful relationship with the family and allow the parent to save face.
What are some proactive measures to minimise e-plagiarism?
- Revise the plagiarism policy. It could include a definition of e-plagiarism plus ways to avoid it (Lai & Wakes, 2009).
- Encourage student involvement in promoting ethical assessment practice, such as, in the creation and posting of videos about e-plagiarism on school broadcasting platforms.
- Educate students and the wider community about e-plagiarism.
- Provide an anti-plagiarism checker for students.
Education Council. (n.d). The Education Council Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers. Retrieved from https://educationcouncil.org.nz/content/our-code-our-standards
Lai, W., & Weeks, J. (2009). High school students’ understanding of e-plagiarism: Some New Zealand observations. CINZS: LTT, 21(1), 1-15.