Creativity as a Response to Plagiarism

Friday, January 6, 2012: 2:30 PM
Chicago Ballroom VIII (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Stephen Rockenbach, Virginia State University
In upper-level courses instructors are faced with the challenge of moving students from the mastery of factual knowledge to higher levels of analysis and evaluation.  In my classes, I have found that an increase in access to technology has resulted in a tendency of students to rely on factual information and not push further to higher level of understanding.  Even assignments that require students to argue a point often get met with a stale recounting of events.  Further, even dedicated students have to face the temptation of plagiarism. Although the instructor has a technological arsenal with which to deal with plagiarism, the use of creative assignments in the classroom largely prevents students from relying on encyclopedia entries or simple narratives.  Additionally, these assignments allow students to make a connection with the material and think differently than they usually would.  I have used creative methods such as first person assignments, counterfactual exercises, and course modeling with success in upper-level classes on 19th century American.

My interest in creating more innovative assignments grew out of a challenge to assign papers that would make plagiarizing or over-paraphrasing either impossible or painfully obvious.  I have concluded that student reliance on websites, such as Wikipedia, is a result of a lack of creativity and intellectual curiosity, as well as an act of academic dishonesty.  Some of the assignments that I have had success with include having students write from the perspective of a pro-slavery newspaper editor, collaborate with other students to redesign the Compromise of 1850 in order to avoid the Civil War, and a course modeling project that requires students to depict a scene from history.  These assignments all force students to go beyond the simple mastery of knowledge to apply it in a way that allows for creative decision making.