I recently found myself involved in the review of a school’s Academic Honesty Policy, which led me to some background reading, which (as often happens) caused me to fall down an internet rabbit hole:

First stop: NPR ED “Turnitin And The Debate Over Anti-Plagiarism Software” (August 25, 2014, Heard on All Things Considered)

Coming as I do from the IB world, this phrase in the post caught my eye:

The fact that anti-plagiarism software can’t tell the difference between accidental and intentional plagiarism is just one reason that Rebecca Moore Howard, a professor of writing and rhetoric at Syracuse University, is not a fan. Here’s another reason: “The use of a plagiarism-detecting service implicitly positions teachers and students in an adversarial position,” Howard says.  Howard argues it’s policing without probable cause. “The students have to prove themselves innocent before their work can be read and graded,” she says.

My next stop, a search for “academic honesty” on John Royce’s excellent blog Honestly, honesly… and his 30 July 2016 post, Smoke and mirrors. Royce begins,

Technological solutionism” – a term coined by Evgeny Morozov – offers us solutions to problems we often do not know we have. Some might feel that it sometimes creates new problems, too often without solving the problems it is designed to solve. So often and too often, it fails to do what it says on the tin…

He is writing about the new Researcher and Editor in Microsoft’s Word 2016, but his thoughts provide light for my thoughts on technological solutions to plagiarism…

Trying to stick with plagiarism and academic honesty, my next stop is the always useful intro to the plagiarism page on Wikipedia:

Plagiarism is the “wrongful appropriation” and “stealing and publication” of another author‘s “language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions” and the representation of them as one’s own original work.[1][2] The idea remains problematic with unclear definitions and unclear rules.[3][4][5] The modern concept of plagiarism as immoral and originality as an ideal emerged in Europe only in the 18th century, particularly with the Romantic movement.

Plagiarism is considered academic dishonesty and a breach of journalistic ethics. It is subject to sanctions like penalties, suspension, and even expulsion. Recently, cases of ‘extreme plagiarism’ have been identified in academia.[6]

Plagiarism is not in itself a crime, but can constitute copyright infringement. In academia and industry, it is a serious ethical offense.[7][8] Plagiarism and copyright infringement overlap to a considerable extent, but they are not equivalent concepts, and many types of plagiarism do not constitute copyright infringement, which is defined by copyright law and may be adjudicated by courts. Plagiarism is not defined or punished by law, but rather by institutions (including professional associations, educational institutions, and commercial entities, such as publishing companies). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagiarism

Time for a more in-depth look at the IB publications.

The “Principled” section of the IB Learner Profile is often quoted when exploring the concept of academic honesty: “Academic honesty is part of being “principled”, a learner profile attribute where learners strive to “act with integrity and honesty” as we question, inquire and act. ”  (available on the OCC at IB learner profile in review: Report and recommendation (April 2013), page 21). But in reality, if you read the Learner Profile  and the Approaches to Teaching and Learning materials with “academic honesty” in the back of your mind, you may find that it all applies. An IB school’s mission is to mould its lifelong learners in to responsible thinkers.

One hopes that all IB teachers, and gradually all IB students, understand that the IB upholds principles of academic honesty, which are seen as a set of values and skills that promote personal integrity and good practice in teaching, learning and assessment.  There is an Academic Honesty Manager at the IB, Dr. Celina Garza, who writes in the March 2016 issue of IB World (p. 6) that “academic honesty is fundamental to the education of every IB student…It’s not enough to just advise our students to reference and cite work, we need teachers to be examples and role models in how to do this.”

The Conclusion of  Academic honesty in the IB educational context (August 2014, p. 24)  reads: “Students may sometimes be tempted to plagiarize work because they are unable to cope with the task that has been set for them. They may recognize content that is relevant but may not be able to paraphrase or summarize, for example. To promote the development of conceptual understanding in students, teachers must take responsibility to set meaningful tasks that can be completed either independently or with the appropriate amount of scaffolding. Making the process of inquiry visible should be integral to all teaching and learning in IB programmes.”

So how does this all come together?  What are my questions as I hit the bottom of my Internet rabbit hole?

Why is the use of software like Turitin not un-common in IB schools? Is it to help students hone their academic honesty skills?  (Look again at the NPR post.) Is it to catch those who haven’t quite mastered the Learner Profile and Approaches to Learning?  Is it to spot holes in the curriculum where honesty and citation, etc., were not emphasized strongly enough? Have students and teachers been supported enough in their use of anti-plagiarism and citation software and web sites? (Look again at John Royce’s blog.) Are students able to complete the tasks set in meaningful and honest ways? (Look at Dr. Garza’s work again) Has the murky area of copyright and intellectual property been elucidated for teachers and students?(Look again at the Wikipedia page.) Do teachers have an understanding of how the copyright laws of the country in which their school is located, and how they may or may not support the principles of the IB? (Check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright) and does that matter, anyway – is the IB’s concept of academic honesty a legal issue, or a moral one? How do we compare the two in our teaching? Does your school’s Academic Honesty Policy reflect IB Policies, and the school’s Mission Statement? What is the Best Fit for your school?



Academic honesty in the IB educational context (August 2014) can be found at http://www.ibo.org/globalassets/digital-tookit/brochures/academic-honesty-ib-en.pdf