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Saudis and plagiarism-- need input...

 
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Noelle



Joined: 26 Mar 2005
Posts: 296
Location: USA

PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2011 1:01 am    Post subject: Saudis and plagiarism-- need input... Reply with quote

Hi all

I teach in a university prep program here in the U.S. and a HUGE number of my students are Saudis. They are here on scholarship-- maybe some of you are familiar with it-- it's offered for something like 5 years and the students are taking Intensive Academic programs as they plan to apply for undergrad or grad universities here.

Anyhow, I teach a pretty difficult class called University Study Skills and Academic Preparation which is an elective intensive course for students already accepted into an American university. They are going to be doing research papers over the next 10 weeks. Today, I received my first fully plagiarized assignment from a male Saudi student and while I wasn't at all surprised, I do wonder what the attitude toward plagiarism is among these people.

I've had a lot of experience with students who plagiarize; it is a big problem in Asian countries. They don't see any sort of ethical dilemma involved and can't understand why it is not acceptable. Is this going to be the same song and dance with Arab students now?

I teach Europeans and Latin Americans here too. They get it. I've never come across a plagiarized assignment from any of them and to my knowledge, neither have my colleagues.

The assignment I am referring to now is extremely simple and did not require any kind of research. The student simply disregarded my instructions, went online, copied and pasted sections of an article and handed it in. I found it immediately and stapled it to his work. He is not going to be a happy camper tomorrow when I return it to him with a F on the top. Our program is pretty strict and we have a zero tolerance policy for plagiarism.

Input here would be greatly appreciated. I want to know if this is something I should expect from the Saudis. I already expect it from many Korean and Chinese students as I've lived and taught in both both countries.
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9494
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2011 1:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I taught on a similar programme for Saudis in the Netherlands and plagiarism was an occasional problem - but not so pervasive as with our few Asian students. We were able to communicate clearly that it's NOT ALLOWED, and they get it - but it took one or two incidents such as the one you describe.

You're doing the right thing (as you know) by slamming this immediately. Word will spread. Now that's a characteristic of Saudi students - they do collaborate with each other when in foreign contexts - and in this situation, it's a good thing!

On another note, there were always a few of our many Dutch and German students who also tried the plagiarism route - not all Europeans 'get it' inherently!! Every year there was a 'team paper' or two, and the plagiarism software we use caught a few efforts from online sources. Those students faced very severe consequences, up to losing their place at the university. Don't give Europeans the benefit of the doubt in every case - though you are correct that they are less likely to try it, and there are cultural/societal strictures in place that frown upon it.
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12739
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2011 2:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

On the other hand, when you catch someone plagiarizing, it's a great opening to teach paraphrasing. Laughing

Regards,
John

P.S. I caught three Latin American students just this session. They'd had to compare and contrast two sports /hobbies, and one of them actually cut and pasted George Carlin's well-known bit:

http://www.baseball-almanac.com/humor7.shtml

Regards,
John
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16064
Location: USA

PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2011 2:54 am    Post subject: Re: Saudis and plagiarism-- need input... Reply with quote

Noelle wrote:
Is this going to be the same song and dance with Arab students now?

Short answer... yes. Laughing

I'll have to take your word on the Asian students, but Arabs too can't understand our obsession with this issue. They rather have the attitude of... well how could I say it better than the experts? Like John says, the key is that you need to teach them how to avoid it because they likely have no idea. Also like Asians, beware of publicly embarrassing any of them about this.

My favorite plagiarism is from a friend's Comp class in Oman. It was on writing a term paper and practically the whole semester was on how to NOT plagiarize. Yet, one of his students handed in a paper printed directly from the internet. And to help him, it included the website address on every page.

She swore to the end that it wasn't plagiarized... took it all the way to the Dean, of course. He was an American educated Omani... and he said... fail her.

VS
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fladude



Joined: 02 Feb 2009
Posts: 432

PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2011 6:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kind of a sad plagiarism story, I teach a special education (ESE) course for low level readers (which I am not trained for and should not have been assigned to). One of the kids always plagiarizes his assignments. Since he can not read or write beyond a handful of words, it is always obvious that he has copied and pasted off the internet. Also since he can't read or write he often copies and pastes things like adds or just bits and pieces of a story. The kid is so low level though that I don't do anything about it. I'm not trained to deal with this and shouldn't even be in a class like this (as a teacher). I feel really bad for the kid. His entire family died at a young age and he basically lives being passed around by relatives. I just kind of smile about it. I mean I know its plagiarism, but still at least the dude did something. He showed some initiative right....

I would not feel the same towards Saudis though....
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mashkif



Joined: 17 Aug 2010
Posts: 135

PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2011 7:53 am    Post subject: Re: Saudis and plagiarism-- need input... Reply with quote

veiledsentiments wrote:
Noelle wrote:
Is this going to be the same song and dance with Arab students now?

Short answer... yes. Laughing

I'll have to take your word on the Asian students, but Arabs too can't understand our obsession with this issue. They rather have the attitude of... well how could I say it better than the experts? Like John says, the key is that you need to teach them how to avoid it because they likely have no idea. Also like Asians, beware of publicly embarrassing any of them about this.VS





Except they're in America now where we do speak publicly about mistakes someone makes. If they can't handle it they should not have come here.
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9494
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2011 8:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wouldn't say openly in the classroom who committed the crime, even in the West, regardless of the nationality of the student(s). Worst case, I might say 'someone' has done this and so it's a good opportunity for us to discuss how seriously plaigairism is viewed in this institution....

But that's my point about the Saudi students abroad - they will tell each other. I'd wager that before your next class break, every Saudi student in the class and possibly in the whole institition will know that someone got caught and penalised.
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9494
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2011 8:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Since he can not read or write beyond a handful of words, it is always obvious that he has copied and pasted off the internet. Also since he can't read or write he often copies and pastes things like adds or just bits and pieces of a story. The kid is so low level though that I don't do anything about it. I'm not trained to deal with this and shouldn't even be in a class like this (as a teacher). I feel really bad for the kid. His entire family died at a young age and he basically lives being passed around by relatives. I just kind of smile about it. I mean I know its plagiarism, but still at least the dude did something. He showed some initiative right....



Very sad indeed! You have to give him some points if his plagiarised bits are even on topic, in such a case. I can't see how to avoid this at all - if you insist that they write in class, no research is possible, and that's a useful element of writing development. And this kid would just be further embarassed and demoralised. I can't see what else you can possibly do, other than to write clearly on his report card or whatever that, in spite of his not possessing the skills to complete the assignments, he has shown the iniative to make an effort and to be on task.
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Noelle



Joined: 26 Mar 2005
Posts: 296
Location: USA

PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2011 2:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the quick responses here from everyone.

I do know better than to generalize and assert that Latin American and European students won't do this. But the fact is, in our program, they WON'T. This is a pretty sought after university language program in California and prior to registration, students are told of the consequences of plagiarism. Plagiarism = academic probation= a higher GPA requirement, which if not accomplished= expulsion= loss of visa/deportation.

What's discouraging is that of all the groups represented, the Europeans seem to be the least motivated and dedicated, especially compared to the Asian and Arab students. But they are the ones who adhere to the policy on cheating/plagiarism.

So I can only conclude that the pressure on these other students is so much that they ... 1. feel the need to cheat in order to succeed and honestly don't realize they'll be caught ... OR 2. are here because their families are forcing them to be here and they could care less about the rules.

With the Saudis in our program, they are all on scholarship and their program is intense. They struggle with writing like no students I've ever encountered and the concept of academic honesty appears to be as foreign to them as it is to the scores of Asians I've taught and currently teach.

This particular student I've mentioned in my original post is already on academic probation and so it's a mystery to me why/how he's been accepted in a university here since they require a letter of recommendation from us. Perhaps he got in before his status changed to probation.

In any case, if he is already on probation and has plagiarized, the consequences are more serious than they would be for other students. In other words, he could potentially lose everything. I'm not sure I want to be a part of that. And I'm also not sure that mentioning the incident in class is a good idea (as already mentioned, Saudi's are also big on saving face I'm guessing, especially men).

I have to admit though, I'm thinking it could be very effective for the other students in the class. If I were to put a section of the plagiarized article on the overhead and show the original source-- then lead into an lecture on plagiarism... we'll see...

I'll be back!
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9494
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2011 3:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I have to admit though, I'm thinking it could be very effective for the other students in the class. If I were to put a section of the plagiarized article on the overhead and show the original source-- then lead into an lecture on plagiarism... we'll see...


We do exactly this, again without mentioning the names, of course. It's a great illustration of what is and isn't acceptable. I am usually armed with reports of consequences of plagiarism in advance, as a 'reading' exercise. And, as Johnslat has pointed out, a perfect 'in' for a discussion of paraphrasing.

We also have a probation system, for unprofessional behaviour. Being late, failing to complete homework assignments, and other infractions can lead to visa loss. It's fairly effective, but honestly some of them simply aren't cut out for the job. Our 'failures' generally wind up in Warsaw - and they thought living in the Netherlands was tough!!
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12739
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2011 4:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I usually attach the web site(s) on another sheet when I hand the paper back. Then I have a little private talk with the individual, followed by a general discussion of plagiarism and the possible consequences.

I'm teaching these Latin American students at a fairly prestigious institution here: The Santa Fe University of Art and Design

http://www.santafeuniversity.edu/

They pay big bucks to attend. On the plus side, I haven't had any instances of plagiarism since those three that I caught (at least, I'm pretty sure I haven't Very Happy)

Regards,
John
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Bebsi



Joined: 07 Feb 2005
Posts: 958

PostPosted: Sat Apr 16, 2011 11:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I can't see how to avoid this at all - if you insist that they write in class, no research is possible, and that's a useful element of writing development.


I would argue that a great deal of plagiarism can be avoided by making them work in class, especially lower-level students.

Research is an important skill, but not the only one, and is really most relevant with mid and upper level writing students. At the lower levels, when teaching basic skills, e.g paragraph writing, it is indeed much better to give them assignments in class, where they can be closely monitored and supervised. Such assignments are short, by definition, and some can easily be completed in a few minutes.

These skills & assignments can easily include paraphrasing. Give them a sentence or short paragraph to rewrite in their own words. I've used this strategy very successfully with Saudi students in the past and, in fact, it makes them much less prone to plagiarizing.

By the time they start writing longer assignments outside of class - necessary of course when research is one of the skills being practiced and assessed - they are far more likely to avoid plagiarism if they have been taught other, more basic skills first.

On the other hand, starting to teach a lower-level writing group whose skills are, obviously, weak anyway, and immediately assigning longer exercises outside class (a mistake I have seen many writing teachers make over the years), then yes, they will of course take the easy way out.

Plagiarism is not confined to Saudi and Asian students, of course, but they are definitely more prone to it. This has, I believe, much to do with the learning philosophies on which their systems are based. European students come from a background where education is seen as a process of learning how to analyse and express oneself. Middle Eastern and Asian systems, on the other hand, tend be based more on the perception of education as the acquisition of information. In that light, plagiarism would be much more likely to be seen by the student as an acceptable learning and assessment device.

That being said, I have never condoned plagiarism, and whenever a student hands in a plagiarized work, I simply return it to them politely explaining that it is not at all acceptable, and why. Usually, their next effort is a much more genuine one...albeit with lots of errors!

The extent of evil in plagiarism relates largely to the purpose of the exercise.
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16064
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sat Apr 16, 2011 1:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ms Noelle and I have been PMing about this and the problem is that this student is already in a program in the US and has been placed in a class - for various reasons - that is not EFL/ESL remedial writing, but a standard first year Comp research course. When you are teaching such a course in the Gulf, you can target it to shared issues. The reality is that this guy shouldn't be in the course as he will never be able to pass without extensive tutoring... something a teacher shouldn't have to deal with at this level.

There are lots of details in a situation like this... scholarships and both governments rules for students... not to mention university pressures. I guess we have made Noelle aware that this is a problem that is too big to cure in a one semester content level course. This fellow likely requires a semester or two of intensive remedial writing plus basic research.

VS
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Bebsi



Joined: 07 Feb 2005
Posts: 958

PostPosted: Sat Apr 16, 2011 1:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ahhh, OK.

That does indeed put thins in a different perspective. If it's a Comp Research course, well then obviously the student has to work outside of class. It does create quite a dilemma, doesn't it!

I won't ask why he is in that group, but I can hazard a few guesses as to possible reasons!
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