The surprising truth about plagiarism & peer assessment

Plagiarism in Higher Ed
Plagiarism & peer assessment, is it a big threat? Learn tips on how to reduce the impact of cheating in your class.

When showcasing Kritik’s peer evaluation platform to educators, one concern we continuously hear, is the lingering threat of plagiarism; what if my students submit the same work? It’s a valid concern; maintaining academic integrity is imperative for all educators and institutions. Ensuring each student’s efforts are fairly and accurately recognized will motivate and engage them to continue learning. With Kritik’s peer assessment platform, students submit their work and then evaluate each other’s work, so how do we ensure academic integrity both in terms of the assignments being submitted and in the evaluations themselves? Well there are two approaches that collectively minimize the impact of cheating / plagiarism with peer assessment: technology & student policing.

How Kritik’s technology ensures academic integrity

When students submit their assignments onto Kritik, our system uploads & compares it to other assignments previously submitted. If the system detects that a duplicate or copied assignment is being uploaded, our teams are notified and we will personally reach out to that student’s instructor and notify them of our findings. This approach ensures that students in one class don’t copy each other's assignments, and is complete with minimal work on the part of the educator.

Student policing as a plagiarism checker

When Professor Alex Gainer, of the University of Alberta, used Kritik to help his economics students learn course concepts at a deeper level, he was surprised at how vigilant his own students were at detecting cheating among their peers. “Students get really upset when they see other students cheating; they put in the effort to produce a quality piece of work, and rightfully think it's unfair if someone else just copied something off of Google,” said Gainer of his students. “As soon as students detected cheating, they included that in their peers’ feedback and emailed me immediately.” While no system is 100% fool-proof when it comes to preventing cheating, being able to see students ensure that their class remains a beneficial learning environment, is an occurrence to applaud. “Cheating is not an issue in my class; students are highly engaged and motivated to learn, and if any occurrence of cheating should arise, either Kritik’s platform, or the other students will flag the concern to be dealt with immediately” concluded Gainer.

Why students cheat

Dr. David Rettinger of the University of Mary Washington and the executive director of Honor, Leadership, and Service, a campus organization dedicated to integrity, argues that students cheat when they don’t see the value in the work they are asked to do. [1] Assignments that assess students' memorization of course concepts rather than the application of those concepts are often not welcomed by students. Assessment that allows students to apply their learnings & receive personalized feedback on their work is what helps drive student motivation and engagement. Tools like Kritik help address the problem from the onset; promoting the use of peer assessment allows students to derive a unique value from their assignment, thus making them more motivated to complete the task without resulting in cheating.

How to reduce cheating

  1. Develop assignments that promote critical thinking

Research has shown that repetitive homework assignments that demotivate students are one of the largest culprits of cheating [2]. Instead, formulate assignments that promote critical thinking and expand on class discussions. Break apart large assignments into smaller ones like “scaffolding” major papers, to ensure students receive feedback quickly and regularly.

  1. Thoughtful language

When providing your students with feedback, ensure you balance both praise with suggestions for improvement: I really liked your discussion, however it could be improved by discussing these other items. Kritik ensures that each student's feedback is critical but motivational; students are shown and asked to present feedback that acknowledges what is correct and provide pathways for greater improvement.

  1. Teach media literacy

Ensuring students know how to accurately navigate digital media sources is imperative in reducing the risk of plagiarism. Many institutions set clear guidelines on how to accurately source content online; take a moment to ensure your students know how to gather information online correctly.

Plagiarism and cheating has and will continue to be an issue for educational institutions, however, by addressing the underlying concerns and motivations of students around cheating, we will be able to effectively reduce its prevalence and risk inside of our classrooms.

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Chris Palazzo
Marketer & Educator. Blending the two here at Kritik

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