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.

Plagiarism & peer assessment: is it a big threat?

When educators research and decide which edtech tools to use in their classrooms, concerns of plagiarism linger: What if my students submit plagiarized work?

A survey conducted between 2003 to 2005 of over 63,700 US undergraduate and 9,250 graduate students revealed that:

  • 36% of undergraduate and 24% of graduate students admit to paraphrasing and copying sentences from Internet sources without properly citing them
  • 14% of undergraduate students and 7% of graduate students admit to falsifying their bibliographies
  • 7% of undergraduate and 3% of graduate students admit to turning in work that was completed by another person (McCabe, 2005)

According to Dr. David Rettinger of the University of Mary Washington, students often rationalize cheating when they are not fully engaged in the course nor see the value of what they are learning (Simmons, 2018). For example, high-stakes assignments and standardized assessments that are based on pure memorization are perceived negatively by students, which influences their engagement in the course (Simmons, 2018). The peer assessment feature on Kritik allows students to actively apply their learnings and receive more personalized feedback on their work, driving 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. In addition to using plagiarism detection tools, empowering your students to practise due diligence during the peer evaluation process will help them develop soft skills like critical thinking and assessment skills and understand the inherent value of academic integrity.

Maintaining and promoting academic integrity is imperative for all educators, and technology can help flag instances of plagiarism to take action. It is important to ensure that every student’s efforts are fairly and accurately recognized to motivate and engage them to continue learning. The peer assessment feature on Kritik encourages student engagement and social learning, as students interact and actively apply their knowledge in order to critically evaluate their peers’ work.

How can Kritik help instructors ensure academic integrity in terms of assignments being submitted and in the evaluations themselves?

Encouraging academic integrity in your class with Kritik

Plagiarism detection algorithm

Technology cannot ultimately prevent the act of cheating but can flag plagiarized work and identify plagiarizers within the classroom. Kritik aims to increase grading efficiency by automatically detecting plagiarism, allowing instructors to communicate with students about academic integrity and course expectations without needing to individually review every student’s work.

Kritik can detect plagiarism between students’ Creations by flagging students who upload duplicate submissions and plagiarized text. When students submit text creations on Kritik, the system compares the content to other assignments that were previously submitted, flags the Creators, and notifies the Kritik team. The Kritik team personally reaches out to the instructor with administrative data to limit individual cheating behaviour. This approach ensures that students in the same class do not commit academic dishonesty and copy each other’s assignments.

Instructors can also add plagiarism-detecting resources in the Evaluator’s Notes section (notes and guidance available to students when they are evaluating their peers’ works). Websites like plagiarismdetector.net will allow students to actively detect plagiarism. Encouraging students to take charge of their own learning and evaluations allows them to practise due diligence and read work critically. This would be a great opportunity to further engage with their assignment content.

Student engagement and policing

When Professor Alex Gainer from the University of Alberta used Kritik for his economics courses, he was surprised to see how vigilant his students were at detecting cheating in the classroom:

“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. As soon as students detected cheating, they included that in their peers’ feedback and emailed me immediately.”

Students are required to provide written evaluations when grading their peers’ work, giving them a chance to provide meaningful and personalized feedback related to the assignment while communicating with the professor about the plagiarized text.

While no system is 100% fool-proof for plagiarism detection, students promote academic integrity and enforce a positive learning environment when asked to evaluate their peers’ work. Identifying individual cheating behaviour ensures that the class is responsible for their own learning.


“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 peer group will flag the concern to be dealt with immediately to ensure better future academic outcomes.”

Peer influence also plays an important role in fostering a learning environment that values academic integrity. A survey about self-reported academic cheating from classes of 1959 through 2002 in the US military service academies suggests that groups of students are likely to cheat due to peer pressure to maintain social status, either due to group behaviour or associating positive status with academic performance (Simmons, 2018).

Creating assignments and rubrics to encourage due diligence

Once an instructor decides to use Kritik, our team provides resources and in-person guidance to optimize their course and tailor assignments for the peer assessment feature. There are some things educators can do to actively promote critical thinking, originality in assignments, and help students practise due diligence.

Instructional design

Instructors can design assignments that promote critical thinking and expand on class discussion. Encouraging dialogue between students and giving them the opportunity to actively apply their learning by evaluating their peers’ work will improve student motivation. For large assignments, professors can scaffold major papers to ensure that students receive quality and timely feedback at multiple stages of the essay process.

This example scaffolded activity is from Professor Lyzzie Golliher, an English professor at Old Dominion University. Implementing peer assessment in her scaffolded assignments allowed her students to participate in low-stakes assignments before submitting a final, polished version that had received multiple points of personalized feedback. Moreover, the scaffolded activities allowed her students to engage with the class and learn different perspectives while applying their understanding in their own evaluations.

Thoughtful language

Instructors can include more thoughtful language and encourage their students to provide quality feedback. Kritik’s core value is providing critical yet motivational feedback; in the final stage of the peer assessment process, students rate how critical and motivational they felt the evaluations they received were. Students are held accountable in every stage of the peer assessment process, and evaluators are encouraged to provide meaningful feedback. Acknowledging strengths and what could be improved in each assignment provides opportunities for growth in technical aspects like quality of writing and grammar, all while encouraging soft skill development like communication and critical thinking.

Teach media literacy

Offering additional resources and providing guidance for fundamental skills like digital literacy will help close learning gaps between students in modern, technological classrooms. It is important to teach college students digital literacy, including citation, reading comprehension, and application skills. Many institutions set clear guidelines on how to accurately cite online sources, but including more resources or even simply stating what citation style is required for the assignment under Activity Details will help students monumentally.

Some tips to help set expectations for assignments to discourage plagiarism and encourage original writing:

  • Clearly communicate course conduct and course expectations in the syllabus; reviewing what counts as plagiarism or setting an expectation about the quality of work will help guide students in their work (Clifford, 2012)
  • Provide resources about how to complete the assignment (e.g. Fundamentals to College Essays) or how to complete citations (e.g. APA Citation Guide). You can attach these resources in the Activity Details section when delivering your Kritik assignment
Add rubric criteria to encourage due diligence

Instructors can set guidelines about citations and originality, as well as provide direct opportunities for students to detect plagiarism, through the rubric. In the rubric, instructors can add criteria like “Originality of Thoughts” to establish competency and encourage their students to master this competency.

Professor Stan Korotchenko from Tarleton State University includes a “Plagiarism” criteria with a pass-fail.  The goal is to encourage students to create meaningful and original work and have them also critically assess others’ work. Adding this criterion also encourages students to research and cite work properly.

Adding criteria sets a clear expectation of a level of integrity while instilling trust within his students to create original work and critically evaluate these papers by actively detecting plagiarism.

Conclusion

Kritik aims to develop a pedagogical approach that empowers students and encourages active learning by providing opportunities to better apply their course knowledge and critically think, all while using technology to enhance the learning environment. Cheating and plagiarism are inevitable, but instructors can provide guidance, use technology, and create opportunities for students to create original work and detect plagiarism in order to minimize the prevalence of academic dishonesty. Addressing the underlying concerns and motivations of students around cheating will help effectively reduce its prevalence and risk in the classroom.

References

Clifford, M. (2012, October 8). 20 techniques to combat online plagiarism in Virtual Classrooms. 20 Techniques to Combat Online Plagiarism in Virtual Classrooms. Retrieved November 17, 2021, from https://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/20-techniques-to-combat-online-plagiarism-in-virtual-classrooms/

McCabe, Donald. (2005). Cheating among college and university students: A North American perspective. Int. J. Educ. Integr.. 1. 10.21913/IJEI.v1i1.14. 

Plagiarism.org. (2017, June 7). Plagiarism: Facts & stats. Plagiarism - Facts & Stats. Retrieved November 17, 2021, from https://www.plagiarism.org/article/plagiarism-facts-and-stats. 

Simmons, A. (2018, April 27). Why Students Cheat—and What to Do About It. Retrieved November 17, 2021, from https://www.edutopia.org/article/why-students-cheat-and-what-do-about-it


Carine Marette
Carine is the Co-Founder of Kritik.

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