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? 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? Plagiarism is a valid concern among the students of public schools, high school, college and universities of the United States. Maintaining academic integrity is imperative for all educators and institutions. It is important to ensure that each student’s efforts are fairly and accurately recognized to motivate and engage them to continue learning. With Kritik’s peer assessment platform, work is submitted and then it is evaluated by a peer group that are a group of students of the same class. This type of social interaction is known to bring about improvement in student learning.

So the question arises that 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 and gives a peer cheating result. If the system detects that a duplicate or copied working papers or the assignment are being uploaded, our teams are notified. We will personally reach out to that student’s instructor from information in the administrative data and notify them of our findings to limit the individual cheating behavior. This approach ensures that students in one class do not observe academic dishonesty and copy each other's assignments, and is complete with minimal work on the part of the educator.

Stanard and Bowers (1970) found cheating higher among members of a fraternity or sorority, and Bowers (1964) found cheating higher among intercollegiate athletes. McCabe and Trevino (1993) found that the perception others were cheating was the major contributing factor to own academic cheating.

Student policing as a Plagiarism Checker

When Professor Alex Gainer, of the University of Alberta, used Kritik to review of economics class to help his 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 predictor when it comes to preventing cheating or evaluating individual cheating behavior, 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 peer group will flag the concern to be dealt with immediately to ensure better future academic outcomes” 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. 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 a drive to get academic achievements. 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. When the coefficients of educational peer effects were studied, most imply quite large classroom peer effects.

Using self-reported academic cheating from the classes of 1959 through 2002 at the three major United States military service academies (Air Force, Army, and Navy), we measure how peer cheating influences individual cheating behavior. We find higher levels of peer cheating result in a substantially increased probability that an individual will cheat. The social multiplier for academic cheating is approximately three.

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. 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.

2. 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.

3. Teach media literacy

Ensuring college 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.

‍Measuring Peer influence:

Peer influence on individual behavior must begin with a careful identification of the cause. There are three types of peer influence (Manski 1993) 1) exogenous effects 2) endogenous effects 3) correlated effects. Endogenous as the name states, is an effect on the student's self from his own behavior.

Measuring peer influence is challenging. It is difficult to separate individual and the group effects on each other (Vigdor and Nechyba). Due to difficulties in measuring peer influence, there is a relatively small body of direct credible evidence of peer effects (see Sacerdote 2001; Zimmerman 2003) Stinebrickner 2006; Hoxby and Weingarth 2006).

Estimation of Peer Effects:

Peer effects also have been the focus in explaining the variation in crime rates across cities (Glaeser, Sacerdote, and Scheinkman 2003) or juvenile correctional facilities (Bayer, Pintoff, and Pozen 2005) and academic achievement across classrooms and schools (Graham 2006; Hanushek, et al. 2003; Hoxby and Weingarth 2006; Lefgren 2004).  One additional college cheater high school drives approximately 0.33 to 0.47 additional college students to cheat.

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

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