Friday, March 24, 2006

It's worse than an "F"...it's a "G"

I’ve been enjoying my role as an undercover agent seeking to expose plagiarizers to the world. Ok maybe not the world and only my co-workers at the Centre, but I’ve felt like a spy googling to see where a few of my students got their lesson plans from. I told them it was okay to get ideas and inspiration from outside materials, including the net, but that their lesson plans must be in their own words. In order to ensure this I gave them a specific format and then asked them to evaluate their lesson in light of the theory they had learned in the class. Despite this, a few of the papers were still marked “G” for “must go home and google.” Sure enough, within seconds (ok minutes the internet here is slow) I was able to find the internet sources of what was handed in as original work.

One student handed in a “lesson plan” which looked like a powerpoint presentation. No more than six lines on a page in font size 50 or 60. Turns out the only original words in this fat packet were on the overly elaborate title page. The rest came directly from ESL About.com, the British Council, and a teacher named Susan Cavahlo from Portugal. Funny thing is I was wondering why the lesson plan was so incoherent. That’s what happens when you cut a third of it from a pronunciation lesson, a third from a speaking lesson, and another third from a talk on student motivation. Hmm and wasn’t the assignment a listening lesson?

Another one was obviously not prepared and tried to design a listening lesson the spot. Problem is she just asked people up to the front of the room and asked them to tell their favorite colors, favorite foods, and a few other favorites. She even tried calling me up but I was so shocked that she hadn’t even prepared a lesson I was busy writing notes on her observation form like, “What is going on in this lesson? Did you spend any time preparing this at home?” To no surprise, she had “forgotten” her lesson plan and asked to turn it in on the following class day. The lesson plan which was handed in is word for word from a lesson on reading Shakespearean literature and discussing the Globe Theatre. What that has to do with our favorite foods I have no idea. Do they think I don’t know how to use Google?

A third case of plagiarism was not quite as blatant, and this one was in their essay assignment not for the presentation. I may not have noticed it had the student not quoted the researcher whose paper had been presented in class, forgot to change the font so it didn’t stick out like a sore thumb, and left in phrases such as “prosodic structure” which this student obviously would not know the meaning of. Almost got away with it…well okay not really.

My favorite blunder was on an “acknowledgements” page of a lesson plan. Not acknowledgements like giving credit to the person who originally created the lesson, but like thanks to my mom and dad etc. Find the mistakes in the following:

“I would like to thank Miss.H.Michelle Walts for his commitment to convey knowledge to our class, his efforts in this regard cannot be described in words. And finally, we are forever indebted to our parents for their understanding, endless patience, encouragement and support whenever it’s required.”

If this student was trying to impress me with flowery thank you’s, having the right gender pronouns might be helpful. Does she think I’m a drag queen or something?

Several of them decided to record their own voices on audio tape, and the listening passages were completely incomprehensible to me. Others read passages laced with grammatical mistakes. The fishes story is just too good:

“Ahmed reads in class 8th. He was very fond of fishing. Once morning, he walked to the river to catch fish. By ten o’clock, he caught six fishes. He was very happy. The biggest fish weighted more than 3 kilos. On going back home, he said to his mother, ‘Mother, I have caught a very big fish.”

Anyway, despite about 7 students who plagiarized, cheated, or just don’t have sufficient English skills to take courses in English, the rest of my students are brilliant and will make excellent teachers. I’m excited for them to enter into the education scene here in Pakistan and make a big difference in employing their creativity and modern teaching methodology. I look forward to teaching these girls again, and I’m hoping to get out of the next term so I can just have the top students in next year’s program. Although, then that means my Google sleuthing days are over….and what will I do to amuse myself?

5 comments:

water0flife said...

Ok, so believe it or not, "fishes" is a word... plural for "fish," and it's in the dictionary. So your student, and the president of the U.S., are cleared from any criticism for using that word :)

fish
n. pl. fish or fish·es

1. Any of numerous cold-blooded aquatic vertebrates of the superclass Pisces, characteristically having fins, gills, and a streamlined body and including specifically:
1. Any of the class Osteichthyes, having a bony skeleton.
2. Any of the class Chondrichthyes, having a cartilaginous skeleton and including the sharks, rays, and skates.
2. The flesh of such animals used as food.
3. Any of various primitive aquatic vertebrates of the class Cyclostomata, lacking jaws and including the lampreys and hagfishes.
4. Any of various unrelated aquatic animals, such as a jellyfish, cuttlefish, or crayfish.
5. Informal. A person, especially one considered deficient in something: a poor fish.

Bill said...

Once your Google days are over you could create a website called yourecaught.com (It's worse than an "F"...it's not a "G", could it be a "P") :P

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