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August 29, 2002
2:45 PM   Subscribe

Ah, that back to school feeling is in the air. More papers to plagerize, more ways to beat that test. With some evidence that cheating is on the rise, and that the Internet makes it much easier, it might be time to review alternate ways of making the grade. All credit to this Mefi member.
posted by Wulfgar! (36 comments total)

 
Yeah, I know, I'm probably gonna' hear about this one...
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:46 PM on August 29, 2002


right on wulfgar! that was way cool.
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:52 PM on August 29, 2002


And to keep form, the Obligatory Grammar Police Reference At Top Of Post:

It's plagiarize

(sorry Wulfgar, couldn't resist...)
posted by jalexei at 2:54 PM on August 29, 2002


You da man, Wuflgar.
posted by timeistight at 3:04 PM on August 29, 2002


I plagiarised like f*ck at university...allegedly.

That sort of weasel like activity is what separates us from the animals

....except the weasel.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:09 PM on August 29, 2002


To make amends and get this on track - I graduated from college in '93, and used a computer solely to type - I'd be curious to hear from the young'ins, as obviously the whole nature of research has changed so dramatically. Do people still search through what we called books when writing a paper? Do you think many of your peers cheat? A few?

Of course maybe it's not that different; people I know used to copy whole passages verbatim from books, it just took longer and was probably easier to get away with, assuming the tract you chose was obscure enough...

God I feel old...

(and Crash, that's one of my favorite Simpsons lines ever, and a great way to illustrate your point - a more complete paraphrase: "Now Marge, don't discourage the boy from weaseling out of things....it's what separates us from the animals. Well, except the weasel.")
posted by jalexei at 3:16 PM on August 29, 2002


Every single one of my professors explicitly stated that no internet sources could be used in our research. I always felt that was a little unfair since if the same information could be found by doing a web search as it could sifting through stacks of books, then why not let us do the web researching. BUT, in reflection I see my professors did me a great service because I probably slept more in libraries than I did my own bed, in college.
posted by Mushkelley at 3:20 PM on August 29, 2002


In the grand scheme of consequence, grades can make a huge difference between flippin' burgers while waiting for an opportunity and having an opportunity handed to you. If grades are misrepresented as to a persons actual abilities (because of cheating), I think that alternative methods of evaluation are absolutely necessary. I like the idea of a moderated self-evaluation. There will always be those who overstate their abilities, but its much more difficult to do when faced with one who can bring some factual evidence to bear. This will demand more from instructors, but I like the thought that my boss won't be a halfwit with great cred, unused to self awareness.

Since I still believe that the web is 75% MTV, and no one sees MTV the same way, bringing disparate viewpoints into an evaluation seems like the right thing to do.
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:24 PM on August 29, 2002


In research level schools (masters, phd etc), if you don't use the internet, you're toast. You need to keep up with timely research, which takes far longer to trickle down to libraries than it does to citeseer or related digital libraries. Speaking for the information sciences, I think as a professor I would like to ban 'paper sources' in research!
posted by neustile at 5:05 PM on August 29, 2002


1. While I think you can do "norm" grading without applying a "criterion," it isn't actually possible to do criterion grading without a norm. It's an attenuated norm, to be sure, but still a norm. The composition of a given class and its overall performance tend to affect the criterion's definition: an "A" (superlative performance exceeding the stated basic specifications) in one course may be a "B+" in another, if course #2 has a high concentration of particularly good students.

2. Peer evaluation can be useful, although students at my institution are often reluctant to tell their peers that their work may not be up to snuff. One of the problems with "grading" is that while most students can grasp grading according to rules (grammar, logic, thesis statements...), many have a hard time understanding the process of grading according to ambition, which is also an important criterion in the humanities, at least. It's possible to get an "A" on a paper that's innovative but deeply flawed, structurally or factually, for sheer intellectual courage--taking risks gets rewarded. (Hence the occasional phenomenon of comments like "I don't buy this for a second, but you certainly made a good case according to what you knew.")

3. I do have students engage in self-evaluation, which they normally loathe. It's the only sure way to get them to read my comments! Again, it's hard to push kids beyond the level of "Oh, I screwed up my punctuation." Seeing flaws in your own argument takes a lot of practice, and it can be difficult for students to de-personalize their writing. (An aside: I hate giving students back their work. While it's fun to see somebody being stunned by an "A," it's painful to see somebody else react to a "D.")

4. I also ban most of the Internet, since in my field (nineteenth-century British literature) much of what's on the 'Net is, quite frankly, dreck. There are some excellent sites, to which I direct their attention--the Victoria Research Web, for example, or the Victorian Women Writers Project--but the quality of most secondary stuff out there is really pretty low. I can see that things would be different in some of the sciences, however. In any event, part of the problem is that many students aren't taught website evaluation.

5. This semester, I've gone to electronic paper submissions after a few too many plagiarized papers last year. At least it will be easier to run the paper through Turnitin.com or something similar if I've already got an electronic copy. Plagiarism is frustrating on a number of levels: it short-circuits the evaluation process for both the student and myself (the student needs to know how s/he is progressing; I need to know if students are learning); it's usually very badly done, especially the cut-and-paste technique, and suggests that the student doesn't actually understand how to read his or her own work; it's a bloody insult to the instructor. (The ones who plagiarize from the first result they pull up on Google--I've had several do this--are the most exasperating. If it took you five seconds to find it, it will take me five seconds to find it.)
posted by thomas j wise at 5:43 PM on August 29, 2002


Here, here, thomas j wise!

I have had students give me papers that were so obviously taken from the Internet that I was actually humiliated on their behalf. If they are going to cheat, at least they should cheat smart.

School is not just about learning subjects. It is about learning skills. For example, when you write a paper, you are learning and practicing research skills, time management skills, and writing skills.

What do sites like SchoolSucks teaching them? They are teaching students that if you pay a little money, somebody else will do the work for you.

At some point in life, students are going to have to do some work themselves and if they don't know how to do it, they are (if you will pardon my expression) screwed.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:01 PM on August 29, 2002


In the year 4 D.B.C.*, my fraternity had a largish box of old term papers and tests from prior brethren. They didn't work either. It's probably natural to try to get an advantage (or at least a perceived advantage) with whatever technology or resources are at hand - but eventually, someone is going to have to do the work (or, write the paper, in my example) for the first time - and that's the person who will learn the most.

* - days before computers.
posted by yhbc at 6:30 PM on August 29, 2002


Oh, and Joey (Mr. Teacher, Mr. Teacher!) - I always thought it was "hear, hear!"

/snark
posted by yhbc at 6:31 PM on August 29, 2002


Yes. Yes that is correct. How embarrassing!

Fortunately, I teach acting, so the children are safe. For now.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:54 PM on August 29, 2002


So, does one teach acting by acting like one is teaching?

/confusion
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:11 PM on August 29, 2002


I'm a teaching assistant for a couple of different introductory biology classes, where students are required to write papers on various topics in biology. They are asked to turn in photocopies of their sources with their paper, and I've lost count of the number of papers where I've come across a suspiciously articulate paragraph, only to find that same paragraph, HIGHLIGHTED BY THE STUDENT, in one of their sources. I can't figure out if they truly don't understand what plaigarism is, or if they are total idiots, or if they think I am!
Turnitin.com can be an excellent resource for professors when students are able to use sources from the internet - i.e secondary sources, popular press. It becomes more difficult when students must use primary literature, because (at least in the field of biology) professional journals are only sparsely found for free on the internet. But then you can catch the plaigarizers by the sudden bursts of scientific jargon, when the rest of their paper was written in 5th grade english.
I definitely think that students need to be evaluated by many different measures instead of just exams, or exams and a paper. I'm all for self evaluation. One of my high school teachers used the following technique: after a standard sort of final exam, he gave us one last test question - "tell me what else you learned in this class". Asking questions like that would lead to a tremendous amount of work for the professors, but it does give the chance for students to articulate what they got in the class, and although it's not BS-proof, it's reasonably cheat-proof.
posted by naturegrrl at 7:13 PM on August 29, 2002


Here at college (the University of Georgia), the school has numerous Internet programs thats encourage people to do research on the Internet. We have nearly every item of research on a database accesible by UGA students. Which, in effect, has made the library itself useless for research. Also, with putting periodicles on the Internet, there is no effective way to know if someone is using the Internet.
On the note of cheating, I took computer science last year. We use a computer program developed by Georgia Tech that checks code to ensure no cheating (and it works quite effectively as quite a few kids got caught cheating at GT).
In the year 4 D.B.C.*, my fraternity had a largish box of old term papers and tests from prior brethren.
Funny, every fraternity I rushed loudly (and proudly) advertised having every paper for like the last 5 years any student wrote and all the tests they took were kept on file.
posted by jmd82 at 7:18 PM on August 29, 2002


Clearly, then, the boxes have gotten larger. Would they do any more good though?
posted by yhbc at 7:22 PM on August 29, 2002


I found this site in my referrer logs. Not sure why it turned up, but it did.
posted by crunchland at 8:02 PM on August 29, 2002


Our idea of education is so archaic, with such emphasis on simple regurgitation of fact (ever notice how a simple piece of paper with a few scratched pencil marks has perfect recall?), or on following the latest approved recipe for producing "a paper". And doesn't anyone think it's strange that the people who teach you are (in general) the ones evaluating you?

Get rid of grades and degrees.


The idea that the majority of students attend a university for an education independent of the degree and grades is a little hypocrisy everyone is happier not to expose. Ocasionally some students do arrive for an education but rote and the mechanical nature of the institution soon converts them to a less idealistic attitude.

The student's biggest problem was a slave mentality which had been built into him by years of carrot-and-whip grading, a mule mentality which said, "If you don't whip me, I won't work"....

The purpose of abolishing grades and degrees is not to punish mules or to get rid of them, but to provide an environment in which that mule can turn into a free man...

The bypothetical student, still a mule, would drift around for a while. He would get another kind of education quite as valuable as the one he'd abandoned in what used to be called the "school of hard knocks". Instead of wasting money and time as a high-status mule, he would have to get a job as a low-status mule, maybe as a mechanic. Actually his real status would go up....Maybe that's what he would do for the rest of his life...But don't count on it.

In time--six months, five years, perhaps--a change could easily begin to take place...His creative intellilgence, stifled by too much theory and too many grades in college, would now become reawakened by the boredom of the shop. Thousand of hours of frustraing mechanical problems would have made him more interested in machine design.

So he would come back to our degreeless and gradeless school, but with a difference. He'd no longer be a grade-motivated person. He'd be a knowledge-motivated person. He would need no external pushing to learn. His push would come from inside. He'd be a free man. He wouldn't need a lot of discipline to shape him up. In fact, if the instructors assigned him were slacking on the job, he would be likely to shape them up by asking rude questions. He'd be there to learn something, would be paying to learn something, and they'd better come up with it.
-- Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 9:27 PM on August 29, 2002


Every single one of my professors explicitly stated that no internet sources could be used in our research.

How disturbing. Still, I hear that there was once some opposition among academics to writing in the vernacular rather than Latin.

The web is the gradeless, degreeless university that Pirsig hoped for. Or could be.

And, since others are reposting comments from the deleted thread...

I once had a student hand in an essay plagiarized from the key textbook in a first year uni course. Did they imagine I hadn't read it?
posted by rory at 6:13 AM on August 30, 2002


The problem with internet sources is that they're just not good enough; like Thomas J. Wise said, they're dreck. I'm not going to go out and find a site report (I'm an archaeology student) on the internet, I'm going to find it in a hard copy. Likewise, the latest evolutionary anthropology reports aren't on the internet, they're in monthly or quarterly journals. True, a very small amount of these online, but the vast majority (I'd say ~97%) are not.

F&M: Yes, ZATAOMM is a good book, but this example is a bit exclusionary. Is this to mean that no student in the American university system is interested in knowledge, rather than grades? That's simply not true. It also assumes that one cannot have interest in both knowledge and grades, which is not true either. Before we go on a pithy crusade against grades, the way of grading in courses should be examined. Rather than rote repetition, there should be questions that create thought and independence. I've had essay topics like this (and I paraphrase): "Write an essay about a topic in 20th Century architecture." If we had written a repetition of a topic in class, we would have failed. Instead, to get even a C, we had to create an original thesis and fully support that idea, and there was no "latest recipe" for cooking up a paper. I revile the ideal.

Regardless, I certainly don't want my degree to be equivalent to the degree of someone who did C- or F-quality work, and a transcript with grades shows this difference. Ridding us of grades would not encourage learning; it would encourage most students to do the least possible work, and the ones that actually did excel in learning before would continue to do so.
posted by The Michael The at 7:42 AM on August 30, 2002


However, the internet can be a wonderful source of information in many many ways. I just finished university last year, and used the internet extensively every year for a variety of things:

Here are some ways that the internet is great for research:

1)Anything government or governmental related. US government, military, foreign government, UN, World Bank, NATO, IMF..... every public institution has the bulk of its information, ranging from reports to minutes of debates to legal texts online. For a political science major or similar fields, this is a wonderful place to get primary source information, much more up to date than most libraries.

2)Reliable ways to contact professionals. Researchers who post on the internet almost always have their email address up. What a terrific way to easily be able to correspond with experts? I was able to use the ability of finding people's email to my advantage several times, often contacting people and receiving early drafts of not-yet published work.

3)While, as has been pointed out a lot of the information on the net is secondary sources, the internet provides a wonderful way to gain a basic understanding of virtually any subject. Clearly there is not always enough information out there to create an original graduate level research paper. But taking Intro to British History? Want a general overview of the Boer Wars at 2am before the exam? The internet is your friend....

Again, I went to a pretty good school, and almost every academic with whom I came into contact actively expected us to make use of the most recent findings in any given field, via the internet.
posted by pjgulliver at 8:08 AM on August 30, 2002


I believe that one of the better ways to deal with the problem is to grade the process rather than the product. Rather than having one term paper that is handed in out of the blue at the end of the semester, you have the students work on a complete research process from an early proposal, through multiple drafts and outlines, to a completed paper at the end of the semester. This gives the opportunity for the instructor to provide feedback before problems develop, and also reduces the chance of a student presenting something that is not an original work.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:24 AM on August 30, 2002


Just a point, KJS: this should be the student's responsibility, not the professor's.

PJG: All very good points.
posted by The Michael The at 8:28 AM on August 30, 2002


The problem with internet sources is that they're just not good enough; like Thomas J. Wise said, they're dreck.

Internet sources are just not good enough; therefore, the Internet is not good enough to put academic source material on; therefore, there will never be enough good academic source material on the Internet; therefore, the Internet will never be a good enough source of academic material. Hurrah!

Meanwhile, new generations of undergraduates who breathe bytes like they breathe air pass through our universities, and those skills and aptitudes go untapped.

(Tangential, but related to the last point: I was earnestly told by a PhD supervisor in the mid 1990s to leave a good four to six weeks at the end of writing up to prepare the bibliography, cross-check footnotes and get the whole thing properly formatted... Wrote the whole thing using Word and EndNote. All of that stuff took about 48 hours.)
posted by rory at 9:11 AM on August 30, 2002


Internet sources are just not good enough; (Gap in logic goes here) therefore, the Internet is not good enough to put academic source material on; (Another gap in logic goes here--slippery slope idea) therefore, there will never be enough good academic source material on the Internet; therefore, the Internet will never be a good enough source of academic material. Hurrah!

Try this instead:
Internet sources are just not good enough yet, but the Internet is certainly good enough to put academic source material on. Therefore, there could be enough good academic source material on the Internet, and when there is good academic material on the Internet, it will be a good source for academic material. Hurrah!

Ahhhhhhh (exhales bytes).
posted by The Michael The at 9:24 AM on August 30, 2002


Well done, The Michael The, you are today's spot-when-rory-is-being-sarcastic winner. Here's another for you:

Some Internet sources are not good enough, and some academics too lazy to revise opinions formed in 1997 when they did their first search on AltaVista are comfortable in writing off an entire medium on the basis of having encountered such sources; therefore, students like Mushkelley are sometimes explicitly told not to use the Internet in their research, and are denied the opportunity to use some of the good sources that do exist online, are already of importance in many academic fields (pre-prints in the sciences, for example), and are becoming increasingly important even in 'non-tech' disciplines.
posted by rory at 9:42 AM on August 30, 2002


Internet just not good enough? I beg to differ. Here are a few examples of internet sources that are good enough, listed in many fields, no discernable order, just what I could find:

1) The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, Fordham University: This is an excellent collection of primary source documents from the late Roman period until the renaissance. Groups by categories and period, making searching a snap. I was pointed to this by a professor.

2) The UN Security Council Document Archives For any student of international politics and conflict resolution, this is a must. A complete index and copies of all Security Council resolutions, every. The official UN concluding reports covering all peacekeeping missions, every. Every official communication from peacekeepers in the field to the Security Council. All Security Council planning documents. And every section of the UN (FAO, WHO, UNHCR, General Assembly, etc) has a similar electronic archive. Whether you are looking for cursory information or writing a master thesis on the politics of the UN, these are the primary source repositories. And, well, every international organization has similar resources.

3) Rand: Want to read the research the government is reading? About anything from electricity deregulation, to the rise of China, to the impact of government procurement regulations on energy efficiency? Rand is the place to go. Every report is available in .pdf for free.

4) Department of Justice Say you are a sociologist and want to know about crime statistics. Or a law student researching federal cases. Or just a concerned citizen. Here's your place.

I realize all of the above links are for history, politics type stuff. That's what I studied, I don't know about science type links (beyond my simple cheat sheets for formulas and the like.) But don't dismiss the internet as an academic wasteland. There is a lot out there, and its accessible. Remember, government has a duty to the public to make its activities public. And the internet has allowed that on an unprecedented scale. Now an individual anywhere with a phone line has the same access to at least government primary resources as a researcher at Yale or Harvard. Not bad.
posted by pjgulliver at 9:45 AM on August 30, 2002


Internet sources are just not good enough; therefore, the Internet is not good enough to put academic source material on; therefore, there will never be enough good academic source material on the Internet; therefore, the Internet will never be a good enough source of academic material. Hurrah!

Er, no.

Internet sources are just not good enough yet, but the Internet is certainly good enough to put academic source material on. Therefore, there could be enough good academic source material on the Internet, and when there is good academic material on the Internet, it will be a good source for academic material. Hurrah!

Yes.

I'd add that many of the most useful sites are subscription-based, which is great if you're at a major research institution, not so great if you're, well, at most campuses in the US. I'd love my students to have access to the Poole's Index or to the LITIR Victorian database, but no way is it happening at my college. E-text sites have to be used with great caution (what edition is being used? did anyone spell-check the blasted thing?), and the amount of time necessary to assemble a serious e-edition can be off-putting, although there are some very spectacular archives out there--the Rossetti project, for example. Moreover, most academics are not rewarded for doing electronic projects as of yet, and the same goes for electronic publication. (I've done two book reviews for on-line publications, and I really had to go several extra miles to demonstrate to my review committee that these were real commissioned reviews, not something you'd do for Amazon.) So bureaucracy is keeping a lot of us out of the loop, although I think some of the negative attitudes are easing up.
posted by thomas j wise at 9:51 AM on August 30, 2002


Just a point, KJS: this should be the student's responsibility, not the professor's.

I guess then, as an instructor I'm sort of confused as to what my responsibilities are. Perhaps I am suffering from the illusion that my goal as an instructor is to teach people how to make good work in my field. The process of creating good work includes producing a proposal and circulating draft documents for review. In other words, my responsibilities are to guide my students into creating something that with a little bit of work could be published or used as actual working media. I see evaluating works in progress as a central part of the instructional process, and to be quite honest the best courses I have taken the job of shoveling content into my brain took a back seat to instructor and peer review of research projects.

Perhaps one of the reasons why I see this as necessary is that frequently I've found that my fellow students and I would tend to bite off more than they could handle for a term paper. Forcing students to write a proposal for their term paper not only models the way that academic works are funded and distributed, but also gives the instructor an opportunity to say "the sounds a little bit too broad to cover in the time that we have for this class, perhaps you should narrow your focus little bit."

Perhaps I should revise my view of my responsibilities as just rubber stamping completed works.

In regards to the internet, an amazing number of peer reviewed journals are also publishing online, many universities subscribe to for-pay services that offer peer-reviewed journal articles, and many department's have a 'working papers' site for submitted drafts.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:58 AM on August 30, 2002


don't dismiss the internet as an academic wasteland

Amen to that. Researchers invented the internet. As an aid to research.

Moreover, most academics are not rewarded for doing electronic projects as of yet, and the same goes for electronic publication.

Strangely enough, the subject of a paper I'm writing. Would be interested to hear about your committee-convincing experience, tjw... via email, perhaps? (my user name + my domain name)
posted by rory at 10:07 AM on August 30, 2002


KJS: how about this?

I believe that one of the better ways to deal with the problem is to grade the process rather than the product.
I disagree. The process should be examined and aided, but the product is what is deserving of being graded.

Rather than having one term paper that is handed in out of the blue at the end of the semester, you have the students work on a complete research process from an early proposal, through multiple drafts and outlines, to a completed paper at the end of the semester.
Well, yeah, a student should be doing this anyway. Perhaps an instructor should read topic proposals, but definitely not every little draft a student writes.

This gives the opportunity for the instructor to provide feedback before problems develop, and also reduces the chance of a student presenting something that is not an original work.
A student should know enough to not plagiarize. If he or she does, fail them. No questions. No excuses, they lose.

Yes, learning "how" is very important, undoubtedly. By, say, junior year of college, however, a student should know "how" and be doing more than simply learning the process.
posted by The Michael The at 11:38 AM on August 30, 2002


I disagree. The process should be examined and aided, but the product is what is deserving of being graded.

In which case, then why is plagarism a problem? After all if the goal is to simply produce the best product, then there should be no problem with supporting a student who choses to outsource?

Well, yeah, a student should be doing this anyway. Perhaps an instructor should read topic proposals, but definitely not every little draft a student writes.

Of course I didn't say anything about every little draft. But requiring draft reviews helps to reduce plagarism in two ways: they can't procrastinate to the last minute and it forces them to produce works in progress.

A student should know enough to not plagiarize. If he or she does, fail them. No questions. No excuses, they lose.

And what I'm saying is that the assignment should be such that plagarism would be so difficult that it is undesirable to plagarize.

Yes, learning "how" is very important, undoubtedly. By, say, junior year of college, however, a student should know "how" and be doing more than simply learning the process.

I guess I take a longer view given that I participate in professional peer review processes. If professional researchers benefit from review of their work (and most of my teachers and colleagues are very active at getting people to review their work in progress) then why expect perfection from undergraduates? Granted, by the junior and senior year the focus of the feedback should be less "please write in complete sentences" and more "this is a good idea but you don't explore it well enough, perhaps you should try ..."

I guess that I don't see the point in courses that don't push the "how". In fact, my experience as an undergraduate was very different. The first two years were vocabulary and then in the junior and senior year we were thrown more and more advanced "hows" to learn. If writing the paper is not a challenge, what is the point?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:22 PM on August 30, 2002


In which case, then why is plagarism a problem? After all if the goal is to simply produce the best product, then there should be no problem with supporting a student who choses to outsource?

Because plagiarism results in an unoriginal product. It's not outsourcing, it's copying. If the source is credited, then it's not plagiarism, AND it leads to the best product.

Of course I didn't say anything about every little draft. But requiring draft reviews helps to reduce plagarism in two ways: they can't procrastinate to the last minute and it forces them to produce works in progress.

I understand, I truly do, but all students should be graded with the same standards, including those who procrastinate. Those who plagiarize receive different standards: failure.

I guess I take a longer view given that I participate in professional peer review processes. If professional researchers benefit from review of their work (and most of my teachers and colleagues are very active at getting people to review their work in progress) then why expect perfection from undergraduates? Granted, by the junior and senior year the focus of the feedback should be less "please write in complete sentences" and more "this is a good idea but you don't explore it well enough, perhaps you should try ..."

I understand the peer review process, and it's certainly a good thing. In fact, I usually have at least two people read my work independently of a professor's mandate for peer review or drafts. It's a good thing, but in actuality, less than 10% of graduates will go on to graduate school. In the professional world, they'll have to be capable of independent thought and work, without peer review until a final copy is released, and that's what I'm advocating being taught. A student should be able to see what ideas he doesn't explore enough. When I or any other student enters the world of graduate school at a research university, he should be able to both write independently and participate in the process of peer review, and he will be stronger for it when he reaches a point where he isn't led through the steps.

At my university, we covered the vocabulary in two courses expressly concerned with essay writing. With subsequent classes, I've become a much better writer and thinker, and the majority of that learning was implicit, not explicit. It can be harsh, being expected to know what to do, but I and most others accomplished it without being handheld.

If writing the paper is not a challenge, what is the point?

Writing the paper is always a challenge. The challenge is not inherent to writing the paper, but in creation and presentation of well-formed and -reasoned ideas.
posted by The Michael The at 1:32 PM on August 30, 2002


Writing the paper is always a challenge. The challenge is not inherent to writing the paper, but in creation and presentation of well-formed and -reasoned ideas.

I guess I see this as the basic point. I teach instructional design. At each step in the process, professionals are expected to carefully document why they do what they do. I expect the same of my students. Each step in the process depends on earlier steps. I critique each step in the process because if their analysis is flawed they need to fix it before moving on to design.

Writing is a means to an end, not an end to it's self. I don't grade on their ability to create an English text, but on their ability to create a solid proposal, conduct good fieldwork, develop a design, create the product, test the product and report the results.

So this is what I mean by grading the process. All of my students are very fluent writers. However many of them are not fluent media designers, and very few of them have experience with analysis or evaluation. Because I track the entire process by demanding documents that they would be expected to produce in many work contexts, I am reasonably certian that it is original work. I also know the writing styles of my students by the end of the class.

But I don't see the objection to interim deliverables because when I was not in school, I was expected to justify starting a project, justify my progress and justify the results.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:57 PM on August 30, 2002


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