• First, sorry for the late/scattered post! Second, I wanted to respond to the apprehension of student writers in the Addison and McGee article and to the idea that the writing goals are daunting to students and note that as the instructor, I saw those goals as daunting as well, and felt tremendous apprehension at being responsible for…[Read more]

  • While reading “Writing from Sources, Writing from Sentences,” I realized that I am absolutely guilty of patchwriting, probably as recently as my blog posts for this class. I definitely patchwrote as an und […]

    • Frankie – some comments on patch-writing:
      I do agree with Rob Jenkins’s two main points: 1) being a plagiarism detective takes away considerable time from us that could be used to improve students’ writing in more productive ways. I may have been lucky, but in neither of my classes have I yet suspected that my students were guilty of other than “improper citations.” I would certainly investigate otherwise, but would not lose sleep over it. 2) I also think the reason plagiarism is so pervasive is the same reason why when asked to formulate a thesis to respond to a reading assignment students often just restate in different words the thesis of the author. In addition to laziness and overcommitment – just like they don’t know how to use MLA, students often seem to lack the skills to tackle the assignments in the way we expect them – in other words, critical thinking – and thus, fearing a bad grade, they “borrow” from those who “know better”. Ever worse, sometime they are not sure what it is that we are asking them, no matter how clear we try to make it sound. At times, Jenkins’s article reminded me of one of the first readings we did for this class, Bartholomae’s “Inventing the University”.

      Going back to laziness and patch-writing here’s a short anecdote from my personal experience. When I was getting my M.A. in Naples I was writing a proposal or a term paper and although my argument was completely different from that of the sources I used, I remember my professor (whom I greatly admired and respected) called me on it and I felt horrible for letting her down.I was very well aware of the online tools that could be used to detect plagiarized material, and I was accustomed to using them myself before turning in a paper of any kind to make sure all sources have been properly cited. That is to say, were my intentions to plagiarize someone else’s ideas in a paper, I’d make sure to at least paraphrase them or at the very least not to mention their work in my bibliography. I took one of my sources analysis as a useful example for my paper in terms of structure, rather than ideas, some of which I did not agree with at all. I also plead guilty for my laziness in terms of language and lexical choices, but the argument I had in mind, as well as the evidence to prove it, little or nothing had to do with the original essay. All of my professor’s comments referred to factual statements and premises, rather than ideas or arguments – factual statements that I absolutely should have phrased in my own words and I didn’t because I thought the goal at such preliminary stage of the project was to just convey an idea of what we were planning on doing. Not in a million years would I have thought of doing this in the actual paper, but I owned up to my mistake, apologized and was grateful that my professor understood, after explaining how overcommitted I had been (I was in New York doing research for my M.A. dissertation and trying to decide if I wanted to accept CUNY’s admission offer). She agreed that it was an instance of laziness, considering how different my argument was from that of the sources I paraphrased. All of this to ask you and myself – what do we do in cases like this? Are there instances where plagiarism should be called something else?

      Finally – I want to throw a question out there, hoping we can discuss this further in class – how does the idea of intertextuality (as defined by Roland Barthes) fit in a discussion about plagiarism? I was surprised not to see it in any of the articles (or did I miss it?)

    • In your response, Frankie, as you unpack patchwriting within your framework and within the theoretical framework of the readings, you bring up the idea that the key reason for patchwriting is an insufficient understanding of the source material. As I was reading the Howard, et al. article, I squared and starred those moments in which they articulate the same idea. It seems clear to me that plagiarism, while linked to laziness, is not a laziness of writing but a laziness of reading. A part of me would say a simple lack of comprehension, except for my experience teaching a few chapters of Berger last week. After reading the two clearest and most fundamental sections of *Ways of Seeing*, a populist text that originated as a television series, students could not even articulate a general idea, let alone a main point or definition of a key term. However, I know after working with these students for half the semester that this is not for lack of language or comprehension skills. Rather, they simply aren’t used to paying attention. It became apparent that these students still thought that if they had looked at the words they had read it. They haven’t been forced to think sentence by sentence and try to rearticulate internally (as we likely do by rote or as an automatic and unconscious function) as they read. I could go on about the “writing from the sentence” that I saw in so many drafts of the second essay (complicating an argument with a source), but I won’t ramble on. Suffice it to say, I see the only way forward is to provide worksheets and reading questions for all assigned readings AND make that count toward their grades. That’s on my spring syllabus!

  • I was struck by the phrasing in Peter Elbow’s piece of how giving grades is “cheaper” than writing detailed comments. I find I like this term because of the double meaning: less expensive and lower quality. As he […]

    • I’m glad you brought up the money issue, since it seems so significant to the adjunct experience. I’m in grad school and have committed this year to simply learning the ropes, so at the moment I’m fine with putting in extra effort, experimenting trial-and-error on different types of evaluation. However, I can already sense the frustration of the adjunct’s bottom line: The better job you do, the less you get paid. That’s obviously hyperbole, and I think over-preparing has its own drawbacks. I just wonder at the complexity of the institutional equation—the position of the teacher between the administration and the classroom, the way responsibilities move in both directions. Add in the pressures of time and finances, and the question of grading becomes ever thornier. It’s fascinating from a theory perspective how much adjuncts have to intuitively manage, but practically speaking, it’s a handful. I liked* Elbow’s suggestion about evaluation-free zones, as it seems a strategy that checks a number of boxes at once. I’m curious how a range of approaches can be calibrated to a) encourage student curiosity and confidence, b) provide clear, thoughtful evaluative feedback, and c) accommodate administrative realities—the “official transcript” and such, the college version of the “permanent record,” that mythical motivator that may or may not exist.

      * I can’t hear this word now without thinking of Facebook, so maybe some fine-tuning is required to reinstate its meaning.

    • It seems to me you both, Frankie and Nick, have drawn out a really important tension between the Elbow reading’s emphasis on evaluation and the labour question addressed to some extent in the Bernard-Donals piece. (I think this is also in between the lines of Kristi’s post as well.) Frankie, it sounds also like you’re struggling as a new instructor to feel the authority and justification in giving out grades yoursel. I definitely have felt this way in the past, and this semester, I am feeling some version of it again as I try to teach someone else’s syllabus and assignments with goals that are invisible, foreign, and generally unknown to me. I thought, then, I’d share an experience as my comment that might spark some discussion.

      In the three years or so I taught in Australia, the university where I worked introduced a new online marking system for core courses (the ones that the entire year of a degree takes). The program is called ReView. For each assignment, the course coordinator created the specific criteria, each related to a learning goal of the course and the degree, and weighted each. For example, originality of thought would be 25% while spelling and grammar would be 10%. For each student, we would mark each criteria and the program would calculate the final mark. It was intended to eliminated some amount of subjectivity and unify the marking across say, 22 sections of the course. There were also automatic comments one could use, both for an overall comment box and specific to each criteria. I always wrote my own using the vocabulary from my classroom. While this couldn’t translate the same way to the kind of courses we’re teaching here at Queens, it could be interesting to discuss the pros and cons of such a system. It was intended to mitigate the fact that despite being paid higher rates for the hours in the classroom, adjunct contracts were structured to pay $40/hr for 65 minutes per student over the course of the semester for grading, administrative work (including email!), AND preparation time. That means at the lowest rate of pay, one is paid for just over an hour of work per student for the whole semester–way less than any of us spent. Yet, what is being missed?

      To close my very long comment, I will just quickly contribute to the debate Frankie and Nick raised. While I spend a good amount of time responding to drafting work, conferencing, and fielding email questions about papers, and I WANT to as an instructor, how do we also factor in that many of us are still full time students? Where does the value balance? I write as someone taking 14 PhD level credits.

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