Article: Bombaro (2007)

Reference: Bombaro, C. (2007). Using audience response technology to teach academic integrity: “The seven deadly sins of plagiarism” at Dickinson College. Reference Services Review, 35(2), 296-309.

Summary: In this article, Christine Bombaro of Dickinson College describes how clickers were used to enhance workshops on plagiarism attended by all first-year students at her school.  Clicker questions were used as “background knowledge probes” to assess students’ prior knowledge of plagiarism in the abstract.  These questions were followed by application questions asking students to apply their knowledge of plagiarism in particular situations (e.g. “Is the following student work plagiarism or not?”).  Students who answered the abstract questions about plagiarism correctly often missed the more applied questions, providing the instructors with useful opportunities to clarify student misconceptions about plagiarism.

A few personal experience questions were asked, as well, including one asking students to report whether they had committed plagiarism. When this question was asked at the start of the workshops, 52% of students said they had done so. When this question was asked again at the end of the workshops, 68% of the students said they had done so, indicating they had gained a broader understanding of plagiarism.

When surveyed about the workshops, students reported that the use of clickers was fun and helped them participate. Another advantage of using clickers was that they provided useful data for revising future workshops by identifying questions that challenged students the most.

The entire “Seven Deadly Sins of Plagiarism” PowerPoint presentation, including clicker questions, is available online.

Commentary: It sounds like Bombaro and her colleagues designed some very effective “time for telling” questions.  Schwartz and Bransford use the term “time for telling” in their 1998 Cognition and Instruction article “A Time for Telling” to describe moments when students are ready and willing to learn from an instructor’s explanation.  Students don’t always begin a class session ready to hear and understand a particular explanation, but they can be prepared to do so.  Bombaro’s question sequences helped to do so in this instance.

The increase of the percent of students who admitted committing plagiarism is a strong indicator of the effectiveness of the workshop. It also leverages the anonymity that clickers provide.

I think that these workshops would have been enhanced by peer instruction around some of the more challenging questions. The workshop facilitators also worked from scripts to make sure that all students received the same messages about plagiarism. I see why that would be important, but it eliminated one of the primary advantages of clickers–allowing instructors to practice “agile teaching.”

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