Why you shouldn’t post your teaching dossier online

January 30, 2018

Students and colleagues sometimes ask me if they should post their teaching dossier or portfolio online. My answer is immediate: No!

Those who know me know that I am a big fan of developing a strong online professional presence. I encourage students and colleagues to keep their LinkedIn, Twitter, and other online professional profiles current. But there’s something about a teaching dossier that’s different. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I read an article by White & Conrod (2016) where they tell the story of how their teaching philosophies were plagiarized.

Your teaching philosophy is a key element of your dossier. Developing it is hard work. It involves some deep reflection, brain work and soul-searching. You dig deep into yourself to figure out who you are as an educator, what matters to you and why it matters. Honestly, articulating your teaching philosophy may be the single most difficult element of putting together your teaching dossier. When it’s done, it should be a reflection of who you are and what matters to you as an educator.

Other people may have similar philosophies, but in the end, your statement is about you and your values. It is yours and yours alone.

If you post it online, it becomes easy for others to cut-and-paste what you have shared. These may not be bad people. They may be too afraid or too intimidated to engage in the deep reflection required to develop a philosophy of their own. Who knows? My point is, don’t make it easy for others to steal your teaching philosophy.

Share your dossier selectively, with those who need it, such as employers or those evaluating your teaching. You might also choose to share your dossier with those who would benefit from it, such as students or junior colleagues. That does not mean you have to post it publicly online. You have other options:

Alternatives to posting your teaching dossier publicly online

  1. Share print copies of your work. This may sound old fashioned, but if someone does not require digital access to your dossier and a paper copy works just as well, why not? You might choose to add “Confidential” to the header or footer to make it clear you do not want it to be shared widely.
  2. Save a copy of your work in a digital format that is hard to copy. An protected .pdf isn’t foolproof, but it is an option. Another option is to save your work as a .jpg., but if you choose this route, be sure that the .jpg is high quality and easy to read.
  3. Save your work as a password protected or “read only” online document. Share the password or link with caution.

Again, share selectively and make it clear that your work is not for distribution.

I suspect that some people who are vehement believers in open access or the sharing culture may disagree with my stance on this issue. There are plenty of websites that offer tips about how to post your entire dossier online. Don’t get me wrong. I share lots of my work online, free of charge in an open access format. It may be OK to share parts of your teaching dossier publicly online, such as your previous teaching experience, but not all of it. The key is to think critically about what you want to share and how you choose to do that.

It is important to understand that the more publicly you share, the easier you make it for others to copy-and-paste your deep thoughts, rather than engaging in their own soul-searching journey. If you want to offer others a short-cut and do the hard work for them, that is an option. But if you’d rather not, think twice before posting your entire teaching dossier publicly online.

The point is for you to think critically about who you want to have access to your inner most values about teaching. In my view, your teaching philosophy is a key element of your identity as an educator. Don’t make it easy for others to steal your professional identity.

Reference:

White, M. A., & Conrod, J. D. (2016). Is nothing sacred? Our personal teaching philosophies have been plagiarized. University Affairs. Retrieved from https://www.universityaffairs.ca/opinion/in-my-opinion/is-nothing-sacred-our-personal-teaching-philosophies-have-been-plagiarized/

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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.

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21st century definition of plagiarism

January 23, 2018

Not long after I started getting interested in academic integrity, I began wondering how different universities defined plagiarism in their official policy documents. That led me to do an analysis of policy documents from 20 Canadian higher education institutions, and the results were published in the peer-reviewed scholarly journal, Interchange. Basically, what I found was that there was no consistent definition of plagiarism across Canadian post-secondary institutions. In other words, we don’t agree about what actually constitutes plagiarism.

This makes it confusing for students and for professors, especially considering that students might attend one school to do their undergraduate degree and another for their graduate degree, or that professors sometimes change jobs, leaving one institution for another.

It used to be that the definition of plagiarism was simple: literary theft, but it is a lot more complicated than that in the 21st century, where digital outputs account for as much, if not more than, printed products. Students and professors have asked me, “So, how do you define plagiarism in plain and simple terms?” The answer is actually quite complex and a bit messy. But in the interest of demystifying the issue, here is a straight forward infographic that may help.

Let me say that this resource is simplified — perhaps overly so. My goal here isn’t to be reductionist and I fully acknowledge that not everyone may agree with these simplified explanations. But sometimes it can be easier to wrap your head around something simple to start and then tease out the complexities once you are more comfortable with the basic concepts.  I offer these not as the be-all-and-end-all definition, but rather as a starting point to help educators and students clarify and demystify basic concepts and also to engage in productive conversations about how to cultivate academic integrity and reduce plagiarism.

Definition of plagiarism (jpg)

Here is a free, downloadable .pdf of this infographic that you are welcome to use with your students for teaching purposes. Feel free to use it as a conversation starter to help students understand what plagiarism is and how to prevent it in their own work.

Related post:

Comparative Analysis of Institutional Policy Definitions of Plagiarism: A Pan-Canadian University Study https://wp.me/pNAh3-1LD

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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


New article: “Credit where credit is due”

December 19, 2017

Credit where credit is due - coverIn my latest article, “Credit where credit is due: How to prevent plagiarism in the 21st century classroom” I tackle the tricky question of what it means to plagiarize in the age of copy-and-paste. I also offer K-12 teachers five practical tips on how to prevent plagiarism among school-age children.

Most of my research and writing is focusing more and more on academic integrity and plagiarism prevention in higher education contexts. But it is important for K-12 teachers to be able to talk about these topics to their students, too. That’s what inspired me to write this article.

The full article was published by the EdCan Network and it is a web exclusive in their most recent edition. You can check it out here: https://www.edcan.ca/articles/credit-where-credit-is-due/

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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Understanding academic misconduct: Special event

November 21, 2017

University of Calgary logoIn my role as Interim Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning for the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary, I am pleased announce we will welcome Dr. Julia Christensen Hughes to our campus for a special visit on November 24, 2017.

We have two events that are open to the public that I wanted to share with all of you:

Lunchtime Keynote: Understanding academic misconduct: Creating robust cultures of integrity

Time: 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Location: University of Calgary, Taylor Institute Forum

This keynote will draw from Christensen Hughes’s research with the late Don McCabe, founder of the International Center for Academic Integrity. Their work was published in 2006 the Canadian Journal of Higher Education (see http://journals.sfu.ca/cjhe/index.php/cjhe/article/view/183537 and http://journals.sfu.ca/cjhe/index.php/cjhe/article/view/183525), and they were awarded with the Sheffield Award from the Canadian Society for Studies in Higher Education (CSSHE) for their contribution.

Afternoon workshop: Strengthening a culture of integrity at the University of Calgary

Time: 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Location: University of Calgary, Taylor Institute Forum

This workshop will provide a deeper analysis of why academic misconduct is happening on Canadian university campuses, including from the perspectives of faculty and TAs. Working in groups, participants will discuss their experience at the University of Calgary and generate specific suggestions for what the University might do to strengthen its culture of integrity.

About Dr. Julia Christensen Hughes

jch-colour-photoDr. Julia Christensen Hughes is Dean of the College of Business and Economics (CBE) at the University of Guelph. With a career defined by advocacy, Julia has addressed the United Nations General Assembly on the need for business schools to contribute to advancing the UN’s sustainable development goals, including quality education. Previously, Julia served as President of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, a predominantly Canadian organization committed to enhancing the quality of teaching and learning in post-secondary institutions. During this same time, she served as the Director of Teaching Support Services at the University of Guelph.

Julia Christensen Hughes’s scholarly work includes the edited book, Taking Stock: Research on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (2010), McGill-Queen’s University Press. She has also written on ethics and integrity in the academy, with papers published in the Canadian Journal of Higher Education. Julia has received a number of awards and recognitions, including the Gold “educator” award from the Ontario Hostelry Institute (OHI); the Sheffield Award from the Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education, for excellence in research; the University of Guelph’s John Bell Award, for distinguished educational leadership; and the “Woman of Distinction Award” from the Guelph YMCA, for outstanding contributions to education and training.

These events are open to all members of the campus community and the public.

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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Universities unite against the academic black market

October 17, 2017

The ConversationOn the TV show Suits, Mike Ross’s character charges a hefty fee to students to take the LSAT (law school admission test) for them. Ross has a stellar memory and a remarkable ability to take tests without getting crushed by stress — he is the perfect “contract cheater.” Later, Ross builds a career as a lawyer based on fake credentials, presumably from Harvard.

Mike Ross may be fictional, but his business is only too real within universities globally. “Contract cheaters” such as Ross complete academic work on a student’s behalf — for a fee. This work includes test taking and homework services. It includes essay-writing and even PhD thesis-writing services, also known as “paper mills.”

In my role as interim associate dean of teaching and learning at the University of Calgary, and as a researcher who specializes in plagiarism prevention and academic integrity, I have been writing about contract cheating since 2010. Since then, it has become rampant at high school and post-secondary levels.

This black market for academic work is vast and little understood. Universities in Canada, and around the world, are having a very hard time trying to police it.

On Oct. 18, 2017, many universities have committed to the second International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating. This aims to tackle the issue head on — by raising awareness and sharing prevention strategies.

Read the whole article in The Conversation (originally published on Oct. 16, 2017).

Check out the radio interview I did on CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/calgary-eyeopener/segment/14438512

Related posts:

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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


2nd International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating

October 16, 2017
International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating: Graphic created by University of California at San Diego.

Graphic created by University of California at San Diego.

Contract cheating is an umbrella term used to talk about individuals or businesses that provide academic work for a fee. From imposters who take tests on behalf of others, to professional homework services and paper-writing services or “paper mills”, contract cheating is big business. This black market for academic work is becoming more prevalent, is hard to detect and harder to prove. No one knows exactly how many of these services exist, or how much money they make, but their very existence is troubling. Post-secondary educators, as well as those who aspire to a career in education, need to take action against contract cheating.

U of C logo - 2015In my role as Interim Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning at the Werklund School of Education, I have the chance to organize key events that bring people together over key issues related to teaching and learning in our school. When I heard about the 2nd International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating, I knew we had to join.

We’ll be hosting a Brown Bag Interactive Conversation for faculty and staff about what contract cheating is and what we can do about it. We’ll be sharing the Institutional Toolkit to Combat Contract Cheating and this 3-page handout that gives practical strategies on how to combat it.

More than 40 institutions from more than a dozen countries will be hosting events all over the world on October 18. I am so pleased that the University of Calgary will be among them.

We are using the hashtags #defeatthecheat and #excelwithintegrity on social media. Join the conversation on October 18!

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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Reflections on co-facilitating workshops with research assistants

April 4, 2017

For the past several months I have been leading a research project called “Investigating academic integrity in the Werklund School of Education: Process, policy and perceptions”. The main topic we have been addressing is plagiarism. This has resulted in invitations to give workshops in the School of Education, across campus and online. I co-facilitated three of these workshops with research assistants (RAs) Here is what I have learned:

RAs benefit from knowing the workshop details during the planning process. I outlined who the audience for each workshop was, where it would be held and how much time we would have. This helped them have a broad overview of all the workshops, not just the one they were working with me on.

RAs bring energy and insights into the planning process. We had two planning sessions, during which the RAs helped me to find resources, activities and build slide decks. As a result, the activities were more dynamic and engaging than if I had done all the planning alone.

Assigning RAs activities to lead creates a more meaningful experience for them. When I co-facilitate with colleagues, we decide who will lead which activities. I figured since the RAs working on this project are all aspiring or practising teachers, learning to co-facilitate a workshop by leading activities would be more meaningful than simply circulating handouts or taking notes. During every workshop, each RA had the opportunity to facilitate at least one activity. The result was a more dynamic workshop for the participants and a more meaningful opportunity for RAs.

When you treat RAs like professionals, they act like professionals. From the planning stages of the workshop, through to the follow up, I made a conscious effort to treat the RAs as fellow professionals, not “just students”. In return, their deportment, dress and presentation of themselves during the workshops was nothing less than exemplary. In one case, a person introducing us wasn’t sure if my co-presenter was a student or another faculty member! (I beamed with pride when that happened.)

It is OK to relinquish some control. This seems obvious, but at first I have to admit that I was a little unsure about handing over the reins to students. My fears were completely misplaced. The RAs facilitated just as well as I did (if not better!)

RAs need help documenting their workshop facilitation experience. After every workshop, I sent the RAs a citation to add to their slowly-developing c.v.’s They needed guidance learning how to document their experience and understand it as part of their developing professional experience.

Overall, I found that working with RAs required more time and energy than if I had done all the work myself, but it was time well spent. The end product was a better workshop that was more fun to plan and deliver and more dynamic for the participants themselves. I feel pretty lucky to work with such a stellar group of emerging professionals.

Here are some other posts related to this research project:

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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