Plagiarism and Instruction

A student at McGill University, who refused to submit an essay for screening by Turnitin, has raised serious pedagogical, ethical, and legal challenges to using the Calilfornia-based service. The head of McGill's English Department, John Cook, has suggested that Turnitin is simply part of a larger problem facing universities -- the tendency to emphasize evaluation at the expense of instruction.

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Evaluation vs Instruction?

If Dr. Cook asserts that there is a current emphasis on evaluation OVER instruction in academe, I find that to be extremely problematic. He is right that there is an increased emphasis on accountability in higher education. And frankly most faculty members, chairs, deans, presidents, boards of trustees/visitors, state legislators, and even the public tend to think that means there must be more evaluation. And many professors think that it is a major infringement of their academic freedom if they have to be accountable in some way. These ideas could be true if accountability is poorly handled. And, frankly, it often is at some institutions. But those arguments quickly become a shiboleth or a ruse. That is because we must never buy what often hides behind this attitude: the all to prevalent "ideal" of those who believe that education means just spewing out information or managing the classroom so others become fonts of information. Exposure is not education. A combination of content delivery, content interpretation/integration AND evaluation of that process must always be at the core of instruction. Professors who think differently are misinformed at best, lazy at worst. (I hate even saying this, as so many others have or could abuse that sort of statement for political reasons.) Prof. J. Hancock