Jessica Ussher, a first year PhD student at Warwick’s Centre of Interdisciplinary Methodologies, tells her story. This is the second reflection in a series of cases looking at inclusive teaching.
It was during my second degree that I really noticed the importance of inclusive learning and teaching, and just how easily it can be overlooked.
Several of my peers received their academic training from abroad, and whilst they studied in the UK they unintentionally were the victims of quite serious plagiarism offences. I found the issue was that the lecturers assumed that all students were aware of how exactly referencing should be done, and did not elaborate on what was expected (despite the variance in institutions, disciplines and countries that the students came from).
When the date of the first assessment arrived, many students of the department (who mainly were international) submitted poorly or non-referenced assignments, and sadly were none the wiser. This ‘assumption of knowledge’ meant that a number of students faced hard consequences that could potentially be quite damaging to their early academic careers, all because of a process they were not exposed to.
The department of course, rectified this by highlighting the way in which referencing should be carried out. They placed much more of an emphasis on plagiarism/ referencing and introduced workshops for those studying at master’s level that firmly encouraged the attendance of international students.
From my perspective as the observer, I felt that more could have been done to prevent this from happening to my peers. The result of their unintentional actions meant that they had to face disciplinary panels and receive lower grades for the entire module. Many students involved had the intention of either continuing their studies or working for prestigious organisations who would ask for instances such as this to be declared on applications for employment. So in that sense, I felt that this put the students at a slight disadvantage, although it is one that can be overcome.
What I have learned:
It was a lesson which reminded us all, both lecturers and students, of the importance of creating an inclusive learning and teaching environment and consider cross-cultural differences in academic training.
Maxwell, A., Curtis, G. J., & Vardanega, L. (2008). Does culture influence understanding and perceived seriousness of plagiarism? International Journal for Educational Integrity, 4(2).
Ashworth, P., Bannister, P., Thorne, P., & Students on the Qualitative Research Methods Course Unit. (2006). Guilty in whose eyes? University students’ perceptions of cheating and plagiarism in academic work and assessment. Studies in Higher Education, 22(2), 187-203.