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Is it a source of pride to teachers who post answers here that they are "helping"...

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fda001 | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 15, 2009 at 9:16 AM via web

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Is it a source of pride to teachers who post answers here that they are "helping" students, and then are being plagiarized by lazy students?

Is it a source of pride to teachers who post answers here that they are "helping" students, and then are being plagiarized by lazy students?

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted March 16, 2009 at 3:19 AM (Answer #2)

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Hello,

I have not been doing this long enough to observe a trend, but I do not provide specific answers to students and do not perceive that to be my role. I do ask questions that I hope will point a student in a direction that will allow the student to construct his or her own response to a question. There will be students who wait for an "answer," and there will be students who want to run with ball.  I can only control what I do, not what other editors or students do.

As I think about your question, I also think that I would be willing to provide definitions sometimes, for example, definitions of literary devices.  

I do think there are situations in which a student has been given the necessary information to complete an assignment, but just didn't "get it."  Teachers differ in their presentation of material, and students differ in their methods of incorporating knowledge.  So I am willing to provide a certain kind of information, without which the student has no hope of completing an assignment. Sometimes a new presentation will "stick." 

What I will not do is provide information that the student can obtain by reading the text.  For example, I am appalled to see questions asking who the characters are or where a story takes place. 

For those of us who have engaged in literary analysis, it may seem that some questions in this area are lazy, but I don't really think they are. At some point, all of us had to grapple with a text for the first time and write a paper about it.  I am old enough to have completely forgotten that experience, but I am not so old that I cannot imagine how it felt.

 

 

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cburr | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted March 16, 2009 at 3:19 AM (Answer #3)

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I think most teachers post here to make a little extra money, since teaching salaries tend to be low.

Students who are going to plagarize will do so no matter where they find the information they need.  It is up to their teachers to make them understand that plagiarism is both risky and stupid -- risky because it's easy for the teacher to find the answers they used and stupid because they aren't advancing their own understanding with a simple copy/paste.

Whenever I can, I take the time to explain things to students so that they can do the work independently the next time.

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marilynn07 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted March 16, 2009 at 3:19 AM (Answer #4)

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This is a good question, and most teachers who suspect a student of plagiarism will copy and paste some of the student's answer into google or some other search engine. It is usually suspicious if a student's typical writing is full of errors, and then suddenly a perfect paper is turned in.  If a teacher places a string of words in quotes, the computer will search for that exact text.  Voila`, enotes.com or some other help site pops up with the exact quoted material.

 

It is not the teacher's fault if a student plagiarizes, but it is the student's fault for not properly doing his or her assignment. There are many teachers who take care to explain to students the consequences of plagiarism and cheating. Those teachers are to be commended for their hard work.

I am sure that there are lazy students who copy and take the material that we post. Then there are students who may not understand how their teacher has stated the material. It is my hope that we are helping students gain a clearer understanding of assignments.  It is my hope that teachers will use every tool at their disposal to catch plagiarism.

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engtchr5 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted March 16, 2009 at 3:19 AM (Answer #5)

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A critical part of the learning process for students involves their figuring out how to utilize resources to their fullest extent. In the case of my own students, I encourage them to use this site, Sparknotes, and Cliffnotes if they need further assistance or clarifications.

It is an unfortunate truth that often students need more help than what a teacher can provide within an allotted time, and sites such as enotes and the others above serve as an aid to those kids who just "don't get it." If a student is willing to go the lengths necessary to acquire an answer from a more experienced and knowledgable source, then that, in and of itself, is an academic exercise.

Plus, by inquiring for the sought information, students are reinforcing what it is they are studying simply by re-writing the question, foremost. Once they receive an answer, they then have to go to the extent of either paraphrasing the answer they received, or in some dishonest cases, copying it directly. However, here again, they are reinforcing the knowledge they were expected to gain in the first place. If anything, students who ask questions here are not "lazy," but rather, resourceful and concerned for their own scholastic welfare.

The process of acquiring answers from a site such as this one is no different than the student who seeks out black-and-white reference material in your library: both involve seeking knowledge from a more authoritative source. In some classrooms, that process is called research, not cheating.

 

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted March 16, 2009 at 3:19 AM (Answer #6)

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Doing student's work could never be a source of pride to teachers.  There are two kinds of questions I find on e-notes.  I loosely call them:  "do my homework, please" and "please help me understand."  I try not to answer a question of the first type, and enjoy answering the second kind.  It's always possible that my answer could be used in the wrong way, but I think there is plenty to do helping students widen their points of view, providing "other" or "deeper" ways to look at traditional texts, and I think the "risk" is worth it.

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madelynfair | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted March 16, 2009 at 3:19 AM (Answer #7)

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I'm really glad someone has raised this question. I am new to the site, hoping to be approved as an editor, and as a long-time teacher in face-to-face and online environments, I see much more giving of answers than I see coaching.

I am trying to craft answers driven by analytical and evaluative questions, and I am trying to give directives that the student return to the text to get the answers -- especially where enotes has etext right here -- no excuse not to hunt for the answer.

In other words, I try to write in a monologue what I would say if the student were sitting next to me in a tutoring situation, and questions are a key component of that monologue. In online courses where my students are guaranteed to respond to my questions, I can assume a daily dialogue; here, I can't assume they will return, so I have to speak uninterrupted. I believe that's fine as long as I'm not making it easy on the student to grab my words and walk away without having done some work.

Anyway, I'm interested to correspond with site administrators about this issue. I agree with those who say kids need more assistance and coaching than the average teacher has time to give, so this site can serve a worthy purpose. As long as the assistance errs on the Socratic side, an instructor is acting with integrity. I am concerned about those answers where an obviously erudite educator has "held forth," showing a powerful knowledge of his or her subject, and in so doing, fully answered the question, something a kid can point, click, copy, and paste into his or her own document with a few tweaks to simulate a 9th grader's misspellings.

I think all of us who work here need to ask as we write, Will the student have to think? Will the student have to return to the text? If the answer is, Not so much, then revise your answer.

I think I have found ways to take even the "What's Mercutio's response to Romeo in Act 3..." type questions into more Socratic directions, by not only pointing the student to "go look at this line here" (as if I were pointing to the book during tutoring) but then asking the student to interpret what's going on. Then I try to pose an essential question, the overarching kind that drives a work of literature. Why does Mercutio's response matter? What is being said about the men's friendship? About friendship in general? Even if the question is on the knowledge/comprehension level, I try to drive toward the "Why do we care" level of questioning. Maybe students who want the fast answer can be nudged toward seeing that literature is not about the color Chillingworth wore as much as what is wrong with the man's soul, and why Hawthorne cared about men's souls.

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jessecreations | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted March 16, 2009 at 9:06 AM (Answer #8)

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I asked Scott Locklear about this when I first started as an enotes editor, because I saw a lot of those questions where I thought the student was just asking someone else to do the work for them.  As an example, there are questions where they give 3 or 4 questions in one, or where they ask "what is this story about" in a prompt.  Scott's (paraphrased in my own words) response to me was that students can only ask one question per day, so that cuts down on having us do ALL of their homework for them.  Also, our answers are searchable, so if a teacher suspects a student of plagiarism, enotes.com will come up in that search (as mentioned in a post above). 

In terms of how I answer the questions here, I try to do a couple of things:
1. I give answers that guide in the right direction without explicitly spelling out answers.  I try to say things like, "you could go this way," or "you could start with this passage," when I give my answers.  That way, the students who haven't understood their assignment have a jumping-off point as a result of getting an answer from me.  The students who just wanted me to do their work have only gotten a head-start, but not all of their answers.
2. I use my "teacher voice" when I answer questions.  What I mean is, if a student were to copy/paste my answer into his or her own work, his or her teacher would be a fool to accept it as the work of a student.  We all know that there are SOME students who can write like an adult (let alone an adult who majored in Literature who is writing about literature), but let's call a duck a duck:  those aren't the students we're discussing here.  The type of student who would directly plagiarize answers from this site is the type of student who will be caught doing that when their answers are of a higher quality than their ability allows.
3. I flag questions as "inappropriate."  If a student is trying to put in a string of questions into one post, or obviously trying to have their entire essay written for them, I flag the question and the enotes powers-that-be will handle it from there.  This is a place to get ideas, to get help understanding an assignment, or to bounce ideas off of other people.  It isn't an essay-sales site or a "we'll do all your work while you sit around and have a snack" site.  But we as the editors have to make sure it stays that way, by keeping on top of the questions and dealing with the inappropriate ones as they come up.

Good topic, by the way!

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drgingerbear | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted March 16, 2009 at 11:05 AM (Answer #9)

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As a literature teacher, I do understand your concerns. However, we, as educators, take students to computer labs or give students assignments where they are to conduct research to "find" answers. Many of the postings here guide students to discover the answers for themselves. Some students do post questions in hopes that "we" do their homework for them. However, they are misguided, as all of the postings in enotes are "traceable" in a variety of plagarism catching websites such as "turnitin.com". Also, I can tell if a student cut and pasted information from one source to another. Any good teacher can tell their students writing from one that is plagarized.

I teach students with exceptional needs who are mainstreamed into the general ed classroom. Having this as a resource helps them to understand the material because the answers are typically simplified.

Besides... what is our ultimate goal as a teacher? To be the "sole person" responsible for delivering information or having our students learn and master the material?

 

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tspire | Elementary School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 16, 2009 at 4:16 PM (Answer #10)

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This is a great topic to ponder and discuss.  I'm new on this site, and want to be a helpful resource.  However, I don't want to do students' work for them.  As a teacher, I too, want to guide students in the right direction without actually giving them the answer.  It's more difficult to do that online than in person.  The questioning/guiding strategies mentioned above are helpful tips.  Thank you. 

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted March 18, 2009 at 5:56 AM (Answer #11)

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I understand your concern, and I agree that some editors go too far in answering questions. I try as much as possible to give just enough information to help the student find the answer on his or her own. For instance, if a student asks a questions that requires a subjective answer, I reply that only the student can answer that question and give suggestions for how to answer it. Also, if a student posts a multiple choice question, I try to edit the question so that my answer is not a dead giveaway. I also flag any true/false or "lazy" questions as inappropriate.

However, if a student has a question about a historical event or person or how to identify a literary device, I see nothing wrong with giving that student the answer. I don't identify every simile or alliteration in a poem, but I do give enough to help the student find the rest.

We're doing a good thing!

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litchick2011 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted March 20, 2009 at 7:21 AM (Answer #12)

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I have definitely felt that there are some students who do want us to do the work for them. I try my best to be vague with my answers without being entirely evasive.  My answers tend to be more along the lines of leading questions that will hopefully get that student to think and find his or her own answer.  I try to avoid those questions that seem like blatant "gimme the answer to my homework" situations.

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charcunning | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

Posted March 20, 2009 at 12:21 PM (Answer #13)

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If you are opposed to the idea of doing students' work for them, then are you also opposed to the summaries by chapter on here? Are you opposed to the document exchange where we teachers can take each others' assignments?

This much I know to be true: students sometimes just don't get it. They need extra help. Sure, there are those that are purely lazy and want work done for them, but most questions, it seems to me, seem to be asked by kids that are struggling with the meaning of a piece. It took me and entire 18 WEEKS to get through Huckleberry Finn with my on-level juniors this year--I had a horrible time trying to get them to understand the complexities of that book--lots of teahcers, as I'm sure you have seen, will assign something difficult and send kids off into the ether with a list of questions and no clue how to answer them. I use the resources on this website to make myself a better teacher (and to earn some extra cash) and I believe that most students use the resources on here to gain a deeper understanding or to fill in the missing pieces they just don't get!

We all need a little help now and again. Is it cheating? Sure, in some cases, but for the most part it's providing a boost to students.

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted March 20, 2009 at 1:09 PM (Answer #14)

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Students ARE going to get extra help with their work from somewhere ... Sparknotes, Monarch Notes, Whatevernotes, so that's not an issue for me.  I have a little different philosophy about the time I take covering a book.  I can't imagine spending more than a week, maybe two, on a book.  I ask the student to do the best they can on their own, I do some work with them, and then I offer them a number of possibilities ranging from books (Twayne Series, individual critical works etc.) to electronic interpretations such as enotes.  I have to do this because I can't mention everything in a week and I would like them to explore on their own; but I think there is more benefit from wider reading than intensely close reading --- and I think it helps keep the students interested.

Might as well deal with what we know is going to happen ....

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bridgetrbcs | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted March 23, 2009 at 1:27 PM (Answer #16)

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I wondered about this myself when I first came to the site.  I, however, work in the math part mostly answering questions of understanding and yes, I suppose they could just copy down what I have worked in order to get a complete for their homework.  However I do hope that through reading my usually lengthy explanation they will understand how to complete the problem for themselves. 

As for the literature part of it, they may very well plagiarize but there isn't much we can do.  It would have to be up to the English teacher to search for and find out on their own. 

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted March 25, 2009 at 6:08 PM (Answer #17)

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This was my biggest conundrum when deciding whether to be an eNotes editor.  Although Scott did a lot to calm my fears about students' rampant cheating, the way I dissuade plagiarizing is by inserting my own personal voice into every single answer.  For example, today in my response to a question about "The Fall of the House of Usher," I talked about my favorite stories dealing with the issue of isolation (specifically The Shining).  I respond in the exact same way I would if one of my students came for help after class.  I am continually using interjections (my most famous being "Ha!") and overusing italics and making jokes (and trying desperately not to use my smiley-face-end-parenthesis-and-colon).  My hope is to bring some humor into the student's evening, . . . and to alert any teacher to a different personal style. 

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drmonica | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted March 28, 2009 at 12:31 PM (Answer #18)

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Is it a source of pride to teachers who post answers here that they are "helping" students, and then are being plagiarized by lazy students?

Is it a source of pride to teachers who post answers here that they are "helping" students, and then are being plagiarized by lazy students?

I too am new to eNotes, but thus far I have elected not to answer questions that clearly seek for someone to write an answer that can then be copied & pasted by the student. I look for cut and dried questions that can be answered succinctly and helpfully in order for the student to be able to understand a piece of literature, and I try to craft my response to be useful by any student who reads the answer.

I am drawn to questions about allusions, literary terms, and specific references in certain works that I have loved teaching.

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drgingerbear | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted March 30, 2009 at 5:18 AM (Answer #19)

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This was my biggest conundrum when deciding whether to be an eNotes editor.  Although Scott did a lot to calm my fears about students' rampant cheating, the way I dissuade plagiarizing is by inserting my own personal voice into every single answer.  For example, today in my response to a question about "The Fall of the House of Usher," I talked about my favorite stories dealing with the issue of isolation (specifically The Shining).  I respond in the exact same way I would if one of my students came for help after class.  I am continually using interjections (my most famous being "Ha!") and overusing italics and making jokes (and trying desperately not to use my smiley-face-end-parenthesis-and-colon).  My hope is to bring some humor into the student's evening, . . . and to alert any teacher to a different personal style. 

"and to alert any teacher to a different personal style."

Excellent point! I also use language that is easy for all levels of students to understand, but also use my personal voice so that teachers are alerted to a direct "copy and paste". However, as an English teacher in high school, all students papers are run though TurnitIn and enotes comments are included in the plagarism checking feature.

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pippin1313 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted March 30, 2009 at 2:22 PM (Answer #20)

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I answered a question for a student who then sent me the rest of his homework to do for him. I sent back a message stating that I had no intention of doing his homework but would check it if he did it first to provide some feedback. I never got a reply for that one.

However another student sent me a message stating that she was grateful that I had helped her understand a question that her teacher hadn't explained. That makes it worthwhile to me.

We are professionals and therefore need to use our judgement in order to help students do the work for themselves. I think much of what we answer is a springboard for students to do the rest of the work themselves. I offer a scaffold not an answering service much of the time. By just giving answers we don't help students to learn, but guidance helps them to think for themselves and look at differing viewpoints.

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 3, 2009 at 9:26 AM (Answer #21)

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When I answer a question, I simply hope it was beneficial to the student in any way possible. I guess I am an optimist by thinking that my answers might help students develop an essay with more information, or that it might guide them in the right direction to produce a project.

I have personally learned a LOT from the answers that the teachers post, and many times I find myself google-ing information posted by other teachers because the things they say are so interesting.

In all, I do not think we give them the people who ask any more information than they could get by researching online. I really love Enotes, though- lots of smart people using their heads together is always a positive thing! :)

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alexb2 | eNotes Employee

Posted April 3, 2009 at 9:05 PM (Answer #22)

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Speaking as an eNotes employee, I really appreciate all of the thoughtful responses here. We have tried to create a website that teachers want to recommend to their students and where students can get information from real teachers who want to help them without doing their work for them. It's great to read about all the teaching strategies you all of have come up with given the constraints of the medium.

In the information age, students have information to pretty much anything they want, from custom-written papers to other students' essays to the world's greatest (if often imperfect or inaccurate) reference sources. Our goal is to build a counterweight to that, a safe place where both students and teachers can get the help they need. Your input and comments are really important to helping make that happen!

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