Insert witty quote about plagiarism HERE

ImageI remember, quite vividly, thinking, when beginning this blog, that I would spent x amount of time writing every week.  After failing at that, I started to think that I would be more apt to produce something if I jotted down my thoughts every day for at least 5-10 minutes.  When THAT failed, I started to put timed sessions in my calendar, but again, I allowed myself to be too busy to follow through with reflection.  Perhaps that is because I assume that I will remember what I’ve done, its level of effectiveness, and what I learned from the experience.  Afterall, I DID experience it firsthand. 

I think the major flaw with not recording and reflecting is that, as time passes, the experience is not as meaningful as it was when it happened.  There are a number of projects, tasks, and “to-dos” in my life that often get pushed down the priority list.  I often feel unorganized or “off” when I don’t complete all of the things I want to, but I suppose that is a common experience for anyone who has a job they are engaged in and wish to be successful. 

The LILAC (Information Literacy) conference has come and gone.  I was so excited three months ago, just imaging how much I would learn from being surrounded by other professionals interested in IL, and now that it is over, instead of deeply reflecting on my experience, I am looking forward to the next one.  I like to think that the conference in Manchester provided me with a great deal of information and insight regarding the processes, trials and methods other universities have utilised, so that, as we now begin to more fully develop our information literacy strategy at UCS, I am more confident with regard to facing the challenges of building and maintaining this project, along with providing a rationale for its implementation to the powers that be.

Upon my return to work, not only did I have to catch up on scheduling one-to-one sessions with students and ordering books for academics, I also needed to begin formulating my presentation for a referencing/plagiarism session I agreed to give to Early Childhood Study students.  With the help from my contact from London Met, who generously shared her presentation slides with me, I began piecing together the objectives for the session, including adding practical examples and reviewing the referencing style used at this institution.

When I started this position, I hesitated from answering any questions about referencing, as the style was completely new to me, I did not want to give out improper information to students, in fear they would come back to me and blame their low marks on my incompetence.  My first approach was to become an expert at the referencing style, as to save the students time and not look unknowledgeable.  After thumbing through numerous pages of the style handbook on many occasions, I finally succumbed and realised that it would be a waste of my time to try to memorise the referencing guidelines, and just use the book (gasp) in front of the student when I needed to. 

I have realised that, when learning something new or giving a presentation for the first time, I am often consumed by the notion that I need to come off as being as knowledgeable about the subject matter as possible and that it is unacceptable to “not know” the answer.  In reality, I am fully aware that I cannot account for any and every question that may arise from students, especially because my specialty subject area is not the same as theirs, however, I often have to remind myself that it is okay to look up the answer in front of students if I am not sure.  Obviously, there is a tipping point regarding ignorance allowance, but I’d like to think I understand the boundaries.  Perhaps once I am less busy, and once classes start at the beginning of the year, I should take the initiative to ask for permission to sit in on lectures and seminars to have a more informed understanding as to what the students are being asked to do and how I can best assist them. 

But back to my session…

I felt confident about the material I was going to cover with the students and rehearsed the slides ahead of time.  I knew that my session was not going to be as “successful” as my contact’s, as her session was booked by the students themselves, and the small group met within the library, where they were expected to have access to computers to complete exercises.  Ideally, I would have preferred to have the students complete activities, but was happy enough to be invited to speak.  Unfortunately, only three out of about 40 students attended the session, which invited an awkward situation.  The tutor suggested (after apologising profusely) that I do a little Q&A about referencing with the three students, but I had other plans.  I knew the delivery would have to be amended, and perhaps I should have been more flexible and just skipped over the majority of the prepared session, but I wanted to show the students in attendance that I was just as important as any tutor would be, and therefore, we were all going to carry on as such.  I keep reading that one of the issues librarians have, especially with academic staff, is being seen as a colleague or collaborator.  This was a perfect opportunity for me to test where I fit in and how I wanted to present myself. 

I made the session as personable as possible, as seemed fitted for such a small group, but also asked for the same level of participation by the students as I planned to for a larger group.  It felt successful.  The students engaged in answering my questions and even offered their own.  A session that could have been 15 minutes lasted an hour, which pleased me.  When I realised there were only going to be three students, I thought to myself, “Yes!  I can wrap this up lickety-split and just go home,” (especially because the session started at 5pm) but instead, I took the opportunity and made the most out of it.  This is not to say that I need praise for doing so- I did what any professional should do, I just wanted to offer a little bit of honesty as to how I initially felt. 

In considering the session a success, I am not blind to the fact that whilst I may have helped three people who were likely going to seek help regardless of my presence that evening or not, there continues to be a number of students who are still lacking in referencing/plagiarism skills, and I assume they will not seek help, at least not until the last minute.  I feel a bit conflicted about this issue, as those who attended the session, or did “the right thing” were rewarded, if you will, with a boring hour-long session by me and will now be expected to be able to reference accurately.  Conversely, those who did not attend were rewarded with spending that hour doing whatever it was they wanted to, and now because they “missed” the session, they may be given extra consideration when they reference incorrectly.  I wonder what the proper way to address this issue is, as the students are adults and made their own choices, so what do I care if they know how to reference?  I do care though and I think it is largely due to wanting to not be part of the machine which turns out graduates unfit for life and work beyond university.  I am not trying to be controversial, but there is no way of denying that there are flaws in the system (in any education system worldwide) in which students are able to academically fly under the radar.

I know I can’t teach everyone, and perhaps it’s not my responsibility, but good gracious, it’s a pimple I can’t stop trying to pop!

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