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Encouraging Collaborative Learning While Avoiding Plagiarism

Encouraging students to learn together may pose problems in the area of assessment. For example, if students are encouraged to work together during laboratory experiments but have to hand in assessable lab reports as individuals, how much 'copying' is permissible? To what extent does copying in this case constitute plagiarism? Similarly, if students get together to discuss an assignment and to share ideas and references, how might this be reflected in their work and how would this be viewed by the marker?

Helpful strategies to address these issues include:

  • Assignments using Collaborative methods can include the following statement for students:

    Collaborative learning is an essential component in the learning process and students are encouraged to study with a partner or a group. This in itself does not constitute plagiarism or cheating. However, be certain that the work you turn in is your own and that you completely understand it. Do not provide information to another student so that they can use it without understanding it. (Source: Kwantlen University)

  • Ken Martin Issues of Teaching and Leaning Volume 3, Number 3 "Collaborative Learning or Cheating?" suggests the following:

    • providing students with clear guidelines on what is permissible
    • setting up assessment tasks in such a way that each individual student has to produce a separate part of the overall task
    • setting up a group task in such a way that the group product is marked as a group, but each individual also has to submit a reflective account, to be marked separately, of what they learned during the process of doing the task.
  • 9 critical collaborative tips for teachers (from "Collaborative Pedagogy." By Rebecca Moore Howard. Composition Pedagogies: A Bibliographic Guide. Ed. Gary Tate, Amy Rupiper, and Kurt Schick. New York: Oxford UP, 2000.)