Sunday, August 17, 2014

Some Bad Habits are Learned at School

A letter from S. Ramasesha in Current Science:

... While wilful plagiarism should be punished exemplarily, it may also, in some cases, be due to a lack of understanding on the part of the offender as to what constitutes plagiarism. In the Indian context, often the young researchers, mainly students, commit plagiarism ‘unknowingly’ because it is not clear to them as to what constitutes plagiarism and what does not. This is especially true for students in India, since in their formative years in school, often teachers give full credit only for answers which are reproduced verbatim from their textbooks or class notes. Students who write answers in their own words are often penalized. [...]

And also, this article by Tim Birkhead and Bob Montgomerie in Times Higher Education:

Further discussion with our own undergraduate research students uncovered what they considered to be the main cause of such misconduct: the way science is taught at school. The obsession with box-ticking is a major culprit, where assessment rewards only the right answer rather than the process of research and the integrity of reporting. Students told us of teachers who encouraged them to make up results (the right ones, of course) when a particular experiment had not “worked”. The problem is obvious: teachers have not been given sufficient time by governments and curriculum developers to properly teach the scientific process and to do experiments carefully. If an experiment or demonstration fails, pupils need to understand why. It is ludicrous that pupils should ever be encouraged to fake results when their experiments do not turn out as expected, or be punished with lower marks when they do not get the “right” answer. We expect that for some ambitious young scientists, the mis-training they received at school sets the agenda for the rest of their career.