Sunday, February 25, 2007


As a Spanish lector, I have to suffer through student oral presentations. The students are supposed to speak for 3-5 minutes on a topic of their own choosing, with minimal use of notes.

C was one of my favorite students because he was so enthusiastic. At the beginning of the quarter, he told me that he wanted to learn Spanish really well, so would I please correct his grammar as much as possible. He also asked me lots of vocabulary and culture questions outside of class, all without being a suck-up. What's not to like?

So when C gives his presentation, and immediately I notice that something is wrong. Mainly that he's reading straight from his notes, a big no-no. This means that he basically wrote a paper and is reading it out loud, when the object of the exercise is to speak in the target language without notes. But it's a pedagogically bad idea to interrupt a student during a presentation. It can fluster them and make them lose their train of thought.

As C went on, I recognized more and more complex grammatical constructions that not even I would use in my own Spanish papers. At this point I knew something was very wrong. After his presentation, I asked for his notes, which he gave to me. It was obvious at first glance that there was no way C wrote his script himself.

Googling phrases from his speech lead me to this wikipedia page:
C's speech was made up entirely of chunks of this site.

Disappointed in my star student C, I whipped off an emial to my superviser:

Hey I,
I had a student give a presentation this week, and it was way too
perfect, using language and constructions I wouldn't even use. I
googled several lines from the presentation and discovered that he
took the whole thing off of wikipedia in spanish. Where do I go from
here? I'm really upset because he's normally a really good student,
always asking questions and wanting to learn.

And her reply:


I would just talk to him and tell him that it's great that he is working hard and
challenging himself to using difficult structures, but that the presentation is not
about memorizing things, but about being able to talk spontaneously on one of
the topics, and that you'd like to meet with him and hear another presentation
of that nature, because something copied of Wikipedia won't do - that's not our
objective. You should give him a choice of topics (family, hobbies...) and just
forget about the first presentation.

If your concern is plagiarism (I don't know what he spoke about and whether he
presented someone else's work as his own) - then tell him that and again, ask
him to do another presentation, forgiving him this time (if he copied stuff) and
explaining the objective of these presentations to him.

I hope this helps - if you want to talk about it in person and explain what
exactly happened, stop by GB tomorrow.


This answer really pissed me off. My superviser was basically telling me to give him a second chance so she didn't have to deal with the hassle of a plagiarism case. I ended up giving the student a second chance, taking time out of my own busy schedule to meet with him outside of class. His second presentation followed the guidelines exactly, but he never acted embarrassed or anything.

I still wonder if he knew what he was doing. I think he did. And that's why the whole situation smells fishy.


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