Monthly Archives: October 2011

How the OWHL supports the Academy’s commitment to Academic Integrity

The Academy requires all students to complete an Academic Integrity reading and self-certification process. We therefore assume that they understand what constitutes plagiarism, and if they commit plagiarism, it must have been intentional.
Academic integrity is taken very seriously, and there are serious consequences for violations, ranging from a Dean’s reprimand to mandatory withdrawal. No one is happy when this occurs.

At a faculty meeting last year Vic Henningsen of the History and Social Science Department explained how his colleagues support the research process and help their students avoid plagiarism. He explained that the teachers assess the process, not just the product. Many history teachers require many products to be turned in, including working bibliography, note cards, outlines, etc. These products are turned in according to a schedule that supports the student in working steadily rather than in working frantically at the last minute. Some teachers require bibliographies to be annotated, to assure that the student has actually used the source. Others require oral reports of written work, so the student is required to demonstrate mastery.

The OWHL has an essential role to play in this process too. From what we have seen over the years, we are convinced that the main reason that kids plagiarize intentionally is that they procrastinate to the point that they become desperate. We have also averted a lot of unintentional plagiarism by helping rookie researchers understand paraphrasing and keep their sources straight. Here are six ways that the instructional librarians routinely help keep kids from plagiarizing.

1. We emphasize the importance of topic selection, so that students choose a topic that really interests them. Most students come to the Help Desk with a “subject” not a topic. We interview them to make sure that they are invested in the subject, and then help them to narrow it to a topic, phrased as a question.

2. We expose them to a universe of possible sources, and help them learn to match their information need to a source type. The web is definitely not the best place to get all of the information that students need for research. We make them aware of alternatives.

3. We make using good resources as easy as using Google, by building assignment-specific OWHLGuides to bring selected resources to them. Here is an example of a guide that Sara Ciaburri built for the History 200 Commodities project.

4. We help them prevent inadvertent plagiarism due to sloppy research by teaching them to use NoodleBib to take notes, make an outline, keep a working bibliography and develop a final bibliography in the selected citation style. NoodleBib is free to all of our students, and despite its name it is a sophisticated and powerful research tool.

5. We show them how to avoid getting caught short at the last minute by planning their time. We offer an online“Planning Assignments”  tool that prompts the user to enter today’s date and the date that the research product is due, and then prescribes the steps of the research process that need to be accomplished each day in order to stay on track. It even sends email reminders!

6. We do endless “Bibliotherapy.” Instruction librarians are available to help kids in “individual Research Consultations” every hour that the OWHL is open. Many students return several times over the course of a research project, getting feedback on what they have accomplished, and help and direction on their next steps.


What makes the OWHL Great?

During the fall term, the staff of the OWHL is busy evaluating the progress that we are making towards the goals articulated in our “action plan” for this academic year. This process has inspired me to share some of the ways in which the OWHL is great.

We never rest on our successes, but subscribe to the principle that we can get better. As the leader of this effort, I work hard at communicating a vision of greatness. Because there are many barriers to continuous improvement, we ask lots of questions and listen to the answers. I remind myself that visionary leadership is impossible without terrific staff, and that they need to be inspired, liberated, and cherished.

The OWHL staff is passionate about our work because we know that what we do matters. We all view our jobs as both interesting and important. We know that many of our students come to us believing that they can find everything they need online, and that this approach won’t support academic success at Andover or in college. We are dedicated to intervening with targeted instruction in order to assure that our students graduate with the information skills they need to support the critical thinking that they will be required to do as lifelong learners.

The OWHL Culture supports innovation and effective teamwork, and avoids complacency, mediocrity, and blame. We strive to “get to the yes” even when it requires flexibility and lots of patience. We try to do more than what is expected, the majority of the time. We have created a Culture of Generosity, which means that we constantly try to identify and meet needs, even before the students, faculty, and staff know that they have them. An example is our recent addition of a BookScan station, which we acquired through an Abbot grant. It is wildly popular with students, event though most had never heard of such a machine before we installed it.

Our efforts to provide first rate customer service have paid off in tremendous “customer loyalty.” The “Senior Exit Survey” that we conducted last spring is full of accolades to the dedicated work of the library staff. Our current students are our best “marketers.” I recently overheard a student who was speaking with a new student emphatically recommend a consultation with one of the Instructional Librarians, on the grounds that “she saved my life in History 300 last year.” One of our happy customers recently (and spontaneously) wrote an Ode to the OWHL, which is currently displayed in our lobby.

We provide lots of opportunities for user feedback and practice Rapid Recovery. While prevention of problems is a great idea, it is not always possible in a creative industry. I’d much rather say that we tried something that didn’t succeed than say that we never made mistakes because we never tried anything new. When we get it wrong, we fix it fast.

If you have a suggestion for how we can keep getting better, we’d love to hear from you.

Try your Kindle or Kindle app by downloading a FREE book

Andover’s own Randall Peffer, author extraordinaire, is rapidly ascending Amazon’s list of top mystery writers. You can help promote one of Randy’s books, Provincetown Follies, Bangkok Blues, the first book in his Cape Islands Mystery series, by downloading it to your Kindle, or Kindle app on any device. Until Saturday, October 22, this download is FREE. Try it today.