By: Hoda Khalil
“Scientific observation has established that education is not what the teacher gives,” Maria Montessori argued almost 70 years ago; “education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences in the environment” (Montessori, 1946, p.2). Montessori’s view of education, when applied to young children, proved to be very effective, but her education paradigm is not at all far from the learner-centred teaching approach that many higher education institutes are trying to adapt. Learner-centred teaching has many advantages that have been explained and discussed in the literature. In this article, I will claim an additional value to the learner-centred education, and that is minimizing plagiarism through shifting students’ focus to learning instead of getting grades, encapsulating explicit skills teaching in the curriculum, and involving students in designing the material they learn.
In the smart phone era where students can exchange information easily through mobile devices in a fraction of a second, plagiarism is a big problem that educators has been trying to fight and curb with varying effectiveness. This problem manifests clearly in departments like engineering and mathematics where the existing teaching methodologies result in assignments and exams that have one answer making plagiarism quite hard to identify. Rather than maintaining the current environments, that help foster plagiarism, and investing massive energy in the fight against plagiarism, it would be more effective to eradicate its causes. This paper argues that learner-centred teaching would be a viable solution to eliminating many of these causes.
I believe that the first cause of plagiarism is that in the traditional approaches to education, students’ focus on getting good grades instead of focusing on learning. On the other hand, the analysis of a statistical study that was conducted to measure the effect of the learner-centred education concept on students’ motivation, the majority of students have reported that they focused on learning rather than just obtaining a good grade (Weimer, 2011). Learning is a target that can never be achieved by plagiarism. Therefore, a learner who is focused on acquiring knowledge and not just getting the needed letter grade would never intentionally fall into the trap of plagiarism.
Second, student-centred learning includes explicit skills teaching, which is done through generating hypothesis and analyzing claims and assumptions (Weimer, 2012; Prince & Fielder, 2006, p.10). The outcome of such tasks is very unique to the individual performing them as opposed to direct questions that has only one correct answer which is easy to copy and share. In addition, the skills that the students learn in this case makes the education process easier for them and facilitates the learning experience. This paradigm shift again allows students to achieve their goal without the need for plagiarism.
Third, as stated by Weimer in her book Learner-Centred Teaching, in a learner-centred education approach, students have ownership in the learning experience which include curriculum design, responsibility for some levels of instruction, and peer review (Anderson, 2006, p.4). Applying this concept gives students control over their learning process which transforms the learning process into a team activity. The instructor and the classmates are parts of the team to which the student belongs. They cooperate to get the best of what they are learning/teaching. This team spirit makes plagiarism a faraway thought and replaces it with cooperation as a means of helping each other.
Resisting some root causes of plagiarism is one among many remunerations of the learner-centered education methodology. This outcome is achieved by shifting students’ goal from getting grades to learning, focusing on explicit learning skills and giving students some control over their learning process. Although the listed characteristics of the methodology are not expected to halt plagiarism, they can certainly contribute to diminishing it.
Anderson , L., et al. (2006). Learner-centred teaching and education at USC: A resource for faculty. Retrieved from http://cet.usc.edu/resources/teaching_learning/docs/
Montessori, M. (1946; 1995). Education for a new world. Oxford: Clio Press. Retrieved from http://www.moteaco.com/abcclio/world.html.
Prince, M. J. and Felder, R. M. (2006). Inductive teaching and learning methods: Definitions, comparisons, and research bases. Retrieved from http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/
Weimer, M. (8 August 2012). Five characteristics of learner-centered teaching. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/five-characteristics-of-learner-centered-teaching/.
Weimer, M. (15 July 2011). A learner-centered approach affects student motivation. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/