Dear Students: the importance of attribution and writing to learn

part 1: the importance of attribution

My obsession with teaching students to give credit where credit is due actually came out of my first graduate school teaching experience. I taught ecology labs with my lab mate Kristen. The professor gave us the labs he wanted us to teach. Sometime later, I became a professor working on writing my own labs. I found that he had plagiarized huge sections of text from his lab. Why not cite the original author? I think it’s hubris. He probably wanted the students to think he wrote all that or maybe he was supposed to and was too busy or lazy to do it from scratch. 

part 2: writing to learn

Learning is about doing it from scratch. It might not be written perfectly, but the process you go through to write helps you think critically and retain details about the information. 

When you write in discussion, I expect you to write from the heart and from your own head. Read the textbook and then write it in your own words. This works! This is why age-old note-taking works. Doing a slow kinesthetic thing like writing or sketching allows time for mental processing. And then you have a memory of writing and a memory of the information and this literally makes your brain more complex by building the neural connections. Lots of connections make information seem familiar and easy to retrieve.