Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Idea Theft: A Rant on Classroom Etiquette

Today I was verbally plagiarized. My professors want to know why I don't always talk in class...it is because of poor group dynamics and idea theft. There are always those who attempt (and sometimes succeed) in dominating the group dynamic. There is also the matter of a professor who has such a large group that they miss body language cues and ignore the reticent to speak class members' attempt at communication.
One poor guy had his hand raised for 10 minutes and then the instructor had the nerve to check their watch as he was speaking...we had 10 or 15 minutes left at the time too. During this time that he had his hand raised the professor called on at least 4 other people. I was waiting to talk about my idea when some guy wearing yellow, who worked with the small group I'd been in, decided he would repeat my idea, almost verbatim. This yellow-wearer hadn't even brought the text to class! I also had discussed the topic of my research paper with the members of the group quite candidly. I am certain those thoughts will come in handy for the guy in yellow for future discourse.
There are several reasons why I am so quiet in class. Number one, I am an auditory learner, thus I prefer to listen rather than speak, and I rarely think about what I am going to say while someone else is speaking. Yes, I know this contradicts my above comment about waiting to speak, but I was going against my nature for the sake of class participation credit. Number two idea theft. While speaking in small groups, before the broader class discussion, it is not cool to use someone else's ideas as your own. The proper thing to do would be to say "so and so from our group said this." The third reason I don't talk in class is poor group dynamics...the dominators who interrupt, think that everything they say is of the utmost importance, and who ignore their class mate's raised hands and frantic eye contact.
All of these things are frustrating and annoying. Why should I have to go against my learning style in order to garner my professor's favor or the necessary participation credit? Especially if I am going to be verbally plagiarized or bulldozed? Perhaps I need to kick it up a notch and be more assertive. Or perhaps the people in that class need to recognize classroom etiquette. Maybe there should be a standard Emily Posts's guide to Behavior in a Classroom Setting?
Some guidelines:

*Give credit if you are using someone else's ideas. Even verbally.

*Pay attention to other student's body language. Is their hand raised? Are they staring intently at the instructor? Let them speak. If no one else notices a raised hand perhaps even point out: "I think Jenny has something to add." This kind of goes above and beyond the call of simple etiquette into the realm of "Lending a Helping Hand to Those in Need."

*If you are a natural talker use the method prescribed by a brilliant professor I once had: Step up, and then step back. You may have some off the charts great thoughts, but dominating the conversation is incredibly impolite. Write them down. Hang out in the hall after class to talk with other students or follow your professor to bombard them with your brilliance.

*When someone else is speaking, especially someone who is normally quiet, listen with attention and respect. Don't just spend the whole time they are speaking formulating your own response.


  1. I would say that while you definitely don't want to go against your learning style, that there is some merit in being more vocal, especially since you accept that it is not your strong suit. I am trying to learn to shut the hell up sometimes, because that is not my strong suit. I believe each of us (individuals in society) owe it to ourselves to be introspective and try to be stronger in our weaker areas while we hone and specialize our natural talents. I feel your professor needs to be a little more alert. I feel you should have made the point right then and there in front of everyone that your ideas were in use. The plagarist deserves to be outed for who he is when the witnesses are there to attest to the truth of your accusation. Luv ya, hope everything is awesome for you and your family!

  2. I do agree that although it is not your way, in todays class environment you do need to be assertive. along with this, use your etiquette so that you won't feel bad when you do it; at times you might stray past the line, but no rule is written in stone (and even if it is, we all have a hammer). stay strong in your belief for your self and others.

  3. You are both right. I am trying to be more vocal, and I should have said something and called that guy out. I have trouble with assertiveness. I usually go from passive to agressive, skipping assertive!

  4. Thanks for stopping by my blog, Christina! I left a response to your questions in the comments.