Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

That’s not plagiarism, it’s an “administrative error”

with 2 comments

Front June 2013Our list of ways that authors and editors find to dance around writing the word “plagiarism” seems to grow longer by the week. Today, we can add “administrative error” to that collection of euphemisms, thanks to authors from South Africa and the editors of an education journal.

Here’s the notice for “Development studies students as constructors of classroom pedagogy in practice: Observed classroom dynamics from the Kingdom of Lesotho,” published in Educational Research in October 2010:

This article has been retracted following a complaint by Richard Tjombe Tabulawa, and review by the Editorial Board. It has come to light that, due to an administrative error, this article was published although there is a significant overlap with an article that had already been published in Journal of Curriculum Studies (2004), 36.1, pp.53-73. Apologies are offered to readers of the journal that this was not detected during the submission process.

We’ve seen “administrative error” used to describe duplication, so we thought perhaps that was why this paper was retracted. But the Journal of Curriculum Studies paper was written by Tabulawa, not by Nana Adu-Pipim Boaduo and Daphne Gumbi, who wrote — well, perhaps that’s too strong a term — the Educational Research paper.

And that, Retraction Watch friends, makes this “administrative error” plagiarism.

The abstract of the now-retracted paper:

This study is a report on observed classroom methods, approaches and strategies employed by Development Studies teachers and students in selected senior secondary schools in the Kingdom of Lesotho to keep each other in an information-giving position. It is contrary to the existing view that teacher dominance is a negotiated product, which results from teachers and students exercising power on each other in the classroom. Such a view of classroom practice is only possible where power is conceptualized not as a negative force that dominates, but as a productive enabling force that simultaneously constrains and enables human action. In theory various perspectives of classroom reality becomes a co-construction, a joint project by teacher and students. This study surveyed Development Studies teachers and students in randomly selected schools. Participatory and action research methods (triangulation) were used in the study which directly involved the respondents. The literature reviewed, questionnaires administered and the interviews conducted enabled us to produce this report. The conclusion that could be drawn is that if classroom practice is viewed as a dialectic al co-construction then students’ passivity must be recognized as their exercising of power on the teacher.

The abstract of 2004’s “Geography students as constructors of classroom knowledge and practice: a case study from Botswana”:

This study reports on the strategies (overt and subtle) employed by students in one senior secondary school in Botswana to keep their teachers in an information‐giving position. Contrary to the prevailing view that the ‘teacher dominance’ of classroom activities so often reported in classroom studies results from teachers’ desire for social control, this study sees the dominance as a negotiated product, resulting instead from teachers and students exercising power on one another. Such a view of classroom practice is only possible where power is conceptualized not as a negative force that dominates, but as a productive force that simultaneously constrains and enables human action. Viewed this way, classroom reality becomes a co‐construction, a ‘joint project’ by teacher and students. Attempts to change this reality, therefore, must include both teacher and students.

The now-retracted paper begins:

The teacher has often been singled out as the most important change agent to the exclusion of other participants – students in educational policy-making. Whenever change is desirable in educational practice, interventionist programmes usually establish for teachers without due consideration of students. Improving the quality of teachers has been viewed as a prerequisite for quality teaching and learning. The role the real consumers (students) of curriculum initiatives play in curriculum implementation is largely viewed as inconsequential. Students, all over the world, are rarely involved in any meaningful way in curriculum decision-making, even though they are central to the process of schooling. They are perceived as inconsequential in curriculum matters. This is self-evident in the work of classroom researchers, who tend to focus exclusively on what the teacher does in class, rather than on what students also do to influence classroom practices. This observation is pertinent not to the Kingdom of Lesotho in particular but other African countries as well.

Other African countries such as, say, Botswana? From the 2004 paper:

In educational policy‐making, the teacher has often been singled out as the most important change agent, to the exclusion of other participants, such as students. Whenever change has been thought desirable in educational practice, interventionist programmes have usually been established for teachers. Improving the quality of teachers has usually been viewed as a prerequisite for quality learning. The role students (the real consumers of curriculum initiatives) play in curriculum implementation is largely viewed as inconsequential. Students are rarely involved in any meaningful way in curriculum decision‐making, in spite of the fact that they are central to the process of schooling.

That students are perceived as inconsequential in curriculum matters is also very much self‐evident in the work of classroom researchers, who tend to focus almost exclusively on what the teacher does in class, rather than on what students also do to influence classroom practices. This observation is pertinent to Botswana.

Hat tip: Rolf Degen

Written by Ivan Oransky

August 2nd, 2013 at 8:30 am

Comments
  • Robert Eibl August 2, 2013 at 9:19 am

    It is just wrong to expect honesty from plagiarism supporters – no matter if they are rescheres in africa or members of an academy of science in Germany. The difference is: some plagiarism won’t lead to retraction, it may just mit be in the interesting of both, the plagiarism supporting professors and the editors.

    • LibSci August 2, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      The publisher, Interesjournals (http://interesjournals.org/ER/index.htm), is one of the worst spamming predatory OA journals (www.scholarlyoa.com) on this planet. I get at least one spam a day, on average. Their “peer review” is skeletal, so I am quite surprised to see a retraction. There must have been alot of pressure from someone in power to someone in power. Anyone who has ever been to the Kingdom of Lesotho will know that it is impossible to compare with the educational standards of its enveloping neighbour, the Republic of South Africa, despite having a 85% literacy rate and only 3.5% access to the internet (Wikipedia). Are the authors Lesothan or South African? I can’t track the paper on the ER site…

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