The Editor Dilemma in Modern Language Instruction: Is Tutoring Out of Control?

Document Type : Original Article


Colorado State University, US


Although academic dishonesty has received considerable attention in recent years, there is little research on how non-serious cheating issues in a discipline such as biology or chemistry can become highly serious offenses in the context of instruction in the modern languages (MLs). One of these grey areas is (unauthorized) editing by a tutor and/or a native speaker: Given that a substantial part (if not all) of the grade in a ML assignment is language usage (be it grammar, vocabulary, spelling, or organization), any assistance received that improves linguistic form (and as a consequence the student’s grade) should be considered as an act of punishable academic dishonesty. Still, and even if it seems obvious, it is not uncommon for language instructors to come across assignments that contain advanced linguistic forms or colloquialisms that do not belong to the linguistic repertoire of the student who wrote it (Correa, 2011). In this paper I address the following questions: Is the use of a tutor/native speaker accidental plagiarism (Beasley, 2004), pseudepigraphy (Walker & Townley, 2012), or contract cheating (Clarke & Lancaster, 2006)? Who is at fault? How can it be prevented or minimized? Should students be allowed to have tutors at all? Is there a double standard when it comes to graduate students and faculty?