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Visual-plagiarism in the applied arts has been identified as the improper, or unethical use of images in the process of creation. Preliminary research identified that lack of knowledge prior to tertiary education and the ambiguity between referencing an image or copying an image are significant contributors to unethical creative practice. Therefore, this study explores how Visual Communication techniques embedded within active learning pedagogies can be utilised to enlighten prospective art educators on the topic of visual-plagiarism. Via a focus group study, the questions this proposal plans to investigate are; do trainee art educators have the adequate knowledge and tools to educate secondary school art students on the topic of visual-plagiarism? And if this proves not to be the case, how can we best support art educators in acquiring said knowledge and tools? The overarching aim of this research is to establish how the prevention of visual-plagiarism is currently taught within arts education (if at all) and to gauge opinions on the efficacy of current educational models in comparison to the proposed active learning methods.
Much of the current research into visual plagiarism in art and design indicates that a lack of understanding is one of the key factors resulting in academic misconduct. My own in-depth research also supports this finding and, perhaps more notably, reveals that art and design educators often make incorrect assumptions about student knowledge on the topic. Assuming they know far more than they do. Armed with this information, I decided to develop resources that would pre-emptively, rather than punitively, address visual plagiarism. I believe that by providing our students with the right tools to critically analyze their creative choices through the lens of academic integrity, we ultimately empower them to thrive.
We discovered that pre-tertiary art and design educators have limited knowledge of visual plagiarism and that current art and design curriculum in Singapore does not cover the ethical production or consumption of images, leaving little time for educators to embed such topics into their teaching. Accordingly, we developed, Echo, a modular toolkit with a supporting digital App. The Echo Toolkit was designed to be a modular resource, partitioning complex moral and ethical issues into bite-sized topics. Each topic is presented in an easy-to-use lesson booklet, explicitly designed with students in mind; these lessons are also supported by an accompanying activity booklet that engages students in discussion, critical thinking, and creative practice. The overarching aim being to support art and design educators in addressing visual plagiarism in the creative classroom.
By creating spaces for conversation and critical analysis surrounding the ethical use of images this project can impact the way art and design is taught, the way students and educators communicate and in turn foster more ethical practices in the creative industry. Pre-emptive educational tools and resources can assist students, educators, and creative practitioners to engage in ethical design and elevate the status of art and design in Singapore.
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