Copying to learn: mimesis, plagiarism and 21st century English language education

Joyce, Michael, and Lundberg, Anita (2013) Copying to learn: mimesis, plagiarism and 21st century English language education. In: Proceedings of the 2nd International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Conference. From: 2nd International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Conference, 9-10 December 2013, Sarawak, Malaysia.

[img] PDF (Published Version) - Published Version
Restricted to Repository staff only

View at Publisher Website:


In the global world of transnational education, Western universities - especially those with offshore campuses – draw in large numbers of international students. These students are of particular concern to English as a Second Language (ESL) professionals and First Year Experience (FYE) coordinators, for in these environments many of our students are struggling to master English skills and academic writing.

Western universities emphasize deep and meaningful learning while discouraging students from copying, using accusations of plagiarism and harsh punishments to prevent it. This strong stance against copying warrants further analysis for a number of reasons. To begin with, professional writers report having used copying to teach themselves to write better, describing it as a technique for learning. Additionally, many of our students come from cultures where copying is considered a valuable part of the learning process, inculcated through Confucius and other eastern philosophies. Moreover, there is a long history of analysis of copying in western philosophy and science: Plato and Aristotle wrote (against each other) on mimesis; Walter Benjamin on the mimetic faculty; and Caillois on mimicry in nature. These thinkers struggle with the western dualistic imaginary of original and copy.

Importantly, "copying" also alerts us to the hierarchical dualistic assumptions about Asian and Western educational systems. Thus "copying to learn" can not only increase the academic writing proficiency of students from Confucian heritage cultures through using valued cultural methods, it may also encourage western education systems to reassess their assumptions about the perceived shortcomings of Asian education by linking the notion of copying to western cultural traditions. We argue for a relational approach to English language education and academic writing, combining the repetitive learning styles of Confucian cultures to balance out the western emphasis on "deep", "meaningful" learning.

Item ID: 30601
Item Type: Conference Item (Research - E1)
ISBN: 978-983-44482-5-7
Keywords: mimesis, second language writing, East & West philosophy, Confucian heritage cultures, copying, first year experience
Related URLs:
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2014 01:01
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION > 1302 Curriculum and Pedagogy > 130299 Curriculum and Pedagogy not elsewhere classified @ 30%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1699 Other Studies in Human Society > 169903 Studies of Asian Society @ 40%
20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2099 Other Language, Literature and Culture > 209999 Language, Communication and Culture not elsewhere classified @ 30%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9599 Other Cultural Understanding > 959999 Cultural Understanding not elsewhere classified @ 90%
93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9301 Learner and Learning > 930102 Learner and Learning Processes @ 10%
Downloads: Total: 266
More Statistics

Actions (Repository Staff Only)

Item Control Page Item Control Page