"Keep the focus on learning, not punishment" advises Dr Mary Davis, Academic Integrity Lead, Business School, Oxford Brookes University, UK
According to Dr Davis, the most important actions a university can take to deter cheating are to build the academic integrity relationship between tutor and student by developing core skills by creating an academic integrity culture in the classroom (or digital environment as we now find ourselves during the COVID-19 situation) and by finding ways to engage, monitor and check.
During the 6th Annual Plagiarism across Europe and Beyond meeting, hosted by Wollongong University Dubai, Dr Davis gave a fascinating presentation sharing her insight and leadership on academic integrity at Oxford Brookes. Dr Davis listed the student core skills required to help with preventing plagiarism as time management, building confidence through skills development, by having an understanding of the regulations and definitions of plagiarism, language support and coping strategies for managing pressure.
Prevention not policing
This supportive ‘prevention not policing’ approach was the common thread of the conference, and the newly crowned ‘Special ENAI Lifetime Achievement Award’ winner, Tracey Bretag - who frequently delivers talks on this subject - reflected that academics must lead by example during her keynote. Academic integrity is the responsibility of everyone was the opinion voiced by Dr Thomas Lancaster, who during his keynote, went on to say that we should think about students as partners, trust them (to do the right thing) and work with them.
Why do students cheat?
Dr Davis also stressed the importance in understanding why students cheat and shared the top reasons according to her findings as follows:
- I didn’t know I was cheating
- I didn’t think my English was good enough
- I was under a lot of pressure
- I didn’t think anyone would notice
- I didn’t have time
- I didn't think I could do a good job on my own
Without an understanding of these reasons (or excuses) it’s hard to know how to focus the areas of support needed in order to ensure students do not inadvertently cheat, or fall foul of the temptation of contract cheating offers. Students are targeted by these a lot - Dr Lancaster shared some truly worrying approaches made by these companies who stand to make big money via their ‘services’.
With all of these actions and preventive measures discussed, it made me reflect on a 2018 study where it is gratifying to see positive outcomes following some of these strategies that our partner universities have put in place. The survey included the participation of students across Australia, New Zealand and the UK and investigated their general attitudes towards plagiarism, and sought to determine any impact the Studiosity service could have on their abilities to avoid plagiarism. Key headlines from this are that
- 82% of students indicated they were more determined to resist pressure to cheat
- 73% agreed that they now understood the need to take personal responsibility in avoiding plagiarising
- 83% of students reported they had a greater awareness of the academic skills required to avoid plagiarism
It’s such a rewarding experience to be able to partner with universities that are increasingly investing in prevention rather than policing, ultimately being good for both the student and the sector. Studiosity founder Jack Goodman talks in his $38 billion reasons academic integrity will be a priority in 2020 blog about how large and how valuable the sector is and the huge pressure to get this right. Of course this also goes beyond education as we prepare our future nurses, doctors, engineers, business managers etc., to have integrity, skill and self-efficacy - all critical in contributing to social and economic issues.
Demonstrating both duty of care to students and constant pursuit of higher standards is almost certainly a win for public trust and future enrolments as well. In partnership with the sector, we have been developing further ways to support students and help institutions prevent rather than police unwanted behaviour, as part of a holistic system of support for academic integrity. We released Citation Assist, which is a feature to switch on inside a university’s existing Studiosity service. It is timely referencing help – when a student is writing their draft (not at the end.) Check with your Partner Services manager to see if you already have this option or to see early research around Citation Assist.
In summary this three day, fully online PAEB2020 event was extremely insightful and engaging and we were glad to have been part of it. The 7th International Conference is due to be held in Vienna, Austria - let's hope we can attend in person!
Chandni Dudhaiya is Partnerships Manager for Studiosity
Chandni (Chan) Chan joined Studiosity September 2019, she is passionate about education and has been working in the sector since 2014. With a degree in Business Management as well as a Postgraduate Certificate in Education, awarded ‘Outstanding’ as a Teacher of IT, Business and Computing, Chan taught students from low socio-economic backgrounds across South London and loved being in the classroom. In 2016 she completed a summer placement at Google, which involved working on various educational projects for students. Since leaving the classroom, Chan joined the charity sector at Teach First and continued to support students to bridge educational inequality gap by training, coaching and mentoring trainee teachers as well as recruiting career changers to join the classroom in the areas of greatest need across the UK.
To find out more about Studiosity, academic integrity and ‘help, not answers’ policies, visit here