Academic integrity is much more than ‘not cheating’. It’s an ethos for how we behave honestly, respectfully, ethically and professionally in every aspect of academic life. That’s why we’re flipping the conversation, helping students and staff understand what it means to work with academic integrity and better explaining what the repercussions of student misconduct are.
One subject. 350 students. 55 caught cheating. This is the real-life scenario accounting Lecturer Amanda White encountered last spring in the Assurance Services and Audit subject’s simulated video interview assessment.
“While we were marking, we noticed some students were stumbling over similar phrases and phrases that were incorrect,” explains Amanda. After typing a transcript of every student’s assessment and running them through text analysis software, Amanda identified 55 students whose work was not their own.
“I'm an accountant. I have ethical standards. I believe in the assessment. So I went forward and reported my findings to the misconduct and appeals team,” Amanda explains. When questioned by the team, many of the students revealed they didn’t realise what they’d done was actually cheating.
Not to be defeated, Amanda decided to turn the “devastating” discovery into a suite of new teaching materials, including The Academic Integrity Board Game, which has all but wiped out misconduct in the class. But more on this later.
Maryanne Dever is the Associate Dean (Teaching & Learning) in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the chair of the university’s Academic Integrity Working Party.
Though she says cases of academic misconduct like Amanda experienced are rare, Maryanne admits, “We can do much, much more to engage students in understanding what academic integrity is.”
This year, she’s leading a working party to recommend a formal, university-level strategy around academic integrity. Maryanne and her team are also working to understand how effective our current processes are (including where the pain points for academics occur) and how we can strengthen our culture of academic integrity.
“In the past,” says Maryanne, “we've tended to approach academic integrity through a kind of disciplinary lens, so we've focused on plagiarism, cheating and addressing infringements and misconduct.”
That approach, however, deals with only “an absolute minority of students”. What we want to do now is define the culture and practices we actively endorse as a university.
“It's becoming increasingly important that the community can look to universities and know that the knowledge we produce has integrity, that the degrees that we offer have integrity, the graduates we graduate have integrity,” Maryanne says.
And, the reality is, “If we haven't been talking the language of academic integrity to students, they're probably not as aware as they should be.
“We have to educate students in what we expect of them if we're really going to build a culture where academic integrity is understood and is aspired to.”
Amanda agrees. “Sometimes students don't even realise that something could be classed as academic misconduct.” That’s where The Academic Integrity Board Game comes in.
Last year, using a Learner Experience grant, Amanda enlisted the help of Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation graduates Tyler Key and Emma Gogolewski to create the game.
We have to educate students in what we expect of them if we're really going to build a culture where academic integrity is understood
They spent three months researching real-life examples of misconduct, creating a board game prototype, testing it and incorporating player feedback. Amanda launched the board game with 400 of her third-year students in Autumn session this year.
“The main thing this game had to do was to teach students, in an engaging way, what exactly academic integrity is and what it’s not,” explains Emma. “Then, with a little bit of fun with spinners and cards and tokens, they could start to understand what it would feel like to cheat. And that there are repercussions.”
“It's a scenario,” adds Tyler. “So, basically, the scenario might be your friend asks you for some notes and then it's like what do you do? You spin the spinner, pick up a card and it’s a 50/50 chance whether you act with integrity or not. If you get a ‘thumbs down’ it might be you gave them your notes and your tutor comes to you saying you've received a fail because that person has now distributed your notes. If you get a ‘graduation cap’, the scenario explains how you can help your friend make their own notes.”
Amanda smiles. “The feedback from students has been really good.”
“My favourite thing,” adds Emma, “is that people actually learned. I love their reaction in a group where they go, 'Oh my gosh! I didn't know that was cheating!' and it's kind of like they all laugh about it or they get really upset!”
While Amanda admits the experience hasn’t been easy, she says she wouldn’t have handled it any differently. “My Student Feedback Survey results were clearly bi-modal – students who loved the course and thought it was fantastic and then a whole lot of students who rated me as a one. I'm sure they would have given me a zero if they could have!”
On the flip side though, “I actually had a really nice letter, an actual piece of physical mail in my mail box, from Attila that said, ‘I want to congratulate you on the outstanding leadership you've shown through your unswerving commitment to maintaining academic integrity at UTS’. He didn't have to send that.”
For Amanda, the next step, is to roll out the board game to the UTS Business School’s 1600 first-year students. At the same time, she’s continuing to work with Emma and Tyler to create a customisable, open-source version of the board game for all UTS academics to use.
It will form part of a suite of academic integrity teaching materials that includes the Higher Education Language and Presentation Support's (HELPS) online avoiding plagiarism quiz and videos like the new nine-minute A Christmas Carol-esque film, The Carnival of Consequence.
The Carnival of Consequence is a film by playwright, producer and Learning Futures Project Officer George Catsi. It was created together with Amanda, Senior Lecturer in journalism Jenna Price, Senior Advisor in the Governance Support Unit Andrea Thompson and with support from Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education and Students) Shirley Alexander and the Institute for Interactive Media and Learning.
Amanda uses it in class to really “ram home” the lessons students learn playing The Academic Integrity Board Game.
Emma and Tyler agree interactive activities like these are key to helping students understand which actions are and are not acceptable. “It's not a chunk of text that you then have to interpret and try desperately to remember,” says Emma. “It's a real-life scenario that will pop up later in your life and you can remember and think, 'Oh that's right'.”
“It’s really important,” adds Amanda. “We understand students are under pressure and so sometimes they might think a shortcut may seem attractive in the short-term. But, your word is your bond; your reputation for doing the job. And doing the job right is what's going to carry you a long way in the business world. So let's start with doing that as a student!”
The Academic Integrity Board Game
Up to six people, in teams of two, can play at once.
To start the game, each pair places a token on the starting point. The teams take it in turn to select and read out a question card for everyone to answer. If you’re correct, you move your token ahead one place. If you’re incorrect you stay where you are.
If you land on the scenario card, that player picks up a scenario card, reads it aloud and spins the wheel. If you land on thumbs down, follow the path of the dotted line. If you land on the graduation cap, move one space along the solid arrow path. The first team to reach the graduation certificate wins.
You can share your experiences and ideas with the Academic Integrity Working Group by emailing Maryanne.Dever@uts.edu.au or find out more about The Academic Integrity Board Game (or suggest a more catchy name!) by emailing Amanda.White@uts.edu.au
Watch The Carnival of Consequence video, and then use it in your class, at uts.ac/carnivalofconsequence