Supporting students’ academic integrity

Charles Sturt now has an Academic Integrity Policy; students have to complete an Academic Integrity subject or their grades are withheld; assessments must be submitted through Turnitin; every Subject Outline contains a section devoted to academic integrity; and the consequences of breaches of academic integrity can be severe. Problem solved, right? No more issues with cheating, plagiarism, contract cheating, or collusion!

If only that were so!

Why do we still have to spend a lot of time and energy identifying, investigating, and responding to breaches of academic integrity? Often, it’s because, despite their best intentions, students don’t have the skills they need to confidently submit work that is solely a product of their own endeavours. Time-poor, disorganised students who lack paraphrasing, synthesising, and critical thinking skills can easily make mistakes or reach for easier options. Add cultural or linguistic diversity to the mix and maintaining academic integrity may become a very tall order.

After you have done all you can to ensure the assessment itself is designed according to best practice principles (see your ED and the staff Academic Integrity ELMO for advice on this), here are some practical resources and strategies I can implement to ensure your students have the skills they need to act with academic integrity.

  • embed a practical Academic Skills tutorial on referencing, paraphrasing, synthesising, and integrating evidence from the literature.
  • deconstruct a previous student’s assignment to model the features of effective writing
  • add a ‘literacy window’ to the content on your I2 site – pop-ups with explanations or short instructional recordings that give students information about literacy skills right at the point of need
  • develop a study guide on paraphrasing or referencing using sources useful in your subject and assessments
  • prepare announcements that identify where they should be up to in writing an assessment, the skills they need at that stage, and relevant Academic Skills services and resources that may help

Being proactive with support strategies can save a lot of time in investigating breaches of academic integrity after the fact.

Debbie Wheeler, Academic Skills Coordinator (BJBS)