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Academic Integrity: Creating an Environment to Help Students Succeed

The Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning at the University of Manitoba hosted the fifth installment of the Academic Integrity Inter-Institutional Meeting (AIIIM) on May 19, 2022, bringing students, professors, lecturers, librarians, teaching and learning centres, and administrators together to share ideas and understandings with a goal of providing students with the best possible learning experience.

“Our focus has shifted away from ‘problems we need to solve,’” said Dr. Brenda Stoesz, senior faculty specialist at the University of Manitoba. “The theme this year was to make prevention of problems a priority and, more importantly, focus on teaching and learning, engaging learners, and making sure they have a good learning experience. When we first started six years ago, we were trying to understand what academic integrity means to each of us and what it means for the individual classroom as well as the institution or the province as a whole. Today, we’re able to start thinking about and discussing different considerations through networking events and sessions that talk about diversity, inclusion, and racism, and what that means for academic integrity.”

academic integrity image - exam answers up sleeve of test taker

What Is Academic Integrity?

We’ve previously shared a great post about academic integrity and the tenets that form the foundation of academic integrity for faculty, staff, and students in post-secondary education throughout Manitoba:

·         Honesty

·         Respect

·         Trust

·         Responsibility

·         Fairness

·         Courage

“At the University of Manitoba, we want to contribute to the conversations, practices, and scholarly work that is emerging in academic integrity locally, nationally, and even internationally.” Erica Jung, director, Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, University of Manitoba

The AIIIM Origin Story

In a brainstorming session at the University of Manitoba in early 2016, a faculty working group of educators explored ways to improve academic integrity. Dr. Mark Torchia suggested a conference might be a good way to bring educators from around the province together to discuss this topic. The working group reached out to local post-secondary institutions to gauge interest and found that educators throughout Manitoba were interested in promoting academic integrity. The working group developed a structured program, and the initial AIIIM session was held in 2017 with 35 – 40 participants, hosted by the university in one of the teaching and learning centre’s classrooms. At the end of the one-day conference, Josh Seeland suggested the event should be held annually, then volunteered to hold the next session at Assiniboine Community College. Since then, the annual event has been hosted five times, skipping a year due to the pandemic.

“The collaborative approach the working group at the University of Manitoba took to develop AIIIM is what we strive for at Campus Manitoba: great ideas paired with strong initiative to find ways to improve the learning experience for students throughout the province,” said Kim Grenier Mintenko, executive director at Campus Manitoba. “AIIIM has consistently delivered a high-level, high-value experience for all, and we’re looking forward to watching this initiative grow beyond Manitoba’s borders.”

“In the first event,” shared Josh Seeland, library services manager at Assiniboine Community College, “most of us were fairly new to the academic integrity game. Back then, our discussions were about plagiarism and misconduct, and we were just starting to look at things at the macro level. We talked about the values of academic integrity and the different policies and procedures at the various institutions, and the approaches being used. This most recent event really highlighted the work that’s gone on since the first. Institutions that were newly represented at the initial event have since produced evidence and research to contribute to not only the national but the international body of work in academic integrity, showcasing the solid collaboration that’s going on in Manitoba.”

Speaking the Same Language

Lisa Vogt works with staff and faculty as part of academic quality in the Centre for Learning and Program Excellence at Red River College (RRC) Polytechnic. She shared her experience with the first instance of AIIIM. “In January of 2017, I was tasked with looking at academic misconduct among international students at our school. I was given data and access to students to explore academic misconduct. I immersed myself in this world from January to June, learning all kinds of new things, and then I learned about this event focused on academic integrity. After six months of working on my own on AI — which is what I was calling academic integrity, even though it typically meant artificial intelligence to other people — I walked into a room full of people, and everybody was calling it AI, too. To connect with people who had the same concerns and working on similar things, oftentimes further along in the process, was just amazing. There was a moment of realization where things started to come together, and you appreciate that this is real. This is legitimate. Recognizing that we can do so much for our students if we take the time and effort to set up an environment for them to succeed with academic integrity. AIIIM led to the development of not only the role I hold today but the work that is being engaged here at RRC Polytech. I don’t know that it would have happened if we hadn’t all come together and started talking — sharing ideas and making plans for how to better support students and faculty and academic integrity.”

“There was a moment of realization where things started to come together, and you appreciate that this is real. This is legitimate. Recognizing that we can do so much for our students if we take the time and effort to set up an environment for them to succeed with academic integrity.” Lisa Vogt,  Centre for Learning and Program Excellence, Red River College Polytechnic

The Value of Academic Integrity

“The work I do in educating students is actually talking about values and what they mean for your education and career,” said Lisa. “You want to help students understand this isn’t just about school and grades; it’s about the actual knowledge they need to be successful in the workforce. I’ll explain, ‘If you need your friend to tell you how to do that task, then that company will need to hire both of you to get the job done. So how are you planning to divide the paycheque if it takes two people to do the job?’”

“At the college level, it’s easy for us to see how this is valuable in a societal safety way,” shared Josh. “Our graduates are going to be out designing roads and bridges. They’ll be working in daycares and care homes. If our credentials don’t mean anything, bad things can happen. Academic integrity isn’t about a stodgy history professor obsessed with footnotes, worried someone might graduate without earning a degree in history. It’s about being confident that the lifeguard has the skills to save our children if they fall in swimming lessons or the engineer that’s designing our buildings is working from a place of knowledge. We have to trust they know what they’re doing. Academic integrity will help us maintain that trust in post-secondary institutions.”

“I have observed a change in how instructors have approached academic integrity in their courses,” said Brenda. “Today, instructors seem to be more willing to engage students in conversations about academic integrity and academic misconduct than they have been in the past, and it would be great to see this continue.”

Authentic Assessments vs. Alternative Assessments

Through the pandemic, there has been a lot of discussion around alternative assessment methods to better gauge student learning. “At first, we thought alternative assessments were a magic bullet that might make our problems melt away, but that’s not the case. In Australia, there’s been extensive research on contract cheating, and they found that all kinds of assessments are outsourced. Even personal reflection assignments — you can hire somebody to do it for you.”

“That’s another value of events like AIIIM,” shared Josh. “We can talk about what works and what doesn’t and share our successes and challenges together. I know we benefited from collaborating with people regarding plagiarism prevention and detection through text matching software, and we will reciprocate with different institutions who are looking into something like that. They can benefit from our research on this topic and perhaps share something that they’re working on, such as procedures and policies.”

“Some styles of assessment, like a multiple-choice assessment or an essay assessment, require a certain level of skill in reading and writing,” said Lisa, “but you’re not actually assessing a student’s reading and writing abilities; it’s just a vehicle to get the information. Whereas a conversation or a real-life scenario allows the student’s abilities to shine. These authentic assessments allow instructors to connect better with their students. We’re seeing educators doing things like face-to-face marking, where you might book 15 minutes per student and do the assessment right then and there. And after those 15 minutes, they complete whatever paperwork needs to be done, and then move on to the next student. It might mean meeting with students all day, but at the end of it, you’re done. You’re not taking home a stack of exams to mark. Instructors are reporting that this is more engaging. They feel happier, they know their students better, they can verify the student in front of them, and their students are able to express themselves better.”

A Culture of Integrity

“The fundamental literature around academic integrity tended to focus on rule compliance: the negative and reactive elements that focused on students and the intricacies of citing their work,” explained Josh. “Over the years, we’ve intentionally moved away from focusing on the negative to create a culture of integrity that’s positive, educative, proactive, and supportive.”

The Future of Academic Integrity

“We’re starting to look at other considerations connected to academic integrity,” shared Brenda. “Is the definition we’re working with appropriate? Should we be open to change? Are we using a Western-only focus? Does academic integrity look different in other cultures? Are there other perspectives we need to include? These are questions we should be asking as we learn and grow.”

Keep learning

Published On: June 3, 2022|Categories: academic integrity, Blogs, Fiscal 2022 - 2023|

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