How do you improve academic integrity?

By Amanda White

What do you do when you detect 16% of your cohort engaged in academic misconduct?  Besides a lot of paperwork and administration (250 hours worth), I was surprised by students’ reasons for cheating – and it was mostly driven by a lack of understanding of how to study with integrity. Students cheat for many complicated reasons, and often rationalise away the act of cheating with the misconception that it is a victimless crime. Thus began my search to try and find a way to help my students understand what academic integrity meant and how to avoid misconduct.

There has been a shift in the last five years away from the punitive narrative of avoiding academic misconduct towards a more positive mindset of encouraging students to study with academic integrity. We still want penalties, but a change in mindset/culture/narrative has the potential to steer students away from even considering cheating.

How do universities change the narrative? In US institutions, Honor Codes are a long-standing tradition, though they have less history in other countries. We’ve all seen videos of senior university executives or students talking about doing the right thing, often ignored by faculty as well as students. Our unit/subject outlines will refer students to rules on misconduct and they are often overlooked.

Working with a pair of students who specialise in creativity and innovation, we developed the Academic Integrity Board Game (AIBG). The game is an in-person class activity to encourage engagement and learning through observation of the actions of others. Students play the game in pairs, working their way across the board by answering questions about academic integrity. The question also has an element of chance – at one point students are placed in a scenario and a game spinner chooses whether the students act with integrity or engage in misconduct. All teams have to reach the “graduation” point at the end of the board.

The game was pilot tested with university staff and HDR students and then rolled out in a third-year undergraduate auditing subject in 2018 (approximately 800 students). When observing students playing the game, I saw amazement and shock on the faces of most students – they thought they understood academic integrity, but found much they didn’t know and rated that they gained an increased understanding from playing the game. Evaluations have been positive with students enjoying the game and feeling more confident in being able to act with integrity. The game is not proposed to be a silver bullet to the academic integrity issue, but it is one way we can start the conversation with students. In 2018 I had no cases of academic misconduct.

Where to next? I’m currently working with a web developer to take the AIBG open access – the website will host questions and scenarios for the game to allow educators to build a game that suits their needs – questions will be searchable by misconduct type and faculty/area of study. I will also be encouraging academics to submit questions to our central game database. If you’d like to get involved in creating questions for the database, or testing the website – please get in touch with me (amanda.w.white@uts.edu.au)

You can find out more about the game here at this temporary website – https://aibg.amandalovestoaudit.com

Amanda’s bio

Amanda is a Senior Lecturer in the UTS Business School and has been teaching accounting for over 15 years, specialising in auditing and assurance. She is passionate about embedding employability skills into the curriculum, peer based collaborative learning and academic integrity. Amanda is a creator of a significant volume of open access resources in the area of auditing and assurance through her YouTube channel Amanda Loves to Audit, with over 2 million views and 20000 subscribers. She sits on the UTS Academic Integrity Working Party. In 2017 Amanda received a Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning through the Awards for Australian University Teaching and has also received numerous Faculty and Institutional awards for teaching and learning.

 

Posted in Teaching

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