To limit plagiarism and misconduct, prevention is better than a cure.
In this article we highlight how the University is working to improve academic integrity and what you can do to manage risks in your subject.
We now have almost a full year’s experience with the University’s new educational integrity reporting processes and systems.
Over 3,300 instances of suspected academic dishonesty or plagiarism were reported across the University in 2016. While this number is lower than that anticipated by the Vice-Chancellor’s Taskforce on Academic Misconduct and Plagiarism in 2015, it is still more than double the average number of reports made annually between 2010 and 2015.
Our view is that this overwhelmingly reflects the continued commitment of academic staff in detecting potential problems with their students’ work and ensuring they’re provided with opportunities to further develop their academic prowess. The improved reporting mechanisms available to academic and professional staff have also been a contributing factor.
Despite this increase, it was also encouraging to see a 20% decline in the number of incidents reported between Semester 1 and Semester 2. While it is still too soon to say with much certainty why this occurred, we are hopeful that this is indicating that we are making good headway.
That said, the doubling of reported incidents over the past year highlights the importance of continued vigilance and prevention. So with many of you fine tuning your units of study, now is an opportune time to give further consideration to the risks associated with the assessment tasks your students will complete and ways to minimise the chance of these risks actually being realised.
On that note, you may wish to revisit the University’s academic honesty procedures. They include a summary of common assessment types, the risks associated with these, and different mitigation strategies you may wish to consider. A template risk assessment matrix has also been made available on the Assessment Design and Risks page of the educational integrity intranet site.
Addressing risks before they become problems
There are several ways you can mitigate risks in your subject. You might want to think of ways to make the assessments you have set more authentic or problem-focussed. Another key way to minimise instances of plagiarism or academic dishonesty is to ensure you speak openly and frankly with your students about academic honesty and why it’s important, not just to University but to the community at large. As the results of the Student Perspectives on Academic Integrity report showed last year, our students are committed to the University’s culture of academic integrity but do not always understand what we consider to be academically dishonest.
For commencing students, there is also the Academic Honesty Education Module, a new, more user-friendly version of which we are launching ahead of the commencement of Semester 1. We will also be making a version of the module available to students who want to complete it voluntarily. We’ll provide more information on this in the coming weeks, but if you are not familiar with the module, see the information on the Educating Students page of the educational integrity intranet site.