February 2021

The recent issue of Canadian Perspectives on Academic Integrityan open-access journal you can find here, focused on perspectives and experiences during Covid-19. 

The issue will be helpful to academics and integrity practitioners for many reasons. First, it establishes how common and widespread our challenges and experiences have been during Covid. I found myself nodding in agreement at so many observations about the challenges of maintaining integrity in a heavily online environment, the concerns over proctoring technology, managing the rise of online course-helper/tutoring sites, the desire to provide meaningful integrity-focused faculty development opportunities for instructors, teaching and supporting students in a constant state of uncertainty, and many more points of interest.

However, what was refreshing about this issue are the examples of professionals innovating through those (and all of the year’s other) challenges. Some writers found ways to innovate out of a damaging adversarial dynamic (Wheatley), while others looked to approaches from other cultures to teach about plagiarism (Rovere). One major connecting theme is the degree to which institutions have benefited from increased cooperation and collaboration. It’s an encouraging takeaway in an otherwise disheartening year. 

Albany, N.Y. – The International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI) has issued the third edition of “The Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity,” which is designed to serve as a practical reference guide for fostering academic integrity and excellence at institutions of higher learning.

“Promoting a culture that values and champions academic integrity begins with critical conversations taking place on campus,” said Camilla Roberts, ICAI president and director of the Honor and Integrity System at Kansas State University. “The updated ‘Fundamental Values’ will provide a catalyst for these conversations, many of which will ultimately blossom into a campus culture that supports academic integrity and excellence. ”

“The Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity” defines academic integrity as the commitment to six fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility and courage. These values serve to inform and improve ethical decision-making capacities and behavior. Recognizing that scholarly communities flourish when members live these fundamental values, the guide offers actionable steps institutions can follow to achieve success in establishing climates of integrity. These steps are built upon nearly three decades of processes and practices used in successful academic integrity programs.

The new edition of “The Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity” will be highlighted during a workshop session for attendees at the ICAI Virtual Conference set for March 1 through 4. The annual event draws faculty, administrators, students and staff together for four days of education and networking on topics such as technology, research, policy and student experiences related to academic integrity.

“We, at ICAI, believe that it is a critical time for educational institutions to focus on these issues as they continue to remotely deliver a majority of their courses,” said Roberts. “The workshop provides the perfect setting to energize faculty, administrators, students and staff as they work to advance their commitment to academic integrity on their campuses.”

The International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI) cultivates integrity in academic communities throughout the world to promote ethical institutions and societies. It was founded to combat cheating, plagiarism, and academic dishonesty in higher education. Its mission has since expanded to include the cultivation of cultures of integrity in academic communities throughout the world. ICAI offers assessment services, resources, and consultations to its member institutions, and facilitates conversations on academic integrity topics each year at its annual conference. For more information, visit https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.academicintegrity.org&source=gmail&ust=1613058146799000&usg=AFQjCNFQ5ShAZu5EpIwuM-hoQiBPfkPcgg">www.academicintegrity.org.

For more information, contact:

Camilla Roberts
ICAI President

Phone: 785-313-8477

Email: 

Having taught college-level writing for the better part of two decades, I have come to believe that the two most important things that writing teachers can encourage in students are agency and ownership. While there is no magic bullet to ensure academic honesty, insisting on these two ideas helps students see writing not as a product, but as a process. This shift to a growth mindset allows students low-risk chances to take intellectual risks, as well, something they’re often hesitant to do, particularly in lower-level courses.

I teach at a small college and serve a number of first-generation college students, many arriving with the sense that academia is not for them. As a first-generation college student myself, I understand their struggle to fit in. Most students are not intentional cheaters. They don’t come into my classroom with the intent to deceive. However, when they hear terms like “drafting,” “revision,” “global concerns” and other writing-focused phraseology, they’re necessarily kept at a distance. As such, I scaffold writing assignments in order to emphasize the process.

To encourage agency and ownership, the following suggestions can help any writing assignment in any class, from development courses to senior-level capstones.

Proposals: Requiring students to submit proposals for writing assignments encourages accountability and ownership from the initial moment students receive an assignment. If a final product is radically different from a student’s proposal, then the professor has grounds to question the student. Proposals needn’t be overly formal. I often have students email me a short paragraph explaining their topic and their approach. As we work through the assignment together, I refer back to the proposal often, reminding students of their initial vision.

Scaffolding: Break the assignment into distinct parts. Require a proposal, a first draft, and a revision. I also require a cover letter with every assignment. Scaffolding the assignment encourages agency by shifting the locus of content control to the student. As a professor, you’re not telling them what to write. Instead, you’re providing a framework for that assignment.

In-Class Writing: While this strategy may be impossible for all professors in every discipline, devoting in-class time to writing encourages ownership in student writing. Talking about brainstorming or cluster diagramming is one thing; leading students through a guided in-class exercise is quite different (and much more effective). In low-level writing courses, I have drafting days that require students to compose in class. I encourage them to bring their earbuds to class and given them the hour to work. This way, they’re writing original content under my guidance, providing a safe space for them to stop and ask questions should they get lost in the process.

Reimagine Peer Review: Again, this strategy may not be possible in every class, but in my experience, students find peer review not only helpful but also liberating because they see that their peers often struggle with similar problems. I encourage my students to talk during peer review. Making them sit silently while their peers struggle to say helpful things doesn’t provide opportunities for ownership. When students talk about their writing, it becomes just that—their writing.

In the end, every professor has to find what works in their classrooms. Nonetheless, focusing on agency and ownership has helped me to give my students control over their writing. As plagiarism often stems from a lack of understanding, these strategies have helped my students immensely.

A few years ago, I had a once-in-a-career opportunity that I hope to never have again—a consolidation. I was working as an administrator at a small state college when our state announced that we would consolidate with an even smaller state school. Despite our different missions, institutional styles, and the fact that we were two hours away, we set out to make it work. However, one of the primary challenges was that combined, both schools were lightly staffed and many administrators were taking jobs elsewhere—this came to ahead when the person in charge of the consolidation took a job months before everything was due—which sent the process into overdrive.

One of my tasks was overseeing a new student handbook. We put together a great team with representation from both institutions. We quickly began pulling together the best of both policies, writing them up, and sending them to the executive cabinet. While this was a nesting doll task, where one problem led to another, it also led to opportunities, including improving our academic integrity policies.

Years ago, when I was a faculty member, I once overheard a history professor complaining about a student plagiarism case, when an English faculty member on the hall mentioned the same student had plagiarized in their class years before. Anecdotally, I knew that plagiarism was an issue, and this was our opportunity to strengthen the policy. Collaboratively, we worked through a process to identify and track these issues, while still allowing for due process for students. However, a few days before the handbook was due, I knew something was missing.

My alma mater had an honor code, and many institutions that I greatly respected had honor codes, and I realized this was my opportunity to help create an honor code. I wish I could say that we had time to create a committee to jointly compose an honor code, but time wasn’t on our side. So I did what any academic does—I relied on expertise. Previously, I had worked with a colleague who was the Director of an Academic Integrity Office. He walked me through the scenarios, and pointed me to several resources, and that afternoon, I wrote a few drafts, sent them to my friend for feedback, and submitted the honor code to our student handbook committee with the same fervor that my students have when they submit a last minute essay. Soon, it was approved by the executive cabinet, and with the help of our Dean of Students, a few months later, I was addressing a new class of students during our first-ever consolidated convocation.

They say that you should never let a good crisis go to waste, but this was truly an opportunity to strengthen academic integrity at our consolidated institution.