July 2022

Pedagogic materials represent an ideal forum for promoting the importance of academic integrity as a central concept in higher education, and we recently welcomed the opportunity to reinforce knowledge and skills around academic integrity when developing an open textbook for university-level writing courses. The book, entitled Intermediate College Writing: Building and Practicing Mindful Writing Skills (Atkinson & Corbitt, 2022a), is available on the OER Commons (https://www.oercommons.org/courses/intermediate-college-writing-building-and-practicing-mindful-writing-skills) and Open Textbook Library (https://open.umn.edu/opentextbooks/textbooks/1193) and has been released with a Creative Commons license that allows users to freely adopt, adapt, build upon, and redistribute its material with attribution for non-commercial purposes. The open permissions associated with the textbook mean that instructors and students have access to a free educational resource that intentionally addresses academic integrity topics from a variety of vantage points. In this post, we explain the rationale for our textbook design decisions.

The high cost of some commercially produced textbooks can prohibit students from buying the texts or cause them to delay purchases until adequate funding becomes available (Florida Virtual Campus, 2019; Nagle & Vitez, 2020), and we posit that this situation may have knock-on effects when it comes to academic integrity. For instance, if students in a writing course are assigned textbook reading and given homework based on textbook material during the early weeks of a semester but cannot afford their books, they may be left to navigate academic integrity issues on their own without explicit textbook guidance in this area. Of course, they might consult other resources to discern the meaning and practical implications of academic integrity, but without focused textbook guidance, they may also be left wondering how to connect what they learn to particular course content. Undergraduate students, in particular, may benefit from explicit academic integrity guidance as they learn to operate within unfamiliar disciplines and academic systems.

When producing chapters for our open textbook, we counted academic integrity as a design principle, an idea that inspired and delimited the scope of textbook material, to help center our writing efforts. The principle, in other words, helped stimulate the creation of textbook content and anchor the readings and exercises built into chapters. Adopting a needs-analysis approach popularized in the EAP (English for Academic Purposes) materials-development literature (see, e.g., Hamp-Lyons, 2011), we drew upon our classroom teaching experiences to identify academic integrity-focused elements that university students often struggle with—such as paraphrasing and summarizing, citing and referencing, and integrating source material into papers—as well as items that students might be somewhat familiar with but hesitant to acknowledge publicly, including plagiarism by dual submission, contract cheating, and course assistance websites, to develop textbook material that explicitly addressed the matters and encouraged students to think carefully about their significance in higher education and beyond.

Recognizing that instructors and students might pick and choose from among the textbook’s units rather than use the complete book, we decided to build an academic integrity element into nearly every chapter to promote the importance of the concept through varied repetition (see also Atkinson & Corbitt, 2022b). Varied repetition is a textbook design principle endorsed by Timmis (2016, p. 152) and used by the two authors in Atkinson’s (2021) study of textbook development expertise; when using varied repetition, a materials developer highlights key concepts and information through various treatments in different areas of a textbook. The importance of the information is thus emphasized to students as they revisit the material multiple times, albeit in different ways, and contemplate its complexities through readings and hands-on activities.

We also built reflection opportunities that focused on academic integrity into textbook chapters—for instance, prompts that asked students to record their questions about the topic and identify reliable sources they could turn to for answers—in order to encourage active engagement with textbook content and metacognitive processing. As part of this effort, we incorporated fillable blank text boxes into chapters to purposefully involve students in textbook activities (see also Atkinson & Corbitt, 2022b). Mathematics task designer J. Ridgway (personal communication, as cited in Samuda, 2005, p. 245) referred to these blank text boxes as “‘structured stationery,’” and Samuda (2005, p. 245), a materials design researcher, referenced them as a mechanism to encourage learner engagement with lesson materials when she wrote about pedagogic task design for English language teaching. Coverage of academic integrity is part and parcel of a university-level writing course, and we wanted to draw attention to patchwriting, inadequately paraphrasing by replacing a few words in an original text with synonyms, as a key topic and expand beyond that realm to address other forms of academic dishonesty, such as contract cheating and course assistance websites. The purpose was to intentionally raise awareness of the topics and ask students to think about them in relation to their own writing lives.

The open textbook project discussed herein gave us the opportunity to consider chapter development through an academic integrity lens and produce a learning and teaching resource that students and instructors can readily access for free. We plan to begin using the textbook in classes at Montana Technological University in the fall and hope others will benefit from its deliberate focus on academic integrity and emphasis on student engagement.  

References

Atkinson, D. (2021). Reconciling opposites to reach compromise during ELT textbook development. Language Teaching Research. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1177/13621688211040201

Atkinson, D., & Corbitt, S. (2022a). Intermediate college writing: Building and practicing mindful writing skills. Montana Technological University. https://open.umn.edu/opentextbooks/textbooks/1193

Atkinson, D., & Corbitt, S. (2022b). Tracing the influences of praxis on the development of an open corequisite writing textbook [Manuscript submitted for publication]. Writing Program, Montana Technological University.

Florida Virtual Campus. (2019, March 8). 2018 student textbook and course materials survey: Results and findings. https://dlss.flvc.org/documents/210036/1314923/2018+Student+Textbook+and+Course+Materials+Survey+Report+--+FINAL+VERSION+--+20190308.pdf/07478d85-89c2-3742-209a-9cc5df8cd7ea

Hamp-Lyons, L. (2011). English for academic purposes. In E. Hinkel (Ed.), Handbook of research in second language teaching and learning: Volume II (pp. 89-105). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203836507

Nagle, C., & Vitez, K. (2020). Fixing the broken textbook market (2nd ed.). U.S. PIRG Education Fund. https://studentpirgs.org/2020/06/08/fixing-the-broken-textbook-market/

Samuda, V. (2005). Expertise in pedagogic task design. In K. Johnson (Ed.), Expertise in second language learning and teaching (pp. 230-254). Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230523470_12

Timmis, I. (2016). Humanising coursebook dialogues. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 10(2), 144–153. https://doi.org/10.1080/17501229.2015.1090998

La pandemia trajo consigo grandes retos para la docencia. Súbitamente tuvimos que comenzar a impartir clases en línea luchando, muchas veces perdiendo la batalla, contra los dispositivos electrónicos para capturar la atención del estudiante y diseñar instrumentos que nos permitieran evaluar el aprendizaje en un ambiente donde toda la información se puede encontrar en internet y donde no existe la presencialidad que nos permitía “vigilar” que no se estuvieran cometiendo deshonestidades académicas. Fui testiga de colegas (y estudiantes) exhaustos después de exámenes en línea en los cuales se les obligaba a prender cámaras, abrir micrófonos y mostrar su entorno a través del video. ¿Es esta la mejor manera de asegurar  el aprendizaje con integridad académica? ¿Qué mensaje estamos dando al crear este tipo de políticas de control en el aula de clase, sea física o virtual?

Emmanuel Kant nos ofrece dos de los principios más importantes para el actuar ético. La filosofía kantiana se basa en el deber ser de los actos y en el respeto a la dignidad de las personas, es decir su valor, su autonomía y su libertad. ¿Qué asumimos consciente o inconscientemente cuando imponemos medidas de control tan estrictas y podría decirse, invasivas, sobre nuestros estudiantes? El primer imperativo categórico de Kant, “actúa de manera tal manera que la máxima de tu conducta pueda convertirse en ley universal”, nos invita a reflexionar sobre la universalidad (¿qué pasaría si todos los docentes actuáramos de la misma manera?) y reversibilidad de nuestros actos, docentes, en este caso (¿nos gustaría  trabajar en un ambiente de desconfianza, en el cual nuestros colegas y líderes asumen automáticamente que incurriremos en actos deshonestos? Si no es así, ¿por qué crear este ambiente para otros?).

Ahora, hay maneras de asegurar un aprendizaje con integridad académica en un ambiente de respeto y confianza mutua. A continuación comparto algunas estrategias que, en mi experiencia de docente de cursos de sostenibilidad y responsabilidad para estudiantes de primeros semestres, me han ayudado a fomentar un aprendizaje activo, prevenir actos de deshonestidad académica y evitar un desgaste innecesario a la hora de calificar:

  1. Presentar las expectativas de integridad académica en el primer día de clase. Para muchos de mi estudiantes será la primera vez que escuchen sobre este concepto por lo tanto dedico un tiempo razonable a discutir porqué es importante la integridad académica y cuáles son las consecuencias de incurrir en actos de deshonestidad en el curso. Trato de hacer este momento un espacio de debate y reflexión sobre la importancia de la cultura de la honestidad y legalidad en Latinoamérica.
  2. Diseñar instrumentos de evaluación que eviten la memorización o respuestas que puedan contestarse de manera correcta al azar (preguntas de falso/verdadero, opción múltiple). Cuando los cursos son de muchos estudiantes, diseño exámenes en los cuales las respuestas a preguntas cerradas se tengan que explicar brevemente; esto permite saber si el estudiante respondió con base en el estudio previo del material asignado. Otras estrategias incluyen la aplicación de conocimientos teóricos a situaciones reales, ensayos reflexivos sobre temas vistos en clase, reseñas críticas a documentales, o proyectos de aprendizaje en el servicio.
  3. Dar oportunidad de mejorar los trabajos entregados: usualmente requiero la entrega de un borrador antes de la entrega final de un trabajo parcial o final para dar guía y retroalimentación. Esto fomenta un ambiente de apertura y acompañamiento, por parte del profesor, y esfuerzo por parte del estudiante. Esta estrategia también me permite familiarizarme con el estilo y habilidades de escritura del estudiante y detectar si las entregas finales son hechas por el/ella o por terceros.
  4. Involucrar a los estudiantes en el diseño de los exámenes. Entre 10% y 20% de las preguntas de los exámenes son propuestas por los estudiantes. Esto requiere leer el material de estudio, seleccionar los conceptos que consideran más relevantes y diseñar entre 3 y 5 preguntas para el examen. Posteriormente se entrega al grupo una lista de preguntas revisada y aprobada por el profesor para su estudio.
  5. Premiar la honestidad: En exámenes de preguntas abiertas muchos estudiantes caen en la tentación de escribir cosas ajenas al material de estudio haciendo que el profesor gaste incontables horas leyendo y calificando respuestas sin sentido. Para disminuir este hábito invito a los estudiantes a dejar respuestas en blanco si no la saben, dándoles el 25% de los puntos correspondientes a la pregunta en lugar de cero puntos por “echar rollo” o “cantinflear”, como se dice en México.

Las anteriores estrategias me han ayudado a prevenir, más no eliminar las deshonestidades académicas; cuando estás ocurran el profesor debe honrar las políticas institucionales y el estudiante asumir las consecuencias de su actos. Es responsabilidad de nosotros profesores y profesoras asumir el reto de instaurar una cultura de estricto apego a la integridad, pero con justicia y respeto para todos.

To the Parents of Students Accused of Academic Misconduct,

This is not how I wanted to meet you. I hoped your student would see me during orientation and would heed the honor code. I hoped they would join our office and participate in programing to encourage academic integrity on campus. I dream of a day when my job is no longer necessary, when students always make the ethical choice. But – alas – they did not. Now, we find ourselves in this situation. They’ve been accused of cheating, and you’re upset. I get it. But here are some things you should probably know before reaching out to us:

  1. Please understand that I cannot discuss your child’s specific case with you without a signed waiver of FERPA. I know that you are paying for their college, but I cannot break federal law. If you would like an explanation of our office and the integrity process, I am happy to have this talk with you. I can’t tell you the outcome of the case, but your child can.
  2. Although as parents we do not wish to acknowledge this, there is a chance that your child did what they have been accused of doing. Please understand that faculty take no joy in accusing students of cheating. We strongly encourage you to read the honor code and the accusation. Although difficult, ask yourself … did your student do it?
  3. Let your student take responsibility for their actions. I understand your need to protect them. You love them, and you want to help them succeed. However, if you never let them face consequences, then your child will never grow into an adult capable of making complex ethical decisions. A bad grade in one course can certainly be seen as a serious consequence. But it is worse if students continue to cut corners. These students grow to be the businesspeople committing white collar crime (Lawson, 2004; Guerrero Dib et al., 2020), doctors and nurses incapable of treating their patients (LaDuke, 2013), engineers building bad bridges (Harding et al., 2004), and scientists publishing fabricated data.**

When you call to intervene for your child, please also remember that there is a person on the other side of the phone. A person that wanted your student to make the right choice when they turned in the assignment. But they may not have made the honest decision when completing their assignment, and now we’re here.

Will you let me do my job? Will you let me help your child learn how to learn and grow? Will you allow your child to be the adult they are purported to be, and take responsibility for their actions? Or will you tell me that it’s not a big deal and the institution should just let it go?

Remember, your student is watching you. They are learning from you. If you treat cheating like it doesn’t matter, what is to stop them from emulating you? Be an example for them.

Sincerely Yours,

A Student Academic Misconduct Officer

 

References:

Guerrero-Dib, J. G.,  Portales, L., & Heredia-Escorza, Y. (2020). Impact of academic integrity on workplace ethical behaviour. International Journal for Educational Integrity16(1), 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40979-020-0051-3

Harding, T. S., Carpenter, D. D., Finelli, C. J., & Passow, H. J. (2004). Does Academic Dishonesty Relate to Unethical Behavior in Professional Practice? An Exploratory Study. Science & Engineering Ethics10(2), 311–324.

LaDuke, R. D. (2013). Academic Dishonesty Today, Unethical Practices Tomorrow? Journal of Professional Nursing29(6), 402–406. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.profnurs.2012.10.009

Lawson, R. A. (2004). Is classroom cheating related to business students propensity to cheat in the real world? Journal of Business Ethics, 49(2), 189.

**For a deeper look at retractions due to fabricated data, please visit the Retraction Watch Database. At the time of this posting, 99 articles have been listed as retracted from January 1, 2022 to July 5, 2022.