Before working in post-secondary education, I taught high school mathematics.  The most impactful change in the culture of that math classroom was the elimination of grades.  With the support of my principal, going gradeless in my classes and focusing on effective feedback showed me how I can empower students by not making the course about grades but rather how we can challenge their thinking and work towards different goals on understanding, creativity, and self-regulation.  Noticeably, students were no longer tempted to cheat – as the motivation had shifted to learning from getting top marks. I often return to this experience as I work with our team at Seneca College on shifting the culture on academic integrity with our students, faculty, and administrators. I am reminded of the work it takes to move away from trusted routines and beliefs – but how the impact on student attitudes and learning made it worthwhile.  

Two years ago, at Seneca, Laurel Schollen, Vice President of Academics kick-started the plans to create an Academic Integrity program at the college.  She brought together the Academic College Council with representatives from administration and faculty, Seneca Student Federation, the Teaching & Learning Centre, Libraries, and created an Academic Integrity Committee.   The plans got underway with the introduction of a new policy that was implemented in the fall of 2018. This policy differed significantly, moving from one based more on discipline to one that was grounded in a teaching and learning approach.  

Understanding that to make a shift in culture college-wide, the collective agreed to work on the following actions:

    1. promoting awareness of academic integrity across the institution;


    1. providing academic integrity education at all levels;


    1. supporting students with clear, consistent, and accessible resources that help them with making the right decisions and to encourage them to find help when they need it; and,


    1. supporting faculty in the creation and use of assessment practices that are authentic and integral to student learning.

Digital badges were developed for the completion of Academic Integrity modules for both faculty and students.  The student badges include three tutorials that guide students to understand better the academic integrity policy, scenarios to help them make the right decisions, how to find the resources to support their studies, and how to properly cite sources.  If a student completes all three tutorials, they will earn a milestone badge.  

[caption id="attachment_13965" align="alignright" width="392"]Micro-credentials for Seneca Academic Integrity Micro-credentials for Seneca Academic Integrity[/caption]

Faculty can earn a micro-credential by completing an Academic Integrity tutorial that focuses on the policy, processes at the college for dealing with academic integrity infractions, and scenarios that guide faculty through various types of situations such as contract cheating, plagiarism, group work, and impersonation.  Over 8000 digital badges for Academic Integrity have been issued to both students and faculty at Seneca since the launch in September 2019.  

Faculty development needs to move beyond awareness of the policy and understanding of the various types of academic integrity infractions.  The Teaching & Learning Centre offers a five-week course that supports open discussions and a deeper dive into the more complex issues such as online teaching, contract cheating, international students, and the design of assessments to reduce cheating.  

There wouldn’t be an educational institution that didn’t want their graduating students to be passionate about learning and possess the quality of thinking that would be applied in their real-world work.  To accomplish that, we need to value the product less, the process more and focus on discovery rather than results along with meeting the program standards and prepare them for their future careers and pathways.  There is a preoccupation with grades and measurable outcomes, which may turn out to be the least important result of learning. Cheating is often associated with human experiences, education, ideas, values, fears, and ambition.  The environment and the situations that the student is placed in can be just as important. In addition to the resources provided to students to educate and support them to be successful, faculty are learning about what they can do about improving their students’ environment, such as building and strengthening relationships, effective and timely feedback, and providing authentic, and relevant assignments for students to engage in.  

Our work with faculty doesn’t focus on finding ways to prevent students from cheating, but instead addresses the reasons why they wanted to cheat, what was considered cheating by the faculty member, and why.  At the ICAI Annual Conference in March, a panel from Seneca will present their journey on shifting the culture of academic integrity college-wide. The panel consists of our Vice President of Academics, our Student Federation President, the Director of the Teaching & Learning Centre, and the Manager of Library Services.  Each of their various roles helps with this collaborative movement and allows us to achieve a more widespread campaign across the college.