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.

Se suele decir que el mal triunfa no por las personas que lo hacen, sino por la inactividad de las buenas personas. Es decir, por la falta de denuncia y de un posicionamiento claro. En este caso, la deshonestidad académica se instaura en una institución por la falta de denuncia y de una postura congruente de las personas honestas e íntegras. Pero esa falta de denuncia, muchas veces y casi me atrevería a afirmar que siempre, está ligada a una cultura de integridad y de denuncia de las injusticias. Una cultura de impunidad que incluso podemos ver socialmente y de la que todos en una u otra medida tenemos responsabilidad.

Por tanto, ¿cómo podemos impulsar un cambio cultural hacia una cultura de integridad? Para eso, hay que hacer un trabajo mucho más profundo que simplemente evitar plagios o controlar exámenes. Se trata de educar en valores. Mientras sigamos dando por bueno frases como “quién no transa, no avanza” o vivíamos bajo la ley del mínimo esfuerzo, dónde lo que importa es el resultado final, sin importar los medios para conseguirlo, no vamos a poder cambiar dicha cultura. Las universidades tenemos que convertirnos en ejemplos de la vivencia de valores vinculados a la integridad, como son, la honestidad, la confianza, la responsabilidad, el esfuerzo, el respeto o la lucha por las injusticias. Para ello, se deben de generar políticas institucionales alienados con mecanismos de denuncia y de sanción equitativos, justos y transparentes. A la par de inculcar esos valores a los docentes para que desde su actuar diario se socialicen dichos valores en las formas de impartir clase, en los contenidos seleccionados, en la resolución de conflictos, etc. Y finalmente recuperar el sentido de formación y aprendizaje universitario, que valora más el diálogo, la crítica, la reflexión y el aprendizaje, más que un resultado puntual.

Disclaimer: the author is not a physician nor a psychologist, and this post is satire masquerading as advice. Advice not guaranteed to work for everyone. The prescriptions offered in this post have not been evaluated by anyone with the credentials to prescribe such cures. 

Have you felt like you want to throw your printer against the wall because it keeps jamming? Or invading another’s territory because you believe like they’re doing it wrong? Do you find yourself binge watching netflix all day, feeling guilty about it but being unable to motivate yourself to do more? Are you painfully aware that you’re preaching one edict but practicing another?

You may be facing a condition known as Integrity Depletion Syndrome or IDS. IDS is defined by a doctor (okay, well, a Ph.D.; okay, well, me) as “having a lack of coherency between the different parts of yourself”. The symptoms vary by individual but can include listlessness, frustration, boredom, disquietness, weight gain (or loss), lack of energy, and a WTF moment upon reflecting back on your own choices and actions .

Integrity Depletion Syndrome is a serious condition affecting individuals, organizations, and society, and has many causes, but also, thankfully, cures.

Cause #1

Perhaps the most common cause is the repeated telling of lies to others like “oh no, your dog barking all day doesn’t bother me while I’m working from home”. Or, telling lies to the public such as “we’re not a cheating company, we’re an ed tech company”. Or, telling lies to yourself like “my weight gain isn’t from poor eating habits, drinking too much or not exercising, it’s just because I’m aging and so there’s nothing I can do about it”. These lies, scientifically known as rationalizations or justifications, enable us (at least in the short term) to live somewhat peacefully with our choices and decisions even though we are not living truthfully. Living in a prolonged state of such dishonesty, however, does eventually lead to IDS, which can deteriorate not just the self, but relationships and institutions.

Prescription #1 

Stop lying. Just Stop it. Face and tell the truth to yourself and others, no matter how difficult.

Cause #2

Another common cause of Integrity Depletion Syndrome is an obsession with performing rather than learning. The performative life approach means that you focus almost exclusively on tasks, mindlessly moving from one to another, treating yourself like a factory production line that has widgets to make. The most seriously afflicted spend more time making check-lists and checking things off the list, than they actually spend time on higher order activities. This mindless check-list mentality makes you temporarily feel good, until you realize that you are slowly transforming into one of those AI-bots that churns out assignments for students who don’t want to learn. To be sure, tasks need to be done, but a focus on performing your life rather than mastering your life can lead to boredom, binge watching netflix, vicariously living your life through others’ social media posts, and, yes, a severe case of IDS.

Prescription #2

Stop performing and start learning. Push yourself and get uncomfortable.

Cause #3

The third most potent cause of Integrity Depletion Syndrome is an unhealthy lifestyle. According to the renowned international health expert, Apple Watch, sleeping too little, eating too much, drinking too much, and not moving enough throughout the day are bad for you. To be fair, the Apple Watch might be onto something. Apparently there is some scientific evidence that your mind is connected to your body. What? I know, right! I think it’s got something to do with, like, blood, oxygen, and other hocus pocus words like “neuropathways”. Basically, if your body isn’t as healthy as it could be, then your mind is also not as healthy as it could be. And when our brains aren’t firing on all cylinders, it seems to be pretty tough to slowly and carefully thinking through how to unjam that printer, let alone to focus on higher order human needs like integrity, wholeness, and purpose. 

Prescription #3

Practice mindfulness and experiment with the right eating and exercise routines that will help you find the healthy balance that works best for your body and brain. 

So, there you go. You are now more aware of this common and dreadful disease known as Integrity Depletion Syndrome. While it is dreadful, there is hope. If you are currently experiencing any of the symptoms of IDS, I urge you to act immediately by taking my prescriptions now before your syndrome worsens. You will feel more integrous before you know it!

Disclaimer: Results are individual and cannot be guaranteed. Side effects are unknown but could include happiness, tranquility, promotions, self-love, and self-fulfillment.

Written by Cath Ellis, Professor, Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture, The University of New South Wales

Recently I was honoured to speak at the academic integrity awards ceremony held (virtually) at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). I’d been asked to speak specifically about the Courageous Conversations program here at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia. Before me, UCSD’s Executive Vice-Chancellor Professor Elizabeth H. Simmons remarked that Academic Integrity is the ‘glue’ that binds educational institutions together. This was a reminder that all educational institutions are, at their core, academic communities.  

All communities bring people together who agree to ‘stick’ together because they all share a sense of purpose and a set of values. All communities share something in common: if a member does not uphold the communities’ values, then their right to remain a part of it can and should be questioned. This is because the very existence of a community is threatened if the bonds of its ‘glue’ weaken and, worse still, break.  

The purpose of our academic community is to acquire and advance knowledge and all members – whether they be a student or a member of staff – are expected to pursue that purpose while upholding the values of academic integrity. When a member fails to enact or uphold its shared values, the community can respond in various ways. Obviously different behaviours are considered differently problematic which almost always corresponds to a scale of what the AMBeR project calls ‘penalties’ that they describe as ranging from ‘mild’ through ‘moderate’ to ‘severe’. When they surveyed responses to academic misconduct across educational institutions in the UK, the response that was by far the most common (found in 98.7% of institutions) was also the most severe: expulsion (p.8). This allows the academic community to say: ‘your behaviour means we no longer want you as a part of our community’.   

Typically, and historically, the behaviour that has come to be known as ‘contract cheating’ is at the severe – and in many cases the most severe – end of that spectrum. Contract cheating occurs when a student outsources their academic work to another person. At many educational institutions, it warrants expulsion. 

I share the view that an academic community we should not tolerate contract cheating. The reasons for this are based on intent: it’s patently implausible that a student could accidentally get someone else to do their academic work for them, particularly a commercial provider. But do I think it necessarily warrants exclusion? Well, no; I don’t. Let me explain why.  

Yes: this kind of behaviour should be taken seriously, but it should also, I argue, be understood as a mistake. Of course it’s a serious mistake, but a mistake nonetheless. And educational institutions are in the very business of helping students learn from their mistakes. If a student is given an opportunity to see and acknowledge that their behaviour is wrong, that it has not displayed the values that ‘glue’ our academic community together, and that they have made a mistake, then we should be prepared to help them fix it.  

That’s where the Courageous Conversations program steps in. It has its roots firmly planted in the soil of restorative justice that, as John Braithwaite puts it, works from the principle that “because crime hurts, justice should heal.” UNSW’s program allows students who have engaged in even the most severe academic misconduct behaviours to admit to and take responsibility for them, to convey their remorse, accept the consequences of their actions (which should always include not receiving credit for any academic work that they didn’t do themselves), to make amends by addressing the reasons that motivated their behaviour in the first place and to accept and engage with the supports and resources available to do this. Last but not least, it requires them to promise to never engage in any kind of cheating behaviour again. And UNSW holds them to that promise. In return, the institution can take the harshest penalty – expulsion – off the table, thereby allowing the student to remain a part of the community. 

All Courageous Conversations take place before a formal investigation begins. If the student is able to alleviate the institution’s concerns, by providing a clear and plausible explanation, then nothing more needs to be happen, avoiding the stress and expense of a formal investigation. In fact, students who have had this experience have appreciated the straightforward opportunity to clear their name and the careful and transparent way in which their matter was handled. If the institution’s concerns have not been addressed and the student chooses not to take the courageous steps, the formal process will still proceed.  

Being prepared to admit to mistakes, even as serious as contract cheating, takes courage; which is why we call them Courageous Conversations. As one of the core values of Academic Integrity, courage is an essential ingredient in our ‘glue’. It allows our community to let go of the idea that students who contract cheat are incorrigible and to instead take a forgiving stance. As Braithwaite puts it, offering a “second chance, can bring out the best in the worst of us” and ultimately rewards everyone to “put their best self forward” (p. 33). Courageous Conversations are, in that sense, part of the very ‘glue’ itself. 

Acknowledgments: The initial idea for Courageous Conversations came from a former colleague David House. He and another former colleague Kane Murdoch put them into practice under the leadership of Bron Green. They are now overseen by the Student Conduct and Integrity team within the Conduct and Integrity Office at UNSW.  

Is the person asking to be admitted to an exam the person who is supposed to be taking the exam? How do you prove this person should have access to exam items?

One of the first steps in admitting a person to sit for an exam is checking their identification (ID). Typically, people present a driver license, state issued ID, military ID, or passport for vendor exams, and student IDs for academic exams. The topic of vetting student IDs requires a volume of its own. This post is focused on the ID types used for vendor testing.

The topic of fake IDs became an issue for me many years ago when I was new to the testing world. A test-taker presented me with a passport from a country I knew by name, could come reasonably close to locating on a world map, but had no idea what their passports should look like. In his passport photo, the test-taker was wearing authentic clothing appropriate to that country’s customs. Very few facial features could be seen. His hair was completely covered. He was clean-shaven. The person standing before me was in jean shorts, a polo, full beard, and flip flops. I had little to determine if the passport was authentic and if the person standing before me was the person who was supposed to test. Fortunately, he was able to provide a matching signature, a secondary form of ID, and it was a low-stakes admissions exam for our university where I could verify his enrollment. But the moment caught me off guard and I promised myself I was going to learn about IDs.

It seems that I am not alone in the struggle to authenticate IDs.

Between Operation Varsity Blues and the sudden need to provide at-home testing options for millions worldwide, test security has been thrust into the spotlight over the past few years. Ringers taking tests for others in both live and virtual settings has been reported for large-scale standardized exams and college classes alike. Recently, Derek Newton in The Cheat Sheet reported two high school cheating scandals (Issue 120), one of which was involved impersonation.

Over the last two years of emergency remote instruction, there has been much debate as to where the lines between privacy and security, user authentication and discrimination, convenience and requirements should be drawn. It was important to keep colleges, universities, and certification programs moving forward to provide people opportunities to finish degrees and receive employment credentials. At the same time, it was important to remember the struggle many people had to find private spaces, renew identifications, and have technology compatible with a variety of platforms. Those of us in the testing profession care deeply about both integrity and students' challenges. While academic integrity is the goal of test security, we must also remember that human beings take the tests.

Authenticating test taker identification surfaced as one of many challenges during this time of emergency remote instruction. Colleges and universities struggled with verifying that the person sitting on the other side of the camera was the student enrolled in the course without causing undue stress to the student. Test centers reviewed ID policies looking for ways to increase verification efforts in remote settings. We have always known we do not catch all impersonators or fake IDs at our testing centers, but we now found ourselves wondering if we are doing a decent job of identifying impersonators in remote settings.

Through a grant from the National College Testing Association, Jarret Dyer (College of DuPage) and I have begun investigating the frequency with which live proctors compared to remote proctors accurately detect fraudulent identifications. Using a set of identifications, we are asking proctors to view each ID and determine whether they believe the ID is valid or fake. For proctors participating in a live setting, they may handle the IDs as they would at their testing site. For proctors participating in a remote setting via webcam, they may ask the researcher to turn, tilt, move the ID closer or farther from the camera, or other requests to help determine authenticity. Each proctor is asked to work independently and draw their own conclusions.

This project focuses solely on the identification card itself. At a test site, proctors can use other metrics to help determine test-taker authenticity. Does the photo on the ID match the person presenting the ID? Do the demographics on the ID match the test registration? If the ID says a person is 5’9” and the person standing before you is 5’2” can the difference be explained? Does the signature on the ID match the signature on the sign-in log? Remote proctoring has its own set of checks and balances such as requiring a photo to be submitted by the test-taker prior to testing for matching purposes and keystroke analysis. We chose to start with one variable for this project, hoping our findings will lead to more projects in the future.

One of our goals is to find ways to improve academic integrity efforts for both vendor testing and classroom testing by establishing best practices for ID checking. Correctly identifying test takers is a critical first step. Gone are the days of poorly crafted fake IDs. Modern fakes are plentiful, cheap, and extremely convincing. Most of the sites offer buy-one-get-one-free just in case one gets confiscated. How detectable are these IDs? Can in-person proctors spot fake IDs more frequently than remote proctors? We eagerly await the outcome. If you are planning to attend the NCTA conference in August, please stop by the research room and participate. If you did, do you think you would be able to detect the fakes?

I have been thinking a lot about the title of my most recent book, co-edited with Dr. David Rettinger: Cheating Academic Integrity: Lessons Learned from 30 Years of Research. Cheating academic integrity. I had to sell others on the title. It wasn’t an immediate hit. It caused people to pause. Hesitate. Wonder. But that’s exactly why I loved it. We have been cheating academic integrity for decades and that should certainly give us pause.

And by we, I mean all of us. The royal we. Parents, students, teachers at all educational levels, education administrators and leaders, journalists, our governments, and the larger society. To be sure, during two years of emergency remote instruction, attention to cheating spiked. More journalists covered the increase in reported cheating. More educators and educational leaders were talking about cheating. But we were still cheating academic integrity, giving it short shrift compared to the attention we were giving cheating, its arch nemesis. 

Take, for example, the very public debate about online proctoring that occurred during the pandemic. The debate centered on a typical old refrain - students are cheating and we need to stop them. That framing of the problem pitted pro-student and anti-cheating allies against one another. We can’t do online proctoring, said the pro-student side, because it is an affront to student privacy and undermines equity. Whereas those emphasizing anti-cheating doubled down on the “we have no choice” argument if the integrity of our assessments is to be trusted and assured. In general, at least in public opinion, the pro-student side was louder and online proctoring tools became suspect. But this entire debate cheated academic integrity because it was a false dichotomy, it artificially pitted anti-cheating and pro-students as adversaries when they are actually allies. It is pro-student to be against cheating. It is pro-integrity to be for privacy (aka respect) and equity (aka fairness). We cheated academic integrity by not having a thoughtful and informed conversation to answer this question - how do we best uphold integrity, privacy and equity?

Engaging in that thoughtful conversation would have highlighted that we were facing what Rushworth Kidder calls an ethical trilemma. In an ethical dilemma, we see two values clashing and feel the need to choose between them - to sacrifice one value for the other. However, this is a false dichotomy because often there is a third solution that could uphold all of the values at stake: the trilemma. To be sure, educational leaders and even some academic integrity experts (me included) advocated for a third solution that would uphold all 3 values, for example, the use of “authentic assessments” or redesigning classes to be mastery- (rather than performance-) oriented. However, there was little tangible support behind implementing such solutions. There was no time for faculty to redesign their assessments, let alone their courses. There was also likely little training or support to help them do so. So, while well-intended, the advice to "teach better" may not have been an actual feasible solution for most faculty. To be fair, we were in a hurry. It was a stressful time and many of us were stretched thin physically and emotionally. It was an untenable situation. I am not writing now as a Monday morning quarterback, but merely to call attention to the fact that we were cheating, and continue to cheat, academic integrity.

By and large, we cheat academic integrity by failing to teach students how to make good ethical decisions even when under stress and pressure. We fail to help students develop the courage to act ethically, even when it is difficult to do so. We fail to call attention to and celebrate people who are integrous and ethical, focusing instead on noticing and even sometimes glorifying the bad actors. We fail to teach students the connections between academic integrity, personal integrity, and professional integrity. We fail to appropriately respond to cheating when it does occur so that we may create a teachable moment. We fail to recognize that the ways in which we teach and assess learning is no longer sufficient for the realities of the twenty-first century (and haven’t been for quite some time). We fail to reorganize our priorities and what we reward within the education system, continuing to reward deliverables (e.g., grades, degrees, published works) that serve as false, or at least inadequate, proxies for good teaching and learning. We fail to emphasize academic integrity within quality assurance and accreditation requirements, as if a university or a degree without integrity is still worthy of such assurance. 

To be sure, lessons learned from the last thirty years of research tell us that there are pockets of hope and good practices implementation. There are many laudable efforts by those of us within the academic integrity field. The European Network for Academic Integrity and the International Center for Academic Integrity, among other associations and organizations, continue to advance research and practice. Even some governments - like those in the UK and Ireland - are fighting the good fight, as are some quality assurance agencies like QAA and TESQA.

Yet, to me, it still seems that we are trying to save our proverbial house that is on fire with a mere garden hose. Am I being too dramatic? Perhaps. I hope I am wrong and that our entire house - the educational system - isn't on fire. I hope that there exists only little fires here and there that can easily be put out with our current strategies. And I would welcome receiving evidence that this is true. After all, if we want to stop cheating academic integrity over the next 30 years, we must address the causes of the fire rather than continuing to operate in ways that light the fire of cheating and then wonder why we're getting burned.

Low angle view of four skyscrapers

            This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a graduation ceremony on campus.  I was excited to be there to support some of my former students and to see them walk across the stage.  The importance of this ceremony as a major transition point was highlighted by the pageantry of the event and the words of the speakers.  Students were recognized for their accomplishments and were also reminded that a bright future awaits them. 

            As a faculty member, seeing the pride (and relief!) on the faces of graduating students was very motivating.  I will even admit that there is a possibility that I became a little misty-eyed when some of the students who had started in my class as freshmen took the stage.   It is truly an honor to get to play a small part in the development of these students.  It really makes you think about the impact that faculty members can have. 

            We, of course, want to help students to understand and be able to apply the content of our courses.  However, we are also helping to prepare these students to “leave the nest” and find their place in the world.  We want our students to think for themselves, to make decisions, and to use their own knowledge and skills to pursue their passions.  We want our students to grow into educated professionals who act ethically and with integrity.

            Studies have shown that there is a negative correlation between ethical behavior and the frequency in which an individual has participated in academic dishonesty.  In 2010, a study involving students from 6 different campuses showed an increase in the likelihood that students would engage in dishonest behaviors when they believed that these behaviors were acceptable.  These students were also found to be “more likely to engage in dishonest acts in the workplace” (Nonis & Swift, 2010).  A 2020 study involving undergraduate and graduate students at a private university in Mexico found that “the extent to which students perceived the committing of any kind of cheating within the university as severe, their behavior, both inside and outside the workplace, was more ethical” (Guerrero-Dib, Portales, & Heredia-Escorza, 2020).  This would suggest that making students aware of the importance of academic integrity as well as the consequences of dishonest behavior can have an impact on student behavior in our classes as well as in their future workplaces.  When we discuss the importance of academic integrity in our syllabus, in class on the first day, and throughout the semester, it is about more than just discouraging cheating in our classes.  It is a golden opportunity to help foster integrous and ethical behaviors that students will carry with them as the build their careers and their lives.

References

Guerrero-Dib, J. G., Portales, L., & Heredia-Escorza, Y. (2020, February). Impact of Academic Integrity on Workplace Ethical Behavior. International Journal for Educational Integrity. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s40979-020-0051-3

Nonis, S., & Swift, C. O. (2010, March). An Examination of the Relationship Between Academic Dishonesty and Workplace Dishonesty: A Multicampus Investigation. Journal of Education for Business, 77(2), 69-77. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/08832320109599052

Stack of rocks in order of size with water in background

It’s no secret that students face a lot of pressure to do well in college – from parents, from friends, from a theoretical future employer or grad school, and from themselves. For freshman, they’re also experiencing a new environment, facing the challenge of finding new friends, and learning how to be successful in a much more challenging setting than in high school. In the dozens of academic integrity cases I have been involved in, the cause is typically not because the student is lazy. Rather, it is because they felt pressure to do well and didn’t feel like that was possible without the actions that brought them to me.

              As teachers, we often take a “holier-than-thou” stance in regards to academic integrity, though doing so ignores the basic economics of decision-making. “The traditional economic theory behind decision-making involves a cost-benefit analysis in which an individual measures what they stand to gain from a particular action—even if this action is morally wrong—as well as the probability and cost of being caught” (Adnani, M). This applies to the reader and author as much as it applies to students. Do you ever speed? Have you exaggerated on your taxes? Have you told a lie recently? If you have, the likelihood is that the reason why is because you believed that it would provide some sort of a benefit to you and the probability of being caught was low. Maybe you were late for dinner with friends and you blamed your poor time management on traffic. The benefit – being seen as someone who is timely – is minimal, but it’s unlikely anyone would question that lie, so the likelihood of being caught is very low. Our students put a very high value on doing well in college. Therefore, if they believe there is a benefit to a dishonest action and that they are unlikely to be caught, it is in their economic, though not moral, interest to do so. When the perceived alternative is failure, the moral obligation becomes easier to overlook.

              The solution to the economic conundrum is education and transparency. In a study of freshman students, Hossain (2022) found that merely 1 in 10 students received instruction in academic integrity literacy in middle school and only 1 in 5 did in high school. Regardless of whether it should be the responsibility of the college instructor to teach academic integrity literacy, it is essential for us to do so if we wish to prevent academic dishonesty. The retroactive approach of catching a student and punishing them provides a far less effective approach than preventing the dishonesty in the first place. To fully prepare students, instructors must make clear what constitutes academic dishonesty. For example, some instructors allow formula sheets on tests; others allow collaboration. While some issues, like plagiarism, are more universal, many others vary from instructor to instructor. Violations must be clear, written out, easily accessible, and discussed in class. This solves the knowledge piece, but that in and of itself is not enough. Students must know the consequences and the methods the instructor uses to ensure academic integrity. For example, in my classes, I use a response device for in-class quizzes. Students bringing an absent classmate’s response device is a common issue. To deter such behavior, I start class by posting a question and counting the number of students in the class. As they’re responding, a response counter is displayed on the screen. I announce the number of students in the class and the number left to respond. By doing this, I am demonstrating that I am paying attention to the number of students present and the number who are responding. I also explain to them how I will know who is not present if I find that there are more responses than students present. This grade represents 10% of their total course grade – which I remind them of frequently. If they’re caught sending their clicker with a friend when they are not present, they lose all 10%. The simple economics of this decision is an easy one. The benefit of one day’s points is not worth the risk of an entire letter grade when the teacher is transparent and closely monitoring the situation. This unfortunately does not deter all students. Some, unfortunately, overestimate the perceived benefit and/or underestimate the likelihood of being caught. Instructors cannot prevent all acts of dishonesty, but with education, transparency, and setting expectations, we can demonstrate that the economics are on the side of honesty.

Hossain,Z. (2022). University freshmen recollect their academic integrity literacy experience during their K-12 years: Results of an empirical study. International Journal for Educational Integrity, 18(1) doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s40979-021-00096-4

Adnani, M. (2016). Why Do We Cheat? The Economics Review. https://theeconreview.com/2016/08/17/why-do-we-cheat/***

 

 

***Please note: This article does reference Dan Ariely's work on integrity, thought it discusses a different experiment than the discredited insurance study found fraudulent in 2020.