Kelly, PACE’s Academic Advisor, and I had the opportunity to attend the first Academic Integrity Inter-Institution Meeting last week. It was well attended, with representatives of every post-secondary institution in the province coming to the University of Manitoba to take in the day. The group included faculty, administration, and instructors, including one of our own PACE instructors!
Two poignant questions were asked right at the outset: why do students cheat and what do instructors do that allows cheating to occur. Both are interesting questions that should give pause to any instructor involved in teaching in a graded environment.
When learning to be a manager, one of the lessons around people and mistakes is to learn to adjust your thinking and not assume the staff person deliberately did something wrong. The same goes for teaching, few, if any students, set out in their academic careers to cheat or plagiarize. Why then does it happen? We may never know the definitive answer; there is lots of speculation that it may be due to the pressures of school, a desire to succeed, a failure to learn the material, or many other reasons.
This relates to the second issue: what do instructors do to that encourages cheating? Instructors need to consider why it would occur in their particular course and take steps to address the ‘why’, help students overcome obstacles to learning or a desire to take a shortcut. Instructors can look at the course load, how it is laid out, the work expectations, how the material is being presented, and, in our full time programs, how that relates to other course loads.
As instructors, we can prevent academic misconduct by regularly changing questions or assignments. This helps prevent papers from being reused between course offerings, or papers being obtained from those with access to publisher databases.
Equally important, instructors cannot turn a blind eye. Instructors need to be engaged in preventing academic misconduct within their classroom to prevent it happening. It is a preventative strategy about not only that one course, but the whole program, as students learn that cheating or plagiarism is not allowed in the program, and is not just one or two instructors, but that academic integrity is a program wide expectation.
On the first day of class, instructors should address academic integrity by referencing and summarizing the University of Winnipeg’s academic policy, and revisit this when the first assignment is given. This constant reinforcement of the message provides an opportunity for students to hear the message repeatedly – and repetition is a key component in learning theory.
The University’s academic integrity policies are available through Nexus, or here:
When academic misconduct does occur, instructors need to immediately address it. Plagiarism or cheating cannot be ignored. To ignore it is to condone it.
If anyone instructor needs assistance with the process or understanding the policy, they can always reach out to me.