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4 tips to help uphold academic integrity in your classrooms


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student looking over the shoulder of another student during a test
Posted by: itslearning, in collaboration with Turnitin
https://itslearning.com/global/our-product/uphold-academic-integrity/

School is starting again for the 2021-2022 academic year. The start of the year is the best time to set down best practices, such as procedures for academic integrity and to prepare to help students start the school year on the right note.

Why is academic integrity important?
It is crucial to ensure in any educational setting that students are learning life skills and good practices while achieving course objectives without cheating. Academic integrity will also define how students subsequently act in their adult working life.

Cultivating habits of academic integrity is an essential part of a successful classroom. By fostering respect and awareness for the construction of knowledge, students become conscientious learners ready for further academia and principled productivity beyond. The experience of remote and hybrid education has tested some practices, revealing both what works and what can be improved.

Here are four tips to help you uphold academic integrity:

#1 Provide continuous formative assessment

Students are more apt to take the academic “leap of faith” and sincerely engage when they perceive the process as approachable. This means frequent — as possible — and low-stakes forms of assessments. A grade based on a midterm and a final exam, or two research papers, does not encourage students to do their best every day.

Scaffolding, with various formative assessments along the way, is a much more beneficial practice in the secondary school classroom and perhaps earlier. Even in the same course, students come from different pathways, whether it is different teachers, schools, or even states, and bring with them different levels of content knowledge and skills. Accessible introductions to new content and milestones along the way encourage students to engage in a meaningful way in their learning. Students learn to document and gauge their own progress. Advanced learners have their experience validated and students who might need some help can discern the steps necessary and gain confidence along the way.

Providing feedback with frequent assessments is made simpler with an LMS that supports continuous formative assessment such as itslearning. There are plenty of skills, strategies, and tools to use, from peer evaluations and self-grading rubrics to sophisticated automated grading.

Audio or video recordings for feedback can also be a great way to connect with students. They gain so much from the individual attention, and studies have shown that students are more receptive to a vocalized response which contains better communication cues such as tone of voice and expression, compared to a written note. This might have been something necessary over the last year, but it’s a keeper for in-person lessons in post-pandemic teaching, too.

#2 Help students develop a voice in their writing

Good writing is a habit that has to be continuously cultivated. Like assessments in general, one-off high stakes writing activities in isolation will appear daunting to students and may leave some scrambling. Sometimes, they may genuinely be unprepared for what is being asked of them. Academic integrity, to them, may seem unimportant at this point.

For this reason, helping students to feel more confident and comfortable with their writing works to uphold academic integrity. Students who trust their own words and ideas are far less likely to feel any need or compulsion to rely on someone else’s. This begins with frequent simple writing opportunities. Here are some further ideas for working on getting students to develop their voice:

  • Try exercises that let students reflect on and incorporate their personalities and styles, even letting them choose the topics or angles, if possible.
  • Analyze texts of different styles and levels during class.
  • Comment regularly on word choice, phrasing, and voice.
  • Allow students to refine their writing with many opportunities for editing.

#3 Encourage critical thinking with tasks and assessments

Think about rote learning versus meaningful learning. Then consider what rote learning means in the context of instant knowledge. Students today have grown up in a world where search engines are as natural for finding things out as water fountains are for quenching thirst. Of course, this is often on educators’ minds when they think about academic integrity. But if tasks and assessments are so Googleable, are they ideal for encouraging critical thinking?

Educate to be future proof. How about instead of lecturing, ask a question? Questions that are carefully designed — that cannot be Googled in 2 seconds.
Sugata Mitra, Virus versus the internet — education during and after the pandemic

Educators can promote meaningful learning and critical thinking by designing tasks and assessments that:

  • Tap into notions of inquiry.
  • Make learning an active process.
  • Encourage collaboration between students.
  • Fairly represent and evaluate the content and skills.

Project-Based Learning is a popular concept because it includes all of these topics when done well. When students are required to create something novel they have an opportunity to stand on their own two feet, and when the activity is designed well and they are supported, they have every reason to engage faithfully. Educators support academic integrity already when they set meaningful learning as the bar in their classroom.

#4 Explain text similarity and strategies to avoid it

Many times academic misconduct like plagiarism is unintentional. Students may not have a solid understanding of text similarity, let alone how to properly cite information and attribute sources. Educators can help foster academic integrity by working with students to understand plagiarism, text similarity, and proper sourcework.

SimCheck by Turnitin supports this distinctly and directly. Seamlessly integrated into your itslearning workflow, the plagiarism checker SimCheck helps to identify students who might require extra guidance. It works by analyzing submitted material for similarity against billions of documents and other content online.

Users are provided a similarity score and can quickly and easily explore details of instances of text similarity, including the potential source. This way both inadvertent and intentional similarities can be detected and mitigated.

Leveraging SimCheck can make conversations on text similarity and academic integrity much more powerful and effective. The software is at once comprehensive, precise, impartial, and objective. Any student writing with similarity issues will be highlighted and ready for consideration and teachable moments.

Conclusion

A culture of academic integrity is integral in the classroom. Students willing to approach their education with sincerity and principle will gain the utmost possible from the experience. Fortunately, best practices and tools already do much to support this. The above tips all serve to uphold academic integrity and are mutually supportive. Engagement is without a doubt reciprocal and educators who invest in their students will build meaningful student-teacher relationships.

This is the second post in a series of articles on academic integrity after Encouraging academic integrity and original thinking with itslearning.


Yulia Gorenko, Turnitin

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