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Celebrating Diversity and Achieving Positive Academic Outcomes

Gill Rowell
Gill Rowell






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For some teachers, working with a diverse student body may pose unique challenges that hinder the full expression of the curriculum; however, Teresa Johnson, programme lead for the Access to Higher Education Diploma at Swindon College, sees diversity as an opportunity to better understand and help her students in unique ways:

“Working with challenges can be minimized by having an awareness of cultural perceptions and differences, [and that] what is acceptable in one academic setting is not acceptable in another.”

The UK college has students with a variety of social and economic backgrounds, as well as pupils with Special Educational Needs, English Language Learners (ELL), and those with significant educational gaps. This broad student population, with its varied viewpoints and opinions, is wholeheartedly celebrated and supported by the staff at the college. Acknowledging the diversity of the student population and coupling it with a solid academic underpinning is key to the college’s success.

Swindon has a zero tolerance policy on plagiarism and Turnitin is utilised in all the courses Teresa leads. Not surprisingly, her view of academic integrity is very pragmatic: “Academic integrity for me is really simple – don’t cheat – don’t take credit for work or effort that is not your own.”

Upon winning the Turnitin Global Innovation Excellence in Academic Integrity Award for the UK & Ireland, Teresa was quite literally speechless. Elaborating on her philosophy, she shares:

“Academic integrity should not be thought of as a separate academic issue but one that is integral to ethical thinking and ethical working. This is a foundation of moving away from a blame culture and one where merit, critical thinking, value, and credit are offered where they belong – eventually, all will then experience this and efficacy and esteem can develop.”

In helping to equip students for their next step, the college provides a supportive environment for learning whilst demonstrating rigor in upholding academic standards. In line with this approach, Turnitin is viewed by Teresa as a “critical friend” which applies the required level of objectivity to students’ work, providing a meaningful counterpart to the academic standards held by Teresa and her fellow teaching colleagues.

This year, Turnitin has already proven to be invaluable in reinforcing the college’s positive approach to academic integrity, helping both students and instructors to arrive at constructive results:

“Successes this year have been achieved by the students already being able to demonstrate their understanding of academic integrity by not plagiarising within their tasks.”


Interested in reading more? Check out all of the 2018 Global Innovation Awards winners' stories here!