In a time when information is available in an instant and content creation is just a few clicks away, academic integrity can easily become a grey area for many students. Often educators aren’t able to provide formative feedback to all students regarding their integrity in a timely manner, so instead of being able to intervene when a student makes a mistake or academic misconduct is involved, all parties are left at the end of the process with little information about how to move forward.
What can be done to change this process without requiring extensive time commitments from already overwhelmed teachers? And more importantly, how can educators encourage meaningful revisions, refinement, and appropriate skill-building to help students grow?
One way to address these questions is to empower students to take ownership of their integrity and authenticity while they work. This means spending more time in the formative space, working with students as they draft to understand how the words that they use, where they come from, and how they use them all have an impact on the final product, as well as what can be learned from it. When students have the opportunity to review feedback on their work and revise prior to submitting their assignments for assessment, the benefits to student learning are numerous. Students have time to reflect on where they might’ve gone wrong and how they can make the appropriate changes to improve. This extended time in the drafting space can give students the opportunity to process the new knowledge and skills that are necessary to make effective changes.
Consider the following when choosing to encourage integrity and authenticity throughout the student work process:
- Teach students about integrity and authenticity early, consistently, and explicitly.
- Address concerns in the moment with meaningful data and feedback and time allotted for students to revise.
- Employ resources and tools that can facilitate reflective and analytical thinking regarding student integrity.
- Hold students accountable for their work—but only if and when #1 is in practice.
- Work with your colleagues to consider how integrity and authenticity will be addressed throughout all levels.
It’s common practice to present the honor code once at the beginning of the year or at the beginning of the annual research project, but unfortunately, that’s likely not as effective or long-lasting as what most educators intend. The honor code has to be a thing that students see as real and living throughout the school year, and if possible, across all school years. Absolutely present that honor code early in the school year, but then revisit it often. Present mini-lessons that explicitly teach those skills and concepts and then revisit them regularly to ensure that students are internalizing the skills and concepts while they work. When students are able to see that their integrity and authenticity are meaningful throughout the entire process of every piece of work that they do, the message of the honor code will likely become that real and living entity that educators hope it to be.
Seeing a student’s work throughout the entire drafting process can enable instructors to have more confidence that students are not falling prey to copy-and-paste plagiarism or purchasing a prewritten assignment from an internet paper mill. This approach also reiterates to students that the work they do is a process and that there are things to be learned at every step. When this approach is paired with ongoing feedback, student reflection, and analysis of data from student work, more informed decisions can be made by everyone involved. This also allows teachers to teach or reteach concepts that appear to be issues the moment they occur, rather than addressing them after the fact, when students are less likely to internalize them and connect new knowledge to their actual work.
Before we get too far, I know what you’re thinking... TIME. Yes, this absolutely will take a ton of time, but here is where I encourage you to consider the breadth vs depth discussion in your classroom. What exactly are your goals for your students? Think clearly about the goals and objectives that you have in place when considering how much time you are willing to devote to empowering them in their integrity and authenticity. The hard truth here is that someone has to dig into student integrity and authenticity well for it to stick. If we continue to approach student integrity as a one-time discussion each year, students will never fully take ownership of their academic integrity.
Please, teachers, do not feel like you have to tackle this giant task on your own. There are tools and resources that are available to help make this process easier and more effective for both teachers and students. Use them to allow more time to hone in on issues and concerns that need educator expertise and attention.
Turnitin’s newest formative tools can foster an environment of integrity and authenticity in your classroom and can help make the feedback and revision processes easier for both students and teachers. Turnitin Draft Coach, a new Google Docs add-on, allows students to access Turnitin’s trusted Similarity Report, as well as new citation checking technology, during the drafting process right in Google Docs, where students may be doing their work. If you’re interested in Draft Coach for your institution, contact your account representative for more information.
Furthermore, Turnitin’s Disrupting Plagiarism: Building a Culture of Academic Honesty resource pack is the newest set of instructional resources from Turnitin’s team of veteran educators and is focused on formative interventions when academic integrity is in question. Offering over 20 student- and instructor-focused resources, teachers can use the set as a whole or pick and choose only those resources that fit most effectively into their curriculum.
Recognize the difference between deliberate plagiarism and skill deficiency. There will always be situations where integrity is in question, but it’s important to sort those instances from ones that are sincere examples of a lack of skill or knowledge. When deliberate plagiarism is apparent, hold students accountable for their actions, but do so in a way that encourages students to learn and grow from their mistakes. Yes, they did something wrong, but in doing so, they’ve created a space for themselves to learn a valuable lesson. Students won’t notice that lesson on their own, though. They need guidance from their teachers to reflect upon their actions and to figure out how they can move forward in a positive way. Use resources like the Where Did I Go Wrong? Student Self-Assessment tool to help students strategically and meaningfully process and reflect upon the work that they’ve done, where they went wrong, and how they can move forward with purpose.
It’s likely that all instructors at your institution are doing the same things and teaching (and reteaching) the same concepts at some point. Instead of revisiting the “I know you’ve learned this before” conversation, take a very strategic approach that will help students and teachers alike—purposefully create a system that will effectively travel throughout grade levels. Working in vertical teams to articulate clear goals and objectives throughout grade levels can help to create consistent practices and expectations for which students can more transparently be held accountable.
This type of strategic approach will likely be harder in higher education levels, especially if trying to consider how to approach it for an entire institution. Start by setting clear goals and objectives, and then work within smaller departments or courses that all students are required to take (for example, a freshman seminar) to make the incremental changes that will eventually be effective on a larger scale.
Integrity and authenticity are not bookend concepts that should only be addressed at the beginning and end of a project. When we are able to give students an opportunity to embrace their integrity and authenticity throughout the process by guiding them through reflections and analysis in the formative space, we can better help them understand how to improve and grow.
To learn more about empowering students in the formative space and Turnitin’s newest formative tools and resources, register to attend our upcoming webinar on August 25.
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