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  6.  — Academic integrity guidelines for course design

Academic integrity guidelines for course design

Here we provide suggestions for designing and framing assessments with academic integrity in mind.

Academic integrity requires more than a one-time conversation. It is something that needs to be thought about when designing a course and assessment tasks and addressed with students throughout the semester, in courses at every level.

​Make sure teaching staff on the course, including any TAs and GTAs, have the same understanding of academic integrity, their role in supporting the faculty as well as the University’s policies and processes around it. This may involve some training.

Design your course with academic integrity in mind

  • Ensure learning outcomes are clear and descriptive so students know what they are expected to learn through the course.
  • Create a well organised and consistent structure on Canvas for students to follow to ensure they can find the materials they need for the course e.g., syllabus, reading lists, information about assessments etc.
  • Ensure students understand how the course will work by referring them to the syllabus page.
  • Make sure that approved avenues for academic support are available and clearly signposted for students (e.g., Piazza, office hours, tutorials). You might consider including a separate support/help page in your course that details this information.

Designing assessments

Minimise opportunities for academic dishonesty

  • Incorporate formative activities or more frequent, low stakes assessments and self-checks.
  • Require evidence of work in progress, e.g., collection of data, experiment reports, references, e-portfolios etc.
  • Use smaller formative activities, such as short introductions and reflections to build an in-course repository of students writing style, tone, voice and quality before they submit larger summative assessments. This will allow you to compare a student’s “voice” on a writing assignment.
  • Create tasks that provide students with an opportunity to incorporate some of their own personal experience, ideas or reflections.
  • Change assessments each semester or create multiple versions that can be rotated over the year so that students cannot copy the work of previous cohorts.
  • For tests, consider using question banks and randomising the questions. Replace questions that simply recall facts with questions that require higher level cognitive skills, for example analysis and explanation of why and how students reached an answer.
  • Where possible, add “just-in-time” reminders – such that students are reminded of the relevant values/policies/prohibitions immediately prior to starting an assessment.

Create authentic tasks that clearly link to course learning outcomes

  • Consider process-oriented assessments that include multiple checkpoints for tracking student progress and giving feedback.
  • Design assessments that require higher order thinking e.g., tasks and questions that require students to analyse, evaluate and create capabilities (refer to Bloom’s and SOLO taxonomies).
  • Include assessment tasks that are less likely to be outsourced, e.g., reflections on practicum, oral presentations or personalised assignments.
  • Where possible, create opportunities for students to have some “choice and voice” in the assessments they are required to complete.
  • Be transparent with students about how they will be assessed. Provide rubrics, or detailed grading criteria, for all assessments so that learners know what is expected of them and understand how their work will be graded. This will reduce anxiety and stress, and therefore decrease the likelihood of cheating or outsourcing assessment tasks.

Academic integrity and group assessments

  • Consider including group assessments in your course. Group work provides an opportunity for learning by doing. As active participants, students need to collaborate with their peers, explain their ideas and consider the views of others.
  • Create assignments and activities where appropriate sharing and collaboration is essential to successful completion. Consider how you will scaffold students into this beforehand.
  • Set clear expectations around collaborative and individual responsibilities – e.g., consider marks for group and individual contributions, provide rubrics.
  • Also be explicit with students regarding the difference between collaboration and collusion in group work. Recognise that for students drawing the line between group work and personal work can be confusing. Give clear instruction about the boundaries and provide examples to help illustrate them.
  • One possibility is to ask students to maintain evidence of their work where possible (e.g., if using any conferencing tools such as Zoom).

Use plagiarism detection software

  • Turnitin which is a plagiarism detection software can also be used as a formative assessment tool, whereby students can see their originality report before final submission to improve their work and resubmit. This is strongly recommended as a default option. You can also allow for unlimited submissions until the due date.
  • Familiarise yourself with Turnitin’s reports (e.g., Turnitin – similarity report) and educate students about how to use them.
  • Note that you can also upload written student work from Canvas forum posts into Turnitin, in order to train the Turnitin database.
  • Now with the rise of Generative AI, the University is currently piloting Turnitin’s AI detection tool, which adds to the similarity report in Feedback Studio. Although this was released on 5th April 2023, like many other universities the University of Auckland opted out initially because the tool had not been widely tested, and because of the lack of transparency around how the tool detects AI content. We are now testing the tool and consulting with institutions that have adopted the tool in order to determine whether we should enable it. We expect to make a decision on this in October 2023.

Emphasise the importance of academic integrity in class

Educate students about what academic integrity means and why it is important

  • Communicate early and frequently. Address academic integrity with students in your first lecture and give them reminders throughout the course. E.g., when presenting an assessment talk about expectations; provide examples of referencing (e.g., introduce QuickCite).
  • Include discussions around the importance of academic integrity and what is considered dishonest and unacceptable. Provide specific examples from the course.
  • Make sure students are aware of their responsibilities and the consequences of academic misconduct. It is also worth discussing inadvertent or naïve misconduct, e.g., when a student thinks they are helping another student, by letting them copy their work, even when they did it all themselves or when they did it in a previous year. This can be a grey area, and students often don’t realise they are liable as well in this situation.
  • Address contract cheating with students, as well as other teaching staff. Emphasise that these services may retain user logs and it is possible to detect student activity. Further, there have been instances of companies blackmailing students.
  • Remind students about the Academic Integrity Course and also let them know they can re-visit the course if they want.
  • Make the link between “academic integrity” and “personal integrity”, and indeed “professional integrity”. Examples of real-world integrity issues could be brought in (e.g., CV stuffing, or examples relevant to the discipline).

Keep communication lines open

Provide information regarding different ways students can get help and include this in assessment instructions (e.g., library drop-in sessions, library workshops and online resources like Learning Essentials).

  • Encourage students to talk with you if they are having difficulties. Remind them of the different ways they can do this throughout the course e.g., office hours, contact email addresses, including those of class reps.
  • Inform learners about procedures for applying extensions or aegrotat/compassionate grounds.
  • Remind students that (most) assignments can be submitted a few days late with only a small deduction (refer to your faculty’s guidelines for assessment). In other words, that it’s not worth getting stressed out and cheating just to get an assignment submitted on time.

Foster students’ intrinsic motivation

  • Create, promote and facilitate a community of inquiry to encourage learning from interactions between lecturer and students, and students themselves.
  • Discuss case studies from your field in class that reflect both ethical and unethical motives and their outcomes to give students a sense of why developing a habit of integrity in their work now will matter after they graduate.
  • Introduce students to what it means to have integrity as psychologist, economist, historian, biologist etc., and explain why integrity in the field matters (e.g., professionalism).
  • Place emphasis on learning for mastery (i.e., the development of competence e.g., “to learn as much as I can”, “to develop my skills and understand”) over performance (i.e., the demonstration of competence e.g., “to earn higher grades than others”, “to show others that I’m smart”). Research has shown that the former is negatively associated with cheating and the latter (often) positively associated with it.

See also

Academic integrity procedures

Promoting academic integrity, avoiding poor academic practice, and reporting allegations of misconduct.

Rethinking Assessment

The Rethinking Assessment website goes deeper into designing assessments and developing a culture of academic integrity amongst students.

Short answer and essay questions

Design written answer questions that test higher cognitive skills.

Multi-choice questions

Write MCQs that assess reasoning, rather than recall.

Page updated 09/08/2023 (added mcq and essay see also links)

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