The day opened with an introduction from Erica Morris from the HEA recapping on themes from last year’s event: discipline specific issues, electronic tools (such as Turnitin) and measuring incidences across the sector. She also introduced some of the themes for today including: enacting institutional ploicies, evaluating tools, rethinking the question of tariffs.
Tricia Bertram Gallant from U of California, San Diego talked about the connection between policy and practice in educational institutions. Her point is that the problems of plagiarism are systemic and therefore too complex to be solved by policies alone. She also noted a distinction between the US and the UK whereby here we (or the OIA) blame ourselves for the problem of plagiarism whereas in the US they blame the students. That distinction is interesting and probably tells us that we need to find a middle ground. She suggests there are four key steps to ensure that our policy works in practice. The first step is to build recognition to ensure that everyone knows and acknowledges that there is a problem. Collecting data is an important part of this – we are research-led institutions after all! But she also mentioned the importance of collecting testimonials, particularly from employers, because they might tell us powerful stories about the impact of cheating on student abilities and performance after graduation. The next step is to build commitment. So after people acknowledge there is a problem this needs to be followed up by publics pronouncements which make this clear. Removing obstacles to things like reporting plagiarism is crucial to this making sure there are no risks to reporting plagiarism for academic staff and that there might also be rewards for doing it. She shared a link to IAIMSO.org which is wanting to get student-led academic integrity strategies on each campus. She makes the important point about avoiding being caught in a technological arms race with the students and the fact that we want students that graduate to be people who don’t cheat even if they’ve got the opportunity to do so. Finding the right place to position the leadership on this within the institution is important and particularly with its relationship to the leadership on teaching and learning.
Peter Hartley from U of Bradford started by talking about ‘mindset’ in terms of whether students have a fixed idea of their own capacity and intelligence, the impact of the plagiarism industry on our thinking, and the fact that learning and teaching seems to have disappeared from our discussions about it. He then presented on the PASS (Programme Assessment Strategies) project and mentioned that alleviating the problem of plagiarism is a beneficial byproduct of it. The emphasis of the project is to try to get us to rethink our assessment strategies away from module to programme level structures. He offered some case studies where people have experimented with the idea and I have to say that it makes total sense to me. The need to be able to use electronic systems to manage the complexity of this seems also to be imperative (surely this would be unthinkable in a paper-based system?). The most compelling part of this is the evidence that this is changing the atmosphere in classes and the attitudes of students to learning in a positive way.