What’s happening with Academic Integrity in Manitoba?

In Manitoba, a network of academic integrity educators, scholars, and faculty has been in existence since 2019.

On May 6, they had their annual meeting in a virtual format–free of charge, involving over 140 participants, and hosted by Red River College.

In a panel that included students, staff, faculty and academic leaders, points about the need for multi-faceted approaches were made.  All panelists appreciated the challenge of the times and concern and work involved in addressing academic misconduct in the last year.  The following summary of key points is based on my own reflection of what I heard and therefore is imbued with my own ways of making sense of these issues.

What is needed at the level of the student? 

 

  • During “remote,” students needed to understand that even when the context changed to no (or low) supervision, the rules stayed the same.
  • Regardless of remote or face to face, students still need instruction the ways the rules apply in the context of their courses – syllabus and policy links are often not sufficiently specific to the context for assessment or the field or subject area.
  • Students need to be part of a peer culture for academic integrity.  Students need to see that their peers develop the necessary skills, follow the rules, and care about fairness and ethical behaviour–and that to “fit in”, they should too.

 

What is needed at the level of instruction? 

 

  • Teaching the skills for academic integrity and connecting them to students’ futures is important.
  • Assessment methods that require students to apply knowledge and are relevant to the world of work and the communities where students make their contributions. (See this USask link for ideas and support.)
  • Providing opportunities for students to make mistakes as they develop their academic and professional integrity. Scaffolding the responses to academic misconduct errors.
  • Specific guidance for students about what help is acceptable. Some students working as tutors or peer educators get more extensive training on what is acceptable help, and this kind of training could benefit the student body.
  • Consistent attention to detecting and following up on academic misconduct. Interesting questions were raised about whether vigilance and assumptions of guilt had increased during remote and whether this could be another explanation for increased incidence.

 What is needed in terms of leadership?

 

  • Understanding the situational factors that may predict or correlate with academic misconduct.  This is important so as to be able to see students as being at-risk or in at-risk situations that can be mitigated. Research in our contexts is needed.
  • Shared responsibility for addressing academic misconduct and championing academic integrity throughout the institution.
  • Policy reviews and revisions are underway in several Manitoba institutions and panelists talked about the need for
    • appropriate centralized record keeping especially for identifying repeat cases;
    • systems that encourage and support instructor follow up, with acknowledgements of the problem of contract/sessional instructors being left outside of systems; and
    • incorporating more educative and restorative responses to academic misconduct to build the community capacity for academic integrity.