As faculty, we strive to enhance our learner’s knowledge of content and prepare them to be professionals in carrying that new knowledge forward. Learners must apply newly learned content to real-world workplace situations and demonstrate professional credibility and integrity. Simply put, academic integrity can make or break a student’s career. According to Lee (2022), “academic integrity is an indicator of future workplace behavior and multiple research endeavors” suggest “academic dishonesty in school leads to dishonesty in the workplace” (para. 7). If not addressed early on, it can lead to distrust and credibility issues down the road for both the learner and the academic institution.
Lessons learned and suggested practices
When I first started teaching many years ago, I was not sympathetic to those who plagiarized. I saw it as if they either cheated or didn’t cheat, and if they did, they received a zero on the applicable assignment, and I reported the incident to the university. Experience has shown me that this is not always the case, and often, most students need further understanding and education. Faculty can make a difference by providing guidance through a student’s academic journey, providing support and thorough feedback, and allowing students to continue to pursue their journey of learning and professional growth.
There are methods to ensure students have what they need. First, faculty should start engaging their learners early on about the importance of academic integrity in their courses. Engagement can be created by communicating clear and thorough expectations at the beginning of any new term or subject taught. Critical components that faculty should be sharing are resources such as links to the applicable academic policies (i.e., academic integrity, student code of conduct, etc.), writing format materials (i.e., APA formatting or other writing styles, writing center assistance, plagiarism dos and don’ts, etc.), and any plagiarism or grammar checker websites to guide them in ensuring their work is credibly written. Faculty should offer a one-on-one session to review any materials provided or answer any questions. Finally, faculty will also need to consider that there will be variances of opinion and communication styles in the classroom; thus, it is essential to address each learner as an individual and not take a blanket approach to address issues if they should occur.
The various forms of traditional, hybrid, and remote classrooms may mean communicating in person, posting announcements, sending emails, sending text messages, or even posting a reminder in the course discussion or assignment areas. Using a variety of methods ensures reaching various learning styles. If it is a virtual environment, faculty must make it creative so students will want to read the posted material. Innovative material may include appealing images, creating videos or podcasts, polls or short quick quizzes, or creating a virtual game that makes them engage and participate.
Depending on the course and university policies, any creative materials used can be associated with potential extra credit points. For example, one successful practice I have used is offering an in-person or virtual seminar during the first or second week after a course begins on the required writing style, along with reviewing the expectations with them. Faculty can make this a fun review by introducing a jeopardy game to motivate the learner. Faculty can even create a quiz for learners who attended the seminar. The quiz may help students earn bonus points for a particular assignment or overall grade. These approaches make it personal and more engaging and allow the students to ask specific questions and receive immediate responses. Students will also feel more compelled to attend the seminar if they see it might increase their grade. For any faculty member, this provides an ultimate win. Students are learning how to write academically and with integrity, and faculty have decreased incidents of plagiarism.
Supporting your colleagues
One challenge often seen by faculty is the inconsistency in addressing plagiarism when it occurs. Inconsistency demeans the practice and sends the message to students that it is optional to all faculty, so why bother taking steps to improve? “Substantive policies that enable instructors to act consistently are important” (Gottardello & Karabag, 2020), “as they promote credibility for the institution” (Kier & Ives, 2022, p.22).
One study suggests that faculty may not consistently address these issues because there is a misunderstanding of behavior or conduct issues that should be addressed, there is a fear of potentially being sued by a disgruntled learner, or standards are being applied to situations differently (Gottardello & Karabag, 2020). Academic institutions must have adequate policies and educate faculty on the purpose of these standards and how to apply them. Faculty need to feel capable and supported to address plagiarism issues and be held accountable for managing plagiarism consistently and fairly. Academic institutions can have a healthy balance between addressing plagiarism and providing support. Once faculty always begin to address academic dishonesty, it will emulate professional behavior and a solid commitment to learner success. Encouraging students to succeed in their careers affects society as a whole. Making a difference is where I want to be as a faculty leader.
Dr. MacCready currently works as an academic faculty director (SoBTH) for Capella University. Professionally, Dr. MacCready has over 30+ years of experience in the healthcare industry with a diverse background in various leadership and faculty positions. Dr. MacCready has a DHA with MBA/MHCM, as well as a clinical background in nursing. She has a history of rapid key assessments of diverse situational challenges and team collaboration, developing action plans, and producing positive impacts for all stakeholders involved. She has led multiple projects and led/served on several committees, participated in several community functions, has experience developing and/or revising course curriculum, teaches remotely, and enjoys mentoring and coaching colleagues and students.
Gottardello D., & Karabag. S. (2020) Ideal and actual roles of university professors in academic integrity management: a comparative study. Stud High Educ 47(3),1–19. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2020.1767051
Kier, C., & Ives, C. (2022). Recommendations for a balanced approach to supporting academic integrity: perspectives from a survey of students, faculty, and tutors. Int J Educ Integr 18, 22. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40979-022-00116-x
Lee, C. (2022). Why academic integrity is important to teaching and learning. Turnitin. https://www.turnitin.com/blog/why-academic-integrity-is-important-to-teaching-and-learning